Lost Boys: Faiz Ronedin, the talented winger who became a farrier
Racing down the right flank, he steadied himself and looked up before drilling in a teasing cross for Khairul Nizam to tap home from close range.
The Singapore under-18s would eventually triumph 3-1 against their Chinese Taipei counterparts in a 2010 AFC Under-19 Championship qualifier in Bandung, Indonesia, with Faiz Ronedin playing an integral role in the victory.
“It was one of the best memories in my football life,” Faiz reminisced to FourFourTwo. “I saw Nizam making the run into the box so I just had to give one good ‘power’ low cross for him to tap in.”
That moment summed up the player he was – pacey, tricky and capable of good deliveries from the wing.
However, while his peers including Madhu Mohana, Zulfahmi Arifin and Safirul Sulaiman went on to achieve bigger things and made it into the senior national team, Faiz drifted from the game and he knows he only has got himself to blame.
“I knew I had the abilities; it’s just that as a player, I wasn’t self-disciplined enough,” he said matter-of-factly.
Rise of a star
Faiz’s abilities were obvious from a young age, as he captained Zhenghua Primary School and Teck Whye Secondary School – scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against Hong Kah Secondary at Jalan Besar Stadium to help the latter finish third place in the nationals.
However, his big break came only in 2007 when he went for trials for the SAFFC (now Warriors FC) under-16 team and got through after just two rounds.
It was an unplanned thing, but I ended up signing for my first proper club
“In school, I saw that my friends – one is them is (Sim) Teck Yi (former Young Lions defender) – kept bringing their soccer boots to elsewhere so I asked where they were going,” recalled Faiz.
“They told me they were going for trials and were halfway through it so I just followed them. It was an unplanned thing, but I ended up signing for my first proper club.”
Originally a striker, Faiz was asked to convert to a winger by then-Warriors under-16 coach Robin Chitrakar — a move which he viewed with skepticism initially but it soon turned out to be a masterstroke.
He enjoyed the freedom that came with his newfound role, finishing top scorer for the Warriors in the Centre of Excellence (COE) Under-16 League and recorded a hat-trick against a quality Geylang United (now Geylang International) side that had the likes of Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi in their ranks.
“When coach Robin first informed me (to convert), I was disappointed because I’ve been a striker since young,” he shared. “But competition for the strikers’ slot were strong at that time and he told me that I had the attributes to play as a winger.
“From there, it became my favourite position! Not just because I get to score a lot of goals, but also I got the speed and can give good crosses.”
The following year, the 17-year-old followed Chitrakar to the COE West team and managed to catch the eye in a mid-season friendly with the National Football Academy (NFA) under-18s.
He was offered a chance to join the NFA setup along with Nazrul, but the duo surprisingly turned down the offer
He was offered a chance to join the NFA setup along with Nazrul, but the duo surprisingly turned down the offer after just two training sessions with the team.
“Coach Salim (Moin) spotted us and it was a real honour,” he said. “In one of the sessions, we got to train with the senior team where there are players like Indra (Sahdan), Khairul Amri and (Aleksandar Duric).
“But we backed out in the end because we felt a bit left out and awkward with the lads so we went back to coach Robin.”
Joining the NFA eventually
Faiz would see out the 2008 season with COE West and scored the winning goal for the team in a 2-1 win over Geylang in the Under-18 COE Challenge Cup, before Salim and the NFA U18s came calling for him and Nazrul again at the end of the year. This time round, the duo would not let the chance slip.
“I decided that I’m ready. Me and Nazrul talked about it and agreed ‘let’s do it together’,” he said. “If we want to succeed in soccer, we have to go for the best and the opportunity is here now. So, we decided not to slack anymore.”
After months of trials, Faiz’s efforts would pay off as he and Nazrul was one of the handful along with Home’s Zulfahmi and Nizam to be selected for the national under-18s in 2009.
“It was a dream come true for me,” he said. “Since I watched the national team play at the old Kallang Stadium when I was six years old, I told my dad I want to be a national player and this was my first step.”
He did well enough to be named in the final 20-man squad for that year’s AFF Under-19 championship in in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in August, which was his first-ever overseas tournament.
An unused substitute in the opening 1-1 draw against Australia, Faiz came off the bench and featured in the subsequent 3-1 win over Cambodia and 1-0 loss to Thailand.
He also made the cut for the squad that travelled to Bandung, Indonesia in November for the 2010 AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers.
While the Cubs failed to make it into the tournament proper, Faiz was pleased to get more playing time as compared to the tournament four months ago – including a full 90-minute runout in an 8-0 loss to Australia.
“That was the most tiring game of my football career but a great learning experience,” he mused. “Technically, physically, they’re just so good. We tried but just can’t match them.
“By the 60th minute, I feel like I wanted to be subbed already but coach Salim chose to keep me on. After the game, I had a damn good ice bath just to recover.”
NS comes calling
Faiz then progressed into Warriors FC’s Prime League squad in 2010, but could only play for V Selvaraj’s boys for half a season as he was due for enlistment into National Service (NS) in late July that year.
With some time to kill before joining the army, Faiz decided to form a five-a-side team named El Nino Del Firo with some of his former teammates from Warriors U16 and they emerged winners of the senior category.
The boys beat out 99 other teams in the Grand Finals in early July to clinch a five-day, all-expenses paid training experience to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later that year, but Faiz would unfortunately miss the trip as he was enlisted by then.
“To miss such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that was really devastating for me,” he admitted. “I even went to my MP (Member of Parliament) with my parents to appeal for deferment for this but it was rejected.
“I still remember the day they left for the airport, I was in the bunk preparing to go outfield for missions. They called me and told me they felt sad for me. But they got me a signed shirt from the Brazilian players and gave me the (Nike Cup) trophy to keep, which was nice.”
While serving NS, Faiz got to represent Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA) under renowned coach Richard Chew in 2011 but a lack of discipline meant he dropped out of the team halfway.
“It was still a platform for me to play football but I just somehow stopped,” he revealed. “To be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was too playful at that time; I preferred to go out with my friends and hang out late instead of being serious in football.
“Sometimes on the weekend where there’s a game, I just didn’t turn up. As time went on, I feel ‘paiseh’ (slang for embarrassed) to come for training or games because I didn’t know how to face them (the teammates).
“Coach Richard did call me a few times, but I just made an excuse saying I’m busy. That’s how I started drifting away from football.”