Let's move forward: Shakir

Shakir Hamzah challenging Stoke forward Mame Biram Diouf during their Barclays Asia Trophy match last month. The Singapore defender has had a spate of disciplinary issues this season, but has since knuckled down and rediscovered his best form for the
Shakir Hamzah challenging Stoke forward Mame Biram Diouf during their Barclays Asia Trophy match last month. The Singapore defender has had a spate of disciplinary issues this season, but has since knuckled down and rediscovered his best form for the LionsXII.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Former Young Lion rediscovers form with LionsXII and wants to leave the past behind

Out on the pitch, Shakir Hamzah is valued by the LionsXII for his defensive qualities as his speed, aerial ability and aggression are useful tools to shadow the best strikers in the Malaysia Super League (MSL).

But off it, he finds it hard to shake off the two major controversies which have blotted his career so far.

The 22-year-old, however, is keen to shrug off his past and impress as a footballer. And after a run of good form for Fandi Ahmad's team, the defender wants to put on another strong display to stop Selangor at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.

"The past is behind me. I know I made a mistake but everyone makes mistakes in their life," he told The Straits Times.

"I learnt from it and my coaches also talked to me to ensure that I won't repeat my errors.

"Right now, I just want to focus on my football and get better as a player."

In June 2013, Shakir served four days in detention while undergoing national service in the police force, for going absent with official leave to play in an MSL away match in Pahang.

He was also fined $4,000 and ordered to serve 30 hours of community service by the Football Association of Singapore's internal disciplinary committee.

The player did not help himself in the lead-up to the SEA Games on home soil either.

Ahead of the Under-23 tournament, Shakir was dropped as the captain of the Young Lions by coach Aide Iskandar after a spate of disciplinary issues. He was allowed to return to the LionsXII just before the June tournament.

But since his return to action with Fandi's men, Shakir has rediscovered his best form as an overlapping left-back and filling in as a no-nonsense centre-back when required.

Tonight, he will hope to help his team deliver a clean sheet against Selangor and avenge April's 4-0 MSL drubbing at Shah Alam.

Shakir is not new to the MSL - he made 14 appearances for V. Sundramoorthy's 2013 league title-winning side. It is that experience that has come in handy since his return to the team in June.

"The league has definitely improved a lot since 2013. Two years ago, there were fewer foreigners and now there are so many quality foreigners in the league, especially forwards," said Shakir.

"But the experience from my previous stint has really helped me to settle down faster."

Fandi is pleased to have the versatile defender in his ranks as he prepares for the final three matches of the MSL campaign and plans for the Malaysia Cup that lies ahead.

The LionsXII are seventh in the 12-team table on 29 points. While Johor Darul Takzim and Pahang are way ahead, they are only three points behind third-placed Selangor.

"Shakir is a strong defender who is versatile and someone who has great speed and aggression," said the coach. "He is a great asset for us because he is able to win the aerial battles against the foreigners and since he has come in, the team and I have been happy with his performances."  

Fandi will be boosted by the return of Khairul Amri tonight as the forward returns to the fold after missing the last two matches through a calf injury.

Fandi said: "We are going into this match with a positive mind. We need to collect maximum points from the last two home games and ensure we give a good fight to seal a top-four place."

LIONSXII v SELANGOR

StarHub Ch112/Ch205 & 76.25MHz, 7.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Let's move forward: Shakir'. Print Edition | Subscribe