Football: No injury setbacks, so Nizam is raring to score

Fully fit and brimming with confidence after his brace for Home United, Khairul Nizam (No. 20) puts everything on the line at a training session for the national squad before the friendly game against Myanmar and the World Cup qualifier in Teheran ag
Fully fit and brimming with confidence after his brace for Home United, Khairul Nizam (No. 20) puts everything on the line at a training session for the national squad before the friendly game against Myanmar and the World Cup qualifier in Teheran against Afghanistan.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

National coach Stange says door is open to the striker but he needs to improve his game

For most strikers, scoring goals is their No. 1 priority for the season.

Singapore's Khairul Nizam, however, has another target as well - a seemingly simpler one: To stay clear of injuries.

"Hopefully, this year is my year and I can play all the matches that I want," said the Home United forward. "I've missed a lot of games and training, and hopefully I can do my best this year."

Nizam, who has suffered a litany of injury setbacks in recent years, put in a fine shift for his club over the weekend in the S-League, grabbing a brace to give Home United their first win of the season.

Along with Garena Young Lions attacker Fareez Farhan, Nizam is the joint-top local scorer in the league with three goals to his name.

The 24-year-old has also managed to earn a call-up to the senior squad for Singapore's upcoming games in the next two weeks, Thursday's friendly against Myanmar at Jalan Besar and the Lions' final World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan in Teheran on March 29.

With the striker's position up for grabs following an injury to Nizam's half-brother Amri, the former is keen to prove his worth.

"If he (Bernd Stange) gives me a chance, I will prove to him that I deserve to start the game," said Nizam. "I need to have more confidence in myself and just do my best - help the team in what they need."

National coach Stange welcomed the player's positive attitude, saying: "I'm very glad to see him, after years of suffering - I've been here for three years and three years he was suffering different injuries, and was only a substitute.

"Now the door's open to the national team, it's up to him to take the chance and I'm very curious to see him play."

However, the German, who watched Home's 4-1 win over the Young Lions, feels Nizam is not quite the finished product yet.

"I saw him scoring two goals, but I saw as well a lot of technical mistakes and he has to work on it," he said. "There's a big gap to the international standard and he can close it with hard work.

"I put a lot of pressure on this guy in the last 12 months because I feel we have different characters in the team, and he's a character who needs pressure from coaches."

Nizam agreed that he needed to improve his game, noting: "I just need to be more confident with the ball, not panic too much and focus on the game."

Asked the reason for his injury-free season so far, Nizam said that while his training regimen with Home was roughly the same as previous seasons, he is no longer travelling constantly as he did with the LionsXII in the Malaysia Super League.

Fellow international forward Fazrul Nawaz is also relishing Nizam's injury-free status.

"It's good to have Nizam back. He overcame his injuries, and hopefully he'll still continue to work hard and contribute to the team," he said.

The Tampines Rovers player also urged the other younger Lions in the 23-man squad to step up to the plate.

"Not only for Nizam, but it's also time for Sahil and Faris Ramli. Now, it's important for them to make their mark in the S-League," Fazrul said.

"They'll have to keep on improving and do their best so that they can be above the foreigners."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'No injury setbacks, so Nizam is raring to score'. Print Edition | Subscribe