Safuwan inks Pahang deal

Safuwan Baharudin will be the only Singaporean on the books of an MSL side. His versatility at the back, in midfield and up front will come in handy at Pahang.
Safuwan Baharudin will be the only Singaporean on the books of an MSL side. His versatility at the back, in midfield and up front will come in handy at Pahang. TNP FILE PHOTO

Lions' utility player to follow in Fandi's illustrious footsteps with move to MSL next year

Safuwan Baharudin will become the first Singaporean to play for Pahang FA since former Lions striker Fandi Ahmad in 1992, after he signed with the Malaysian giants for the 2018 Malaysia Super League (MSL) season.

Tok Gajah (the Elephants) fans will be hoping their new import from across the Causeway can bring as much success as the last one - Fandi was part of the team that won the League and Cup double in 1992.

Safuwan, 26, posted a photo of himself with fellow new signing and Malaysian international Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Pahang coach Dollah Salleh, and Pahang president Tengku Abdul Rahman Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah on Instagram last Saturday. He captioned it: "Thank God! Pahang 2018 #dreamscometrue".

The move also sees Safuwan link up with Dollah, himself a member of the 1992 Pahang squad and a good friend of Safuwan's father, Baharudin Abdul Ghani.

Safuwan has spent the last two seasons with second-tier Malaysia Premier League side PDRM FA, having experienced relegation in his first season. He also captained the side last season, when they finished eighth.

"It's good news to hear about (Safuwan's) move. The M-League has progressed well and they have some very good players so playing there will definitely help him improve," said former Hougang United coach Salim Moin, who coached Safuwan at the Under-17 level and converted him into a centre-back.

"Right now I would say he's a complete player but you also have to be very strong mentally to play for Pahang. It's not like Kuala Lumpur there - the fans demand a lot of you, so he's got to step up to show his ability."

PRESSURE-COOKER ENVIRONMENT

I would say he's a complete player but you also have to be very strong mentally to play for Pahang.''

SALIM MOIN, Safuwan's former coach at the Under-17 level, on his protege's move to Malaysia Super League giants Pahang FA .

The Singapore international, who has been deployed variously as a centre-back, midfielder and striker in 76 appearances for his country, joins a Pahang side on the rise and hungry for success.

Pahang are the second-most successful side in Malaysian league history with five titles, behind Selangor (six) but their fans have not tasted league success since 2004. The team finished second in the MSL last season, nine points behind champions Johor Darul Takzim (JDT), and will compete on two fronts in the new season, having also qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

It will be Safuwan's first time playing in the regional competition, Asia's secondary club tournament behind the AFC Champions League.

"Playing against the higher level of competition (regionally) helps you get on top of your game so it's great that he's getting that chance," said Singapore national captain Hariss Harun, who won the AFC Cup in 2015 with JDT. "It's good for as many players as possible to play overseas because it will keep them on their toes and that will translate to the national team, especially given the current situation in Singapore football.

"I think we have the players (to compete internationally) now but what's lacking is the sharpness."

Safuwan will be the only Singaporean on the books of an MSL side. Former Tampines Rovers forward Sahil Suhaimi previously held that distinction but his Sarawak side were relegated to the second tier after finishing 11th in the 2017 season.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Safuwan inks Pahang deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe