Young guns Adam and Shahul ready for Albirex challenge

Albirex Niigata chairman Daisuke Korenaga welcoming attacking midfielder Adam Swandi and goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan.
Albirex Niigata chairman Daisuke Korenaga welcoming attacking midfielder Adam Swandi and goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

First impressions can last a lifetime. In 2012, Adam Swandi had two separate stints at Albirex Niigata in Japan and was blown away by the J-League club's professionalism and football culture.

So when he was approached last month to sign for their satellite team in Singapore, the attacking midfielder jumped at the chance.

"I didn't hesitate. No one knows if these type of opportunities will come around again, and I believe Albirex will help take my football to the next level," said Adam, who was unveiled yesterday at the Jurong East Stadium alongside former Warriors FC goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan.

They are the White Swans' two Under-23 Singaporean signings and the first locals to play for the Japanese outfit. This comes after the Football Association of Singapore unveiled new age-quota rules for the 2018 S-League season that starts on March 31.

Adam, who scored seven goals for Home United last term, will wear the No. 10 shirt for the two-time S-League champions and he embraced the challenge.

"It's the professionalism that attracted me to Albirex, and I hope to be as professional as their players are," added the 21-year-old, who has set a target of 10 goals and at least five assists this campaign.

Shahul has also been inspired by the work ethic at his new club.

"I've actually travelled from my home in Changi to Jurong East just to watch their 8am training session," said the 22-year-old, who will join the club in May after completing his national service.

"The players were all very professional. They arrived an hour before time and were already out on the pitch stretching.

He is also relishing the chance to work with the 38-year-old goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa.

He said: "To be honest, I didn't think (Albirex's interest in me) was real. I thought it was a prank call.

"But this is an opportunity to work with a goalkeeper, who has over 300 appearances in the J-League, and I'm going to grab it with both hands."

Albirex, who start their pre-season training on Feb 5, have swept all four domestic trophies in the past two seasons but have set themselves even bigger goals.

"The objective of Albirex's participation in the S-League is to help develop Singapore football," said their chairman Daisuke Korenaga.

"Our record for developing young players has been well-recognised in Japan.

"Our next step is to raise Singaporean players ourselves to bring to the J-League."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Young guns Adam and Shahul ready for Albirex challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe