SINGAPORE - It took one year, four months and 19 days for Ho Wai Loon - or 506 days, as he would tell you - to return to competitive action.
But the 27-year-old defender is determined to do more than just make a substitute appearance, which was what he did in Balestier Khalsa's 3-1 loss to Geylang International in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) last Sunday (July 25).
Ho, whose last international call-up came under Fandi Ahmad in 2018, is determined to embark on a path back to the Singapore national team.
But first, he must nail down a regular spot with the Tigers, the club he began his career with, starting with Saturday's clash against the Young Lions at Toa Payoh.
Ho has joined Balestier on loan till the end of the season from parent club Lion City Sailors as he searches for crucial game time following a lengthy period out after fracturing his right ankle in March 2020.
Unfortunately, it is a familiar feeling for Ho. In 2015, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which also ruled him out for more than a year.
Said Ho: "As soon as it happened, I knew I was in deep trouble because there was such a loud sound. I remembered how mentally exhausting coming back from the first injury was and now I had to do it all over again."
But the support staff and medical team at the Sailors rallied around Ho and he now sees "no reason to just give up".
"To be back playing now, I am really happy and I want to focus on getting game time again," he said. "It's every footballer's dream to be a part of the national team and I want to get there again but right now that is a bonus.
"What is important is that I am a regular during my time here at Balestier, repay the faith and trust shown to me by the coach and also help them to get better results."
Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic said it is only a matter of time before Ho is a fixture in his first XI and back in the national fold. He said: "He has a never-say-die attitude and you see that even in training. As he gets more games under his belt, I am sure he will return back his form. We need players like him at the moment."
The Tigers are winless in seven matches while the Young Lions are without a win all season, after 12 rounds. Kraljevic said the encounter is a "must-win" for his side.
Unlike his counterpart, Young Lions head coach Philippe Aw is not too concerned about a victory.
He said: "There is no pressure on chasing that win. We are just focused on playing according to our principles and the better we get at that, (the faster the) results will come. We have players going out and coming in due to national service commitments and the new players will need time to learn the principles of how we want to attack and defend."
Meanwhile, four upcoming matches in the SPL have been rescheduled to allow Tampines Rovers sufficient time to return to competitive action following their Asian Champions League exertions in Uzbekistan.
The Aug 4 clash against the Sailors and Aug 8 game against Geylang have now been moved to Sept 21 and Aug 25, respectively.
Two matches will also be brought forward due to the postponed National Day celebrations. Tampines' match against Balestier has been rescheduled from Aug 21 to Aug 19 while the Hougang versus Geylang game will be moved from Aug 21 to Aug 20.