The Lion City Sailors playmaker hopes to don the Singapore jersey one day and has his sights firmly set on a move abroad in the near future.
After a stellar 2020 Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign for the Lion City Sailors, Saifullah Akbar picked up the SPL Young Player of the Year award at the annual FAS Awards Night on Dec 7.
Saifullah was a mainstay in the Sailors side under the tutelage of head coach Aurelio Vidmar. In 11 appearances, he managed two goals and one assist in a truncated SPL season.
However, the 21-year-old playmaker insisted that he won’t be resting on his laurels.
“I would say I had a decent first year with the club but it wasn’t fantastic because I thought I could have done so much more,” Saifullah told Youthopia.
“But this is a positive sign because it shows that I’m hungry for more. I’ve also set the bar at this level and my intention is to always push myself to do even better.”
Saifullah is already aiming to achieve more success next year, especially when the Sailors return to continental competition next year.
The club qualified for the Asian Football Confederation Cup – the second tier competition just behind the Asian Champions League – after finishing third in the SPL.
“My personal target in 2021 is to have more goal contributions,” he shared.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s me scoring or assisting. I simply want to add those aspects into my game that would help bring my game to the next level.
“While I have yet to set a specific target, I’m definitely looking to achieve more than what I’ve had this season and possibly take the club as far as possible in the AFC Cup next year.”
With a father in Akbar Nawas, who has had an illustrious career as a football coach, the pressure has always been huge on Saifullah’s shoulders since he turned professional in 2016 with Tampines Rovers.
At 17 years, five months and 13 days, Saifullah became the Stags’ youngest goalscorer of all-time when he netted against Hougang United in a Singapore League Cup tie.
It was the words from his father which pulled him throughout his career and is something he lives by until today.
“The one advice from my father that I take into every game is to ‘always play for your team and teammates’,” Saifullah recalled.
“Those were the words he said before I made my professional debut for Tampines and has been with me throughout.”
Long touted as a future playmaker for Singapore, Saifullah is now targeting a spot in Tatsuma Yoshida’s Singapore national team squad when international football in this region is allowed to resume.
“It is every footballer’s dream to play for their country. With God’s will, I hope to have another good season with my club and show that I’m deserving of a call-up to the national team for the Suzuki Cup in 2021,” he declared.
Beyond that, Saifullah is aiming for another personal target – to sign for an overseas club.
The midfielder had a successful trial with Spanish side Tenerife two years ago, but signed for Young Lions instead. Should the opportunity to sign for a foreign club come along again, Saifullah said he would grab the opportunity with both hands.
“It doesn’t matter where it’s from. It can be from the Malaysian Super League, Thai League or even the J-League,” he shared.
“If I’m able to move abroad and play my football, it is something I would love to do and challenge myself at a higher level.”
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