Reunited with ‘Fantastic Four’ duo, Ridhuan plans to keep going

Singapore veteran Ridhuan Muhammad had intentions of hanging up his boots a year ago, but now he wants to go on for ‘five more years’, especially after being reunited with good pals Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak… 

If fate had its way, Ridhuan would now be donning safety boots instead of wearing football boots and flying down the flanks at your local stadiums.

The speedy wide man and two-time AFF Suzuki Cup winner had decided to retire after the 2015 S.League season due to a lack of offers and intended to forge a new career in the oil and gas industry.

I planned for retirement and I enrolled in this part-time advanced course in petrochemical technology. It was a good whole new experience because I like hands-on practical work instead of sitting down in the office doing paperwork

“I knew it wasn’t the time yet, but there was a lack of budget for most local clubs,” he opened up to FourFourTwo. “Also most of the players were coming back into the S.League from the LionsXII, so my options were limited.

“Thus, I planned for retirement and I enrolled in this part-time advanced course in petrochemical technology. It was a good whole new experience because I like hands-on practical work instead of sitting down in the office doing paperwork.”

However, traditional powerhouses Warriors FC handed him a lifeline just before the 2016 season started and he promptly cleared the mandatory 2.4km fitness test to continue on his football journey.

Despite missing the entire pre-season, Ridhuan quickly adapted back to competitive action and duly scored in his second appearance for the club.

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Ridhuan almost hung up his boots in 2016 due to a lack of offers

On the pitch for just 25 minutes, he made his presence felt by scoring a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw with former employers Geylang International.

The veteran winger played a quick one-two with Croatian playmaker Nikola Rak, before coolly slotting the ball underneath the body of Eagles goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.  

It was something which Ridhuan clearly cherished, with the cover photo of his personal Facebook account for the last nine months being the image of him wheeling away after the goal.

It really felt great to score a crucial goal to prevent my team from losing and perhaps remind people that I’m still around

“Even though it was just another S.League match, it was one of the happiest moments of my career,” explained the 32-year-old. “I had gone three months without playing and only played socially during that period.

“It wasn’t easy to adjust back to professional mode because my mind was already switched off. While others have played a few games, I was still working my way to full match fitness.

“Thus, it really felt great to score a crucial goal to prevent my team from losing and perhaps remind people that I’m still around.”

Ridhuan ended the season in fine fashion, accumulating a total of four goals and six assists in all competitions – including an outstanding performance in a 5-2 win against Garena Young Lions where he contributed four assists.

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Ridhuan has still got it in him to produce a moment of magic

The only pity was that the Warriors finished seventh out of nine teams.

“I would probably rate myself a seven (out of 10) for the season,” he reflected. “It could have been better, but I thought I contributed quite decently throughout, considering that I came into the team late.”

“I’m really grateful that the Warriors management had the belief in me and gave me this opportunity to prove that I can still contribute to local football. The season was a bit disappointing for us, but for sure, we can bounce back.”

I’m really grateful that the Warriors management had the belief in me and gave me this opportunity to prove that I can still contribute to local football

The year that just concluded was Ridhuan’s 14th season in professional football, four of which was spent away from Singapore. He has certainly come a long way since making his bow for the Young Lions in 2003.

He credits his rise in football to the strong foundations laid by the Milo Soccer School – a now-defunct youth development program that had groomed many Singaporean footballers in the 1990s.