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Sazali Abdul Aziz
Sunday, Jun 15, 2014

Sports

S.League: The next Lion King

The New Paper | Sazali Abdul Aziz | Sunday, Jun 15, 2014

Courts Young Lions striker Sahil Suhaimi taking a shot during a training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

SINGAPORE - Last Tuesday, Sahil Suhaimi got a reality check.

With five goals in seven games, the Courts Young Lions player is the hottest local striker in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League at the moment.

But he fired blanks for a Singapore selection side that was thrashed 6-0 by France's Under-21 team in a friendly played at Reunion Island - east of the African island of Madagascar - eight days ago.

Sahil, who has been in sparkling form since last December's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, where he was joint topscorer with three goals from five games, took the walloping as a timely reminder that there is still a long way to go in his football development.

"The France team were bigger, faster and technically better than us in every department," said the 21-year-old, who stands at a diminutive 1.65m.

"With my size, I had no chance against their defenders, who were all at least 1.9m tall.

"But it's a great experience to play them because we now know how far away we are from the level we want to be.

"And I'll work my butt off to hopefully get near to their level in the future."

ProLific Hitman

Sahil's emergence as a prolific hitman comes at a time when local football has been crying out for a goal-getter.

Not since the likes of Ahmad Latiff Khamaruddin, Indra Sahdan and NohAlam Shah in the late 1990s has a localborn striker captured the imagination of the football fraternity.

Over the last decade, the likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Khairul Amri and Khairul Nizam have also shown promise, but injuries have hampered their development into true top-quality No. 9s.

So Sahil knows the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

"There's a lot of pressure on me now," he said.

"After the SEA Games, people have started noticing whatever I do. All eyes are on me.

"But life hasn't really changed much for me. I'm not the type who goes out a lot anyway, I just like spending time with my loved ones.

"It (the pressure) can get tough but I try to ignore everything and do what I love - being on the pitch and scoring goals."

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