SINGAPORE - He was so sure he would not win The New Paper's Player of the Season gong that he left his table for a quick toilet break as the "Big awards" were being announced.
But, like he did throughout the recently- concluded Malaysian Super League (MSL) season, LionsXII defender Safuwan Baharudin showed impeccable timing to return just as his name was called.
Wearing a sheepish look, the 21-yearold centre back raced to the stage to receive the trophy from TNP Editor Dominic Nathan, at the LionsXII victory dinner organised by The New Paper and Gayatri Restaurant on Sunday.
"To win an individual award like this is a real honour for me," said Safuwan.
"It's rare for a defender to win the Player of the Season award because it normally goes to strikers, playmakers or midfielders. I didn't expect it at all - I thought Isa (Halim) would win it. I have to thank my coaches, teammates and the fans for pushing me all the way."
Safuwan's consistency at the back was key to the LionsXII's MSL triumph earlier this month and he was the TNP sports desk's unanimous choice as the team's best performer.
The LionsXII conceded just 15 goals in 22 games, with Safuwan achieving the team's highest average rating of 7.39 (out of 10) based on TNP's player ratings each match.
In April, he was also named the team's main man in TNP's mid-term report card. The Player of the Season trophy wasn't the only "award" Safuwan won on Sunday night.