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Singapore players should follow Baihakki’s bold career choices

Defender’s move to Thailand makes him only Lion to play in four Asean countries, showing the kind of brave decision-making that should inspire local footballers to stretch their talents, argues Neil Humphreys...

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One of the most inspirational Singaporean footballers of his generation has spent most of his career playing away from Singapore

That’s the point.

He’s a role model in smart risk-taking, a rare, local professional who has squeezed every last drop from his early potential

As his 34th birthday approaches, Baihakki Khaizan continues to take the road less travelled. He’s a role model in smart risk-taking, a rare, local professional who has squeezed every last drop from his early potential.

In a struggling industry handicapped by conservative thinking, Baihakki’s resume offers compelling evidence for stepping out of the kampong.

Singaporean players are often accused of settling for an easier life within their island bubble. Baihakki burst his years ago.

His decision to join Muangthong United makes him the first Singaporean to play in four major ASEAN countries – Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

According to FFT's sources, the defender will train with Muangthong from now till early Feburary, with an option to go on loan to Thai second tier side Udon Thani on loan later on.

Baihakki was a key member of the now-defunct LionsXII Photo: Supplied

Baihakki's career began with Geylang United (now Geylang International) and the Young Lions, moved on to Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung and Medan Chiefs, and then returned closer to home with Lions XII, Johor Darul Taz'im and Warriors FC before heading north to Muangthong.

But this wasn’t the work of a journeyman.

He usually took the most challenging and, yes, the most lucrative offer on the table. And why not?

Baihakki was never a desperate footballer, boots in bag, trudging from one obscure league to another in a transparent bid to exploit negligible talent.

There were always offers from decent clubs, home and away. But he usually took the most challenging and, yes, the most lucrative offer on the table. And why not?

With 129 caps to his name, Baihakki is a proud member of the Lions’ Century Club, but his fellow members seldom displayed a similar enthusiasm to explore foreign leagues and cultures.

Nazri Nasir, S Subramani and Indra Sahdan never played outside of Singapore, although Indra came close with a trial at Real Salt Lake.

The towering defender also featured for JDT Photo: JDT II

Daniel Bennett enjoyed an illustrious stint in English football at Wrexham, but his family were originally from England.

Aide Iskandar popped across the Causeway for a brief spell at Johor and Khairul Amri went to Indonesia.

Apart from Baihakki, Shahril Ishak was arguably the most adventurous of the group, with stints in Indonesia and Malaysia.

[NEXT: A reluctance to leave the comfort zone]