Football: Contemplating retirement, super-sub van Huizen delivers for Geylang International

Christopher van Huizen (left) delivering a cross during a Singapore Premier League match at Our Tampines Hub on Oct 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Christopher van Huizen is a classic take-on-his-man, chalk-on-his-boots winger but a star turn in Geylang International's 3-0 win over Balestier Khalsa on Sunday (Oct 3) could be one of his last in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).

After the game, he told The Straits Times he has plans to retire at the end of the season, which concludes next Sunday.

"I had wanted to quit in 2019, but coach Noor (Ali) wanted me to push on for another two years," said the 28-year-old, who added he made his decision in June.

"These being my last two games, I didn't want to end on a bad note and I really wanted to make a difference."

His announcement is surprising given he is at an age most players consider to be their prime, and his talent. Sent on as a half-time substitute with the game goalless, he had a hand in all three Geylang goals as the Eagles claimed three points and avoided finishing bottom of the SPL this term.

Asked why he wanted to quit, van Huizen said he felt he was "going nowhere" in football, without elaborating.

He added he was hoping for a fairytale end to his career by being a part of the Singapore squad for the Dec 5-Jan 1 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, which the Republic will host.

But he knows it is a long shot. "Initially, this was what I prayed for: One last bang, to give all I have to the club and then the country," he said.

"But it will be very difficult because of the Under-23 rule... I'm not blaming anyone for it. I only have 45 minutes in most games to make a difference.

"I would love to play for my country one more time, but I know it's going to be difficult to be part of the squad."

Regulations this season make it mandatory for SPL clubs to field three players aged 23 or under in their starting line-up for games.

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The rule was criticised in many quarters as it limited the playing time of local senior players and in September, the Football Association of Singapore announced the restriction would be reduced to one for next year.

Noor Ali said he hoped van Huizen, who has started seven of 20 league games, coming off the bench 11 times, would reconsider as he felt he had more to offer.

Against Balestier he first made his mark in the 60th minute, when he galloped over two tackles, got to the byline before cutting the ball back for the in-form Amy Recha to tap in the opener.

Three minutes later, a drop of the shoulder helped van Huizen get past his marker and his dangerous cross was inadvertently turned in by Tigers defender Ensar Bruncevic,

Van Huizen also played a part in the third goal, even if it was a simple pass Matheus Moresche. The Brazilian striker, rumoured to be considering an offer from A-League club Central Coast Mariners which would more than double his salary at Geylang, scored with a fine curling effort.

Van Huizen's performances came after only three days of training as he had to serve a Stay-Home Notice after his younger brother tested positive for Covid-19.

Balestier themselves had less than a week's worth of full training after the squad had to complete a 10-day Quarantine Order because of a positive case among one of their players.

The lack of match fitness showed as they faded, particularly in the second half.

Tigers coach Marko Kraljevic said: "I'm not sure if the lack of training affected us, I'm no scientist, but in the second half (our levels) definitely went down.

"Plus they had a player like Chris who came in, had fresh legs and is good with both feet, and he changed the game."

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