[Video] Safuwan: Pace of the A-League two or three times faster than Singapore
Safuwan Baharudin made quite a splash on the weekend after a surprise starting debut during the Melbourne Derby. While the result didn't go his way, as Melbourne Victory defeated city rivals City 3-0, the Singaporean defender learnt much from his 60 minute outing in central midfield.
So Safuwan, disappointing derby for Melbourne City, but you made your debut for the club. Talk us through the day before when you found out about your selection and a bit of the day as well.
I only got to know I was coming in one day before the game. Coach John (van 't Schip) told me to be on standby mode because Eric (Paartalu) was injured. It took me quite some time to adapt because it was kind of last minute but I was almost prepared to just jump in and take Eric’s role. I enjoyed myself on my debut, my first club derby against Victory. It wasn’t a pleasant result for us, but then again it was overwhelming to be part of the team for 60 minutes.
40,000 people at the Ethihad stadium, what was the atmosphere like and was it similar to the anything you’ve experienced back home as well?
Yeah I’ve played almost every week in front of 30,000 to 40,000 fans, almost full away, but then again it was totally different because I was playing in a derby and almost 40,000 of them are from Victory. Then again it’s not so much pressure for me because I’ve already been there and I know what to expect and things turned out well.
And you’ve played in a not necessarily unfamiliar holding midfielder role. What was it like playing there on the weekend and was it something you are used to?
Yeah I used to play there for quite some time and I was there for a purpose. To help the defence, to shadow and penetrate. But it wasn’t something new to me, I’ve been playing there for quite some time. It was a challenge for me, it was difficult role because you have to adapt to the A-League, I’ve yet to have any experience playing in the A-League but I’m happy to deliver what I did last weekend.
Have you found any differences between the A-League and your time with the Lions regarding speed and the physicality?
Yeah it’s totally different. Intensity wise, based on the ball... Moving from one end to the other end, you know, running off the ball. These are top professional players in the league; you have foreigners and locals. I’ve tasted different football back in my country. Probably two or three times faster I would say. But it’s a learning process. Every day I take things day by day. I don’t rush into making decisions but then again I’m just here to learn as much as I can from these lads.
You marked Gui Finkler pretty closely on the weekend. Have you found out about him a bit more or how did you find your experience against the the Brazilian midfielder?
Yeah I’m quite impressed with him. I’ve watched him in clips. We’ve got iPads here and players in different positions have a two or three minute clip about them. We take quite some time to see their positioning, are they good with the ball, and off the ball running. So I roughly knew what he was capable of, what his strength and weaknesses were. My main motive is just to get close to him. He doesn’t have to, you know, rub to rub shoulders against any players. But then again I am a defensive midfielder, I won't give him any chance to outplay me.
You've played one game with the club now. Are you looking forward to continuing training and then playing a bigger part in the team as well?
Yes definitely, I'm hoping for more playing time at Melbourne City. I’m not expecting much here because I’ve only been here for two weeks. I’ve been there trying my best to compete with the first 11 boys. Whatever decision comes my way, I'm happy to do the team proud, be it on the bench or on the field. I will always give my 100 percent. I'm taking things slowly here, hopefully I can stay here for a longer time.
How have you enjoyed your time so far? It’s been two weeks since you’ve been here from Singapore; have you fitted into the city, do you like it and is it a nice environment to be in?
It’s a nice environment here because we hardly have any spacious areas in Singapore. Its always hectic everyday. People rushing to work, people rushing to school. Here, it’s a bit laidback. People don’t tend to rush here and there, even the speed of vehicles traveling is slow. Then again, my wife is here with me; she’s been here for about two weeks, same as me. We love Melbourne, I’ve only moved into the Docklands area in the last three days, it’s much better than when I stayed in Preston. I'm making things comfortable here just like in my hometown. Whatever comes in our way, we go out, but most of the time we stay home to cook and chill and watch TV.
Have you explored the city a bit yet or are you looking to do so? Have some of the boys told you where the good places to go to eat are, especially halal eateries, have you found places like that?
Yeah I spoke to them in Dubai, but since the first day I came here, I’ve already got a vehicle to move around in. So everyday single day from day one I’ve been here, I’ve been exploring the city by myself. I bought a GPS for myself, roaming around in the city, from one end to the other. I sent my friend back (to the airport) so I roughly know where’s the freeway. Ive been exploring Melbourne every single day. When I get back to training, I have lunch with the guys. If my wife wants to go out to have dinner, I’ll just get a quick bite and go back home.
You’ve trained with the boys in Abu Dhabi, you got to know a few of them here, you’ve two weeks here as well, is there in anyone who you’ve got along with particularly well?
I’ve been with them for 10 days in Abu Dhabi. No I’ve not have any particular player who I spoke to or got close to. Generally, I’m mixing around with everybody. I’ve only spoke generally a lot with Willo (David Williams). I’ve got Jacob (Melling), James (Brown), all this other players that constantly, you know, Josh (Kennedy), constantly, keep talking to me, wanting to know how’s my well-being here. So it’s good to have players, inviting me to perform at my expectations.
Was your debut a very proud moment for you and Singapore football in particular?
Yes I think this is the first time a Singaporean playing in the A-League. I’ve got so many well wishers back home. I’ve got texts coming in, social media, all over saying I was on FIFA. It was a big hoo-ha in Singapore. So it was a proud moment for me, but then again [there's a lot of pressure] to be carrying your country flag high in Melbourne but I'm so proud to be part of this Melbourne City group, and I will always be looking to make myself and also the country proud.