Singapore international on the lookout for a new Home
Azhar has been told his contract won’t be extended beyond this season, which has surprised both the 30-year-old and his teammates, especially since he felt he had taken his game to a new level since joining Home United two years ago.
During this time, Azhar helped the Protectors reach the Singapore Cup final in 2015, before catching the eyes of the national selectors earlier this year.
I was caught quite off-guard by the news. It was absolutely surprising considering how I have developed over the past few years
He made his national team debut in July, in a 1-0 win over Myanmar in the AYA Bank Cup.
This year, he chipped in with eight assists in all competitions to help Home clinch the final AFC Cup spot in the S.League.
Azhar’s departure is a result of the club’s policy to focus on their youth development, the midfielder said. Home are among the lowest average age team around, with 50 per cent of the first team below 25.
“I was told they wanted to develop more youth players and that only a few of the older players would be retained,” Azhar shared.
“I was caught quite off-guard by the news. It was absolutely surprising considering how I have developed over the past few years.
“I didn't see it coming and the others were all stunned and shocked as well. “
Still reeling from his departure, Azhar said he harboured no ill feelings towards the club although he would have loved to help them guide the younger players if they had extended his contract.
“I would have loved to help nurture the players coming through the Prime League, especially in the AFC Cup next year, but I have to respect the club’s decision,” he said.
“It was an amazing journey to reach the Singapore Cup final with them in 2015 and then to get the surprise call-up to the national team this year, helping them qualify for the AFC Cup and getting nominated in The New Paper’s Team of the Season.
“I really have to be thankful to Home for their help and previous head coach Philippe Aw in helping me reach a level I never thought I would.
“I played my best football in years, with teammates that made it easier for me, and it was just an amazing journey.”
Having only turned 30 in September, Azhar believes he still has what it takes to play at the top level and isn’t considering retirement, as many of his peers have done in the past when their contracts weren’t renewed.
“I’m fitter than I ever was and much stronger too. I have tasted international football and I think I can still contribute to any team, so I’m not looking to retire just yet,” the former Hougang general said.
“I will be on the lookout for a new club now, hopefully somewhere where I can offer my experience and help win some silverware along the way.”
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo