Stories

Lost Boys: Naufal Omar, the one who’s flourishing without football

Featuring for top S.League sides such as Tampines Rovers and Home United at a young age, it had looked like a long career beckoned for Naufal Omar Ashibilie. However, the former Singapore Under-21 midfielder chose to become a recruitment consultant after sustaining an injury and he sat down with FFT to tell his story…

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Naufal was an up-and-coming midfielder with a few years of S.League experience under his belt, but it all changed with a freak accident while cameoing in a friendly for Siglap FC in late 2010.

A bad landing after challenging for a header left the then 23-year-old with a dislocated ankle and a broken fibula. As a result, he spent five days in hospital and had to rely on crutches to get around for six months.

The pitch was wet after raining, that perhaps resulted in me landing badly on my left ankle

- Naufal Omar

That ruled him out for large chunks of the following season and Home decided against extending his contract.

“The pitch was wet after raining, that perhaps resulted in me landing badly on my left ankle,” Naufal recalled to FourFourTwo. “I heard a ‘pop’ sound, but I didn't think it’s anything bad because I thought it was my shin pad which broke.

“I looked up and it was intact, then I looked at my ankle and it's completely gone the other way. I was extremely sad and traumatised at that point, one of the first things that came to my mind was that no S.League clubs are going to sign me!

“I then discovered I also broke my fibula after an X-ray…Fortunately, the doctor that attended to me was very good. I spent six months in a cast and went back for a half-day surgery to take out two screws, which was inserted into my left ankle.”

Naufal (front row, second from right) was the skipper of NFL side Siglap

Naufal recovered from the injury setback and could have made a comeback to professional football with Woodlands Wellington in 2012 but opted to take up an offer to become a personal banker with HSBC Bank.

He then became a recruitment consultant with SThree in April 2014 and is now raking in a close to six-digit annual salary – a stark contrast from his monthly pay check of three thousand dollars plus as a professional footballer.

That injury was a blessing in disguise I guess, if not I'll most probably still be playing now

- Naufal Omar

"That injury was a blessing in disguise I guess, if not I'll most probably still be playing now!" he noted. "Before I could walk again, I started applying for jobs outside. The HSBC opportunity came along when I started training with Woodlands in pre-season and I can’t possibly be doing both.

“I’ve always made a promise to myself to stop (football) at some point so it’s a matter of when. I just thought five years was enough for me; I’ve played with two of the best teams in Singapore, played three years in the AFC Cup (two with Tampines and one with Home), travelled the whole of Southeast Asia and got a national call up.

“I switched to my current company in 2014 and am already four years into the job now. Looking back, I can count myself as one of the lucky ones who got out of football."