Isa Halim 'proudest' when he pulls on Singapore jersey
The last two years have been frustrating for Isa, who was plagued with injuries and a loss of form. Things did not exactly improve when he joined Tampines Rovers from the LionsXII midway through last season as he constantly found himself drifting in and out of the starting XI.
However, the 29-year-old has stated that his move to Geylang International for the upcoming 2016 S.League season represents a fresh start for himself as he yearns for his first Singapore call-up since mid-2014.
“I haven’t given up (on representing Singapore); that has always been my number one priority,” Isa told FourFourTwo following the club’s pre-season press conference at SAFRA Tampines on Wednesday evening.
“Every player’s proudest moment is when you pull on the national jersey. It’s an honour to represent your country in whichever sport and in whichever age group.
“It’s a bit sad that I haven’t been called up for almost two years, but this is a new chapter of my life at Geylang.
“I do believe that there’s a brighter future ahead of me and that I will have a chance to be chosen for the country again, just like other players.”
It has been quite the off-season for Geylang, who undergone a massive revamp in the boardroom as well as their playing squad. Young businessman Ben Teng has taken over from Leong Kok Fann as club chairman, with just four players retained from last season.
The 2016 squad will sport a youthful look, boasting former LionsXII players like Gabriel Quak, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Sahil Suhaimi.
Ex-Young Lions alumni Syazwan Buhari and Stanely Ng, as well as Brandon Koh and Dhukilan Jeevamani – both who were part of the thrilling Singapore under-15 side that clinched bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games – have also teamed up at Bedok Stadium.
Named as club captain for the young and upcoming side, Isa is excited of the challenges ahead in the new season and drew parallels to the first days of the LionsXII.
“It’s similar to the LionsXII where they first started, so to be at the forefront of another big project is a big honour for me,” said the midfielder.
“Also, to be chosen captain ahead of the likes of Daniel Bennett and Indra Sahdan whom I always look up to, and to lead them, is something amazing.
READ ALSO S.League 2016: The top 10 youngsters
“Indra once told me this is like the passing of the baton and now it’s time for me to lead. They’re giving me the full support and that’s the most important thing.
“With a good mixture of both young and experienced players, it’s an exciting time for the club.”
Isa is pleased that the Eagles class of 2016 have been bonding well in pre-season, pulling out the example of the whole team came together to support the players whom were struggling with the mandatory 2.4km fitness test.
“You can see that the camaraderie of the team is very strong this year,” he declared. “To wake up early to support the team and to run with them – we had a relay team to support those who were still taking the 2.4km – proves to everyone that this is a true team.
“We are probably the only team that did that and it was a great feeling when we saw the last one, Shariff Samat, clearing the test. Everything is going well so far for us under (new) coach Hasrin (Jailani), so hopefully we can keep this momentum.”
However, Isa stopped short of predicting a title challenge from his new side, saying: “We had some great signings but at the same time we don’t want to put too much pressure on these boys.
“The real test will come when things start to go not so well or when the team start losing matches. We need to take one game at a time because the season’s going to be a marathon.”