Indra Sahdan, One-on-One: The end of an era

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After all these years of playing, I just want to give back to the community and be involved in developing kids

Of course that leg break in Hong Kong soon followed and you never got a chance in the national team again. What were your thoughts after you sustained the injury and do you think you could have featured more in the red shirt if not for that?

Maybe I could, you know. In the first game which I played after coming back, I scored.

The thing about the injury is that I didn’t feel anything initially. It was just numbness but after the game, I went to the hospital and did an X-ray which showed the extent of my injury. It was so bad that even I was shocked! After I went back to the hotel, I was just surfing the net for players who recovered from leg breaks. Then I told myself if they can recover, so can I – that’s how I continued playing after missing out for six months.

If you could turn the clock back 20 years, do you think your career would have panned out the same way?

No, certainly no! I always thought I’ll be a normal player and one of those in the eleven.  Never had I thought that I was going to be someone well known. At the end of the day, strikers are like that – if you score goals, people will remember you, I guess that’s why I chose that position!

You have played with so many strikers during your time. Who was your favourite strike partner of the lot?

If you’re talking about the national team, it would be (Noh) Alam Shah. We kind of complement each other; he’s the more aggressive type who will hold the ball while I’m the one doing the running.

But if you’re talking about overall, it has to be Egmar (Goncalves). I played with him for seven to eight years and it was fantastic with him. We wanted each other to score and really worked well together. Basically with him, I don't need to see where he was; I just know he’s going to be somewhere there in the box.

Talking about strikers, it seems like we’re experiencing a dearth of them locally. Is there anyone else capable of stepping up at the moment?

At the moment, I really don’t see who’s next. If you look at the national team, we rely too heavily on Amri. If you take him out, who’s there left?

There is (Khairul) Nizam; he’s the strong kind of striker like Alam Shah and technically very good, but it seems like he is quite fragile. Every time when there’s a big tournament, he’s always injured. If he can recover from that, he’s going to be a very good striker.

Of course, the Indra Sahdan Striker Development Academy (ISSDA) was officially launched in 2015. Can you tell us more about it and was it always in your plans to start this once you retired?

It has been in the pipeline, but I just didn’t know how and when to start. At the end of the day, this kind of things – you really need sponsors. I’ve to thank my main sponsor who is Project Vaults boss Darwin (Jalil) – he’s the one who helped me with everything in terms of equipment and logistics. Also the boss of Offside, Derek (Cheong), is also very helpful in terms of telling me that I can use the seven-a-side pitch for my academy’s trainings.

After all these years of playing, I just want to give back to the community and be involved in developing kids. Like what you’ve asked me about the lack of strikers, I will like to at least start some place where there is a niche program where I just concentrate on strikers. If you just go for the generic ones, everyone will be doing the same things and there is no focus. You can see in those top leagues, there is specialist striker-coaches who just train strikers – that’s it.

How you do envision the future of your academy and what will be a good gauge of its success?

I’m aiming to help these younger boys and develop them as far as they can, hopefully pushing them into the NFA (National Football Academy). I’m not going head-to-head with the FA; at the end of the day it’s about helping each other. Hopefully it helps the FA to have another bunch of guys and have a large pool for players for the national team.

If one or two of them do eventually make it there, that means my program is doing quite well and that will be one of my happiest moments in life.

All Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo