Late bloomer Faiz thriving on “second chance”

Part of the famed 1992 NFA (National Football Academy) batch, Faiz Salleh never quite enjoyed the limelight as much as his peers Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi did. However, he is gradually establishing himself in the S.League after Hougang United gave him a chance…  

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It was a day of breakthrough for the unheralded Faiz Salleh when he played against Geylang International on April 7, 2016.

The Hougang left back managed to score his first S.League goal via a looping header and inspired the Cheetahs to a 3-1 comeback win against the then-unbeaten Eagles.

The 23-year-old was also heavily involved in the build-up to the equaliser, which saw Stipe Plazibat converting from the spot.

“No doubt that has to be my best performance in a Hougang shirt for me,” an ecstatic Faiz told FourFourTwo. “It’s always a good feeling to be able to contribute to the team and to score myself just made the night even better for me.

“It was such an exciting game and we showed real character to come back from a goal down to win.”

Faiz, however, has not always been tipped to succeed due to his 1.7m and 56kg frame.

“I have gotten comments that I might get pushed around because of my size, but that has never stopped me from putting up a fight with the bigger players,” he said.

“I believe that in this modern game, it’s not just about physicality but also being smart. A smart player would be able to overcome his opponent's prowess.”

While Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi and a few others like Shakir Hamzah and Shahfiq Ghani went on to represent the Under-23s at several editions of the SEA Games and made the step up to the LionsXII, Faiz’s development was stunted by National Service (NS).

Constantly overlooked for national selection as a result, Faiz conceded that he had entertained thoughts of switching his career path.

Faiz has found a 'second chance' at Hougang

“It was quite depressing, to be honest,” he admitted. “I was the first among my NFA batch mates to enlist for NS, so I was away from the scene for a good two years while the rest were climbing the ranks.

“That was the phase during which I really felt like hanging up my boots. I have a diploma in tourism so I was seriously contemplating to try my luck in the events industry then.”

Failing to get any headway at the Young Lions after making his S.League debut in 2013, Faiz was handed a lifeline by Hougang in mid-2014 and has since established himself as a first-team regular.

The self-confessed NBA (National Basketball Association) fanatic revealed that he is fuelled by the success of Stephen Curry, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the world’s best sportsmen.

(Continued on Pg 2, Faiz on earning a 'second chance')