Football: Ex-skateboarder Van Huizen gets national call-up for Afghanistan qualifier

Christopher van Huizen (centre) had considered quitting football to work in a skate shop when his career did not take off immediately.
Christopher van Huizen (centre) had considered quitting football to work in a skate shop when his career did not take off immediately. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

LionsXII player gets 1st national-team call-up for key 2018 World Cup qualifiers at home

Must-wins - that is what Singapore national football coach Bernd Stange labelled the Lions' two upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium.

And the German has given a former skateboarder a first national-team call-up - for all the right reasons.

Christopher van Huizen has been a revelation in his debut season with the LionsXII, piling up the assists with his pinpoint crosses.

In just 11 appearances in the Malaysia Super League and Malaysia Cup this season, the winger has already chipped in with six assists and one goal .

  • SINGAPORE SQUAD

  • Goalkeepers

    Izwan Mahbud, Hassan Sunny, Zaiful Nizam


    Defenders

    Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Amirul Adli, Shaiful Esah, Safuwan Baharudin, Nazrul Nazari, Shakir Hamzah, Faritz Hameed


    Midfielders

    Christopher van Huizen, Yasir Hanapi, Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Sujad, Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli, Anumanthan Kumar, Hariss Harun.


    Forwards

    Khairul Nizam, Khairul Amri, Shahril Ishak, Fazrul Nawaz, Sahil Suhaimi.

His talents have caught Stange's eye and the 67-year-old said: "He makes good crosses and is a dangerous player who can score goals.

"And if you have a home game, you have to score - that's why he's here (in the squad)."

Should van Huizen feature in either Thursday's clash against Afghanistan or Oct 13's match against Cambodia, it will cap a stunning, meteoric rise in his football career this year.

"I'm still really shocked," the 23-year-old said. "I was expecting this (call-up) to happen only two to three years down the road, definitely not so soon."

In fact, his career had seemed bleak barely two years ago.

Despite being a standout in the football talent search reality TV show First XI, he struggled to hold a regular place at S-League side Tampines Rovers and barely featured in the Stags' starting XI.

At the end of last year, he had considered quitting football to work at a skate shop, being a skateboarding enthusiast since he was 16.

Then came his big break.

He caught the eye of LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad who drafted him into the team.

Since then, he has become an impact substitute, coming on late in ties to add more offensive sparkle.

Said van Huizen of his call-up: "I was watching Singapore play in the Suzuki Cup (contested by the national teams in South-east Asia), telling myself that I want to be there one day. So this is a chance to prove myself."

Also joining him will be Courts Young Lions players Anumanthan Kumar, 21, and Amirul Adli, 19.

Both play mainly in the Under-23 squad and rejoin the national team for the first time since last year.

Singapore currently sit in the middle of Group E with four points - behind leaders Syria (nine points) and Japan (seven), but above Afghanistan and minnows Cambodia.

"Nobody should underestimate Afghanistan," said Stange.

"They are physically stronger than our team but we are more intelligent and better organised.

"If we bring everything, they don't have a chance."

However, key midfielders Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin are each serving a one-match ban after picking up two yellow cards.

However, captain Shahril Ishak is rallying his players to step up to meet the challenge.

"It's a big loss for us," he said.

"But I believe the players, who are in the line-up, will give their hearts to play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'SKATER BOY VAN HUIZEN ON A ROLL'. Print Edition | Subscribe