Insults no longer weigh down footballer Fashah Iskandar
Fashah Iskandar has learned to deal with criticisms over his weight for the past few years.
Fashah Iskandar has been around the local professional football scene for so long that it is easy to forget that he just turned 25 years old earlier this month.
The goalkeeper came into prominence as part of the talented Singapore Under-15 team that clinched a bronze medal in football at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held here 10 years ago.
There is no doubting his talent. After all, he’s only one of two players from that team to still be playing professional football. But Fashah has been criticized plenty since signing his first professional contract in 2013. The 1.87 meters tall goalkeeper, nicknamed “The Bear” for his imposing presence, has had to battle issues with weight.
His heavy frame hasn’t gone unnoticed by spectators and he has drawn ridicule and negative comments.
“The worst I’ve heard is ‘that keeper is very fat, he sure cannot play football’,” Fashah told Youth.SG. He added that even those within the football fraternity have not held back their criticism.
There were times when the negative remarks became so overwhelming that Fashah actually broke down. “I remember having a really bad game for Young Lions (in 2016). My teammate Ammirul (Emmran) sent me this comment by a fan on Facebook after that game and after reading it, I just cried on the journey home,” Fashah shared.
“Honestly, it hurts me to read such things and hear all the critics. Especially since they don’t really know what I went through in my life.”
The warm and friendly Fashah is well aware that his fitness isn’t up to mark for a professional footballer. In 2016, when he was contracted to Tampines Rovers, his weight had ballooned to 110kg and he could not even pass his 2.4km test.
“That was so embarrassing,” Fashah admitted. But under the encouragement of veterans such as Fahrudin Mustafic, Ismadi Mukhtar, and Fazrul Nawaz – who even offered to do extra cardio work with him – Fashah was able to pass the test eventually.
Surprisingly, Fashah said that it has never crossed his mind to seek proper help for his weight issues.
These days, he tries his best to keep his weight in check. Currently, he weighs slightly over 90kg – still far from an ideal weight. Yet, he concedes that he may have no control over his body size.
“My size is probably down to genetics. If you see my grandfather, he’s even bigger in terms of size and height. So that’s something I can’t control as much. Some people say I’m too big, but I still get my job done and can do the same things as goalkeepers who are skinnier,” Fashah stated.
“If I can slim down further, it will be good. But right now, I’m more focused on improving my game, such as my technical abilities.”
And despite the trials and tribulations, there was never a point of time when he contemplated calling it quits.
Perhaps, it might be because football is the one sport that he loves so dearly and is the only thing he knows having been involved in it since he was a teen.
“Somehow, that drive and passion for football in me is so strong that I never thought of going onto another career path,” he said. And it speaks volumes of his mental strength, too, that he has not given in. According to Edgar Tham, the chief sport and performance psychologist at SportPsych Consulting (Singapore), it is likely for athletes who have been abused to get distracted from performing at their best.
Fashah, on the other hand, has improved year-on-year. Prior to last season, he had only made 14 appearances over six years as he was often overlooked – partly because there were more experienced options available at his teams, and also due to his weight.
But in 2019, he managed to make a career-high 19 appearances in all competitions for Warriors FC and was one of just two goalkeepers to stop two penalties. He also earned a nomination along with three other goalkeepers for a spot in the SPL team of the year – signifying that he is starting to earn his coaches’ respect and trust.
That too, despite it being a troubled year for the club as they were plagued with numerous off-the-field issues, which resulted in players, including Fashah, not being paid on time.
“This was really the turning point for me. To get such recognition after going through ‘shit’ for the last few years really meant something to me,” he said proudly.
“You know, that feeling of getting something after working so hard for it, right? At the end of the day, God is fair. If you truly work hard, he will reward you.”
Ammirul, who was his teammate at Young Lions from 2016 to 2017 and subsequently at Warriors FC from 2018 to 2019, believes he has done well to come so far.
“He’s a person who is always trying to improve himself and be the best keeper he can be,” said the 24-year-old. ” To give him credit, he has done well and saved us numerous times to help our team to a win.”
It also speaks volumes that while Warriors were forced out of the 2020 season, Fashah was swiftly snapped up by the returning Tanjong Pagar United.
After a good year, Fashah knows he cannot afford to rest on his laurels and has set some lofty targets for himself before he is forced to stop playing in the notoriously cut-throat SPL.
“Before I retire, I want to win at least a trophy in the SPL and also to earn a call-up to the national team,” he shared. “I’m looking to really push myself and give what I have, until the day my body says no. Then that will be the time to stop.”