Football: Fatherhood key to scoring hot streak, says Lions forward Faris Ramli

Faris Ramli was one of the Lions' brightest sparks in the 2-2 draw against Yemen at the National Stadium on Sept 5, 2019. PHOTO: FAS

SINGAPORE - Less than 24 hours before Singapore's World Cup qualifier against Yemen last Thursday (Sept 5), Faris Ramli left the Lions' base at the Oasia Hotel after the team dinner and made a beeline for home.

Following a quick stop to buy a slice of cake, he spent some precious time with his wife and their son Luth Na'el, who turned one that day.

"I managed to spend two hours with my son, and hopefully when he's older he can look back at the photos and know that my wife and I are always there for him," Faris told The Straits Times on Sunday.

Seeing his son before the game proved a tonic for the wiry forward. Faris, 27, was one of the Lions' brightest sparks in the 2-2 draw against Yemen at the National Stadium.

His clever back-heel set off Shakir Hamzah to deliver a cross for Ikhsan Fandi's opener in the 27th minute.

And in the second half, he saw a shot cannon off the woodwork, before scoring Singapore's second, sweeping home the rebound from Ikhsan's shot in the 51st minute.

Defensive lapses meant the Lions, ranked 162nd in the world, were unable to claim the scalp of a Yemen side ranked 20 places higher as the game ended 2-2. But Faris' performance was a silver lining.

It was the forward's ninth goal in his 52nd appearance for the Lions, and becoming a dad, he said, has been a blessing. Four of his international goals were scored after Luth was born, including a winner over rivals Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur in March.

Faris has blossomed at club level as well, and is the highest-scoring local in the Singapore Premier League with his 14 goals for Hougang United. Six of those have come in Hougang's last seven matches, a run that has taken them to top of the league.

He said: "My son has been a source of motivation for me, along with my wife.

"There are other reasons too, like my experience (playing abroad in Malaysia) with PKNS last year, and wanting to repay Hougang's faith in me this season.

"But family is the biggest. Every time I step on the pitch I want to make them proud, and this gives me an extra boost."

Faris' goal against Yemen means he is the third-highest scorer in the current Lions squad. Only midfielder Hariss Harun (95 caps) and defender Safuwan Baharudin (90), who have 10 goals each, have scored more.

While Norway-based Ikhsan, who is on a purple patch for the Lions with six goals in his last nine outings, is firmly establishing himself as the national team's main man upfront, he is still only 20 and the experienced Faris has proven the perfect foil .

While he did not want to single out individuals, Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida, who was appointed in June, said: "Everyone has something special, that's why they are here. As for Faris, he has the ability to make a difference in front of goal for us and he has to do that for us. He can do more and has room for improvement."

Yoshida is hoping for a more polished performance from his charges when they entertain Palestine in their second World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, this time at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Palestine, ranked 102nd in the world, upset Uzbekistan 2-0 in Al-Ram on the same night Singapore and Yemen drew. Uzbekistan (84th) are the second highest-ranked team in Group D, after Saudi Arabia (68th).

Faris said that the team is motivated and hungry for a win over the Palestinians, and the players are determined not to repeat the mistakes made in their Yemen clash.

"Everyone knew we did well enough to beat Yemen, so it was a disappointing result to take, and we know we can still do better," he said.

"We players are still adapting to the style of play coach Tatsuma wants... so at the moment we are focusing on ourselves instead of trying to figure out the opponent."

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