Baihakki Khaizan is eager to get reacquainted with former national teammate Noh Alam Shah who has been brought in as player mentor for the Singapore Lions and reckons the latter “brings something to the team that has been missing for years.”
Fandi Ahmad’s appointment as national team coach in May was met with excitement by Singapore supporters but Alam Shah’s appearance – as the newly appointed player mentor – at the highly-anticipated presentation caught the eye of onlookers too.
With 17 AFF Suzuki Cup goals to his name, Noh Alam Shah has gained a cult status as one of Singapore football’s best-ever attacking exponents and he will now bring his wealth of experience back to the national team, guiding the younger players along.
Baihakki, 34, who has been included in Fandi’s 26-man squad for the upcoming international friendlies against Fiji and Mauritius has played alongside the fearless striker and lauded the move by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in bringing Alam Shah in as a backroom staff.
“We all missed Ah Long (Alam Shah’s nickname),” Baihakki told FOX Sports Asia. “As a player, his physical and no-nonsense approach to the game was tremendous. He always wore the shirt with pride and played his heart out.
“And to be honest, that is something that has been missing in the national team for a few years now. I hope his presence will spur the younger players to have that similar sense of pride when they don the national jersey.”
The Udon Thani defender who made his international debut in 2003 and has more than 130 caps for the Lions is no stranger to working under different coaches, and with Fandi ushering in a new era, Baihakki has urged fans and players alike to back their footballing icon.
He remarked: “I think every coach has a different way of approach towards things. Be it in terms of preparation till going into a big tournament.
“I have been lucky and thankful to have played under different coaching setups even after the Raddy (Radojko Avramovic) time.
“With a new coach, I can learn not only from the football aspect but how they manage a team and everything else.
“We need to understand Fandi’s tactics and give time for the team to gel before we go into the Suzuki Cup.”
With Fandi yet to decide on his final 23-man squad for the showpiece event in November, Baihakki is taking nothing for granted despite being one of the veterans in the team and is ready to fight for his spot alongside his younger peers.
“I’m grateful to be still playing professionally at this age. With each national team call-up, I see more and more youngsters in the squad and that provides healthy competition for the team,” Baihakki added.
“As a senior, I need to impose my game and guide them to understand what it takes to play at this level. They need to be ready to push and go that extra mile for Singapore.
“The day will come when I have to vacate my spot for them and when that day comes, I’m ready to sit back and encourage them and be their motivator.”
The Udon Thani centre-back lifted the coveted trophy in 2004, 2007 and 2012 and if he gets selected into Fandi’s final 23-man squad, Baihakki will have the opportunity to join a select group of legends to have won Southeast Asia’s top footballing prize four times.