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Inspired by his father's courageous battle, Ashrul aims to continue family legacy at Hougang

The late Amin Nasir coached Hougang United to one of their best S.League finishes in 2014, as the Cheetahs finished seventh in the 12-team league. This season, his son Ashrul Syafeeq is likewise looking to succeed on the pitch for the Cheetahs…

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Hougang Stadium holds a special place in Ashrul’s heart.

Just four years ago, he sat in the stands as the Hougang faithful chanted the name of his father Amin, a coach deeply admired and respected.

Come 2018, it will be Ashrul's turn to take to the pitch and while Amin may not be in the dugout, his son is ready to live up to his late dad’s legacy

Come 2018, it will be Ashrul's turn to take to the pitch and while Amin may not be in the dugout, his son is determined to pick up where he left off.

“I came down for every game and even sat with the HOOLS (Hougang United’s unofficial supporters’ club)," Ashrul told FourFourTwo. "Hearing them singing and chanting my dad’s name made me feel so blessed. And the players often told me during training that ‘your dad is not just a coach, but also like a father figure’."

Ashrul had even trained with the Cheetahs and featured in friendly matches, but did not sign official terms due to National Service (NS) commitments.

“It was sad not to play (a competitive game) for the team, but I told myself ‘at least I get to train under my dad. I had a great bond with the players and the management; they were so nice and so welcoming.

“Even though I could not sign, I told my dad ‘it’s okay. Now you’re the head coach, it’s my job to be in the stands to support’. Because whenever I was playing, he was the one up in the stands supporting me so I just wanted to do the same for him."

Ashrul in action for Balestier. Photo: S.League

Amin passed on at the age of 48 in January 2017 after a five-year battle with fourth-stage colon cancer, leaving behind his wife, his daughter as well as Ashrul.

The former Singapore international was first diagnosed with cancer in late 2012, and had fought his way back to good health. But, doctors discovered growths in Amin's stomach and kidney in 2014.

After stepping down from his head coach role, Amin's condition further deteriorated in 2016 before he passed on.

After stepping down from his head coach role, Amin's condition further deteriorated in 2016 before he passed on.

By then, Ashrul had become a first-team regular for Balestier Khalsa in the S.League, and Amin's death was tough to take for the 23-year-old, as his father never had the chance to watch him play regularly at a professional level.

“His death had a big impact on me because he always came down to support my games since I was young, analysing how the team and I play,” shared Ashrul, who regularly accompanied Amin to chemotherapy sessions and went on a trip with him to Mecca in Saudi Arabia less than two months before his death.

“After we got home, we would talk about the game during dinner - to the extent that we debated. Now I feel sad that I can’t have that someone whom I can share all my issues with and give me advice on how to improve.”

Ashrul (back row, third from left) started his time in the S.League with Young Lions Photo: S.League

Ashrul himself had to battle with leukaemia when he was just nine years old, and fought through it with the help of his family.

“I don’t remember that much as I was still small then, all I remember was the pain as I had to go back and forth to the hospital for check-ups,” he said. “I was really weak.

Watching my dad fight the battle that I had really made me tear up because we both could feel how hard it was to be mentally strong when your body keeps failing on you

- Ashrul Syafeeq

“My family was always finding ways to help me recover fast and my dad was the one who’s always by my side, motivating me to be strong and never to give up. It was a tough journey for me, but fortunately they were around to help me. Thanks be to God that I’m fully cured and healthy now.

“Watching my dad fight the battle that I had really made me tear up because we both could feel how hard it was to be mentally strong when your body keeps failing on you.”