His goal against Muang Loei United in the Thai FA Cup first round on Wednesday was his fourth goal of the season and Singapore winger Gabriel Quak is on a mission to keep his dream alive beyond 2018.
Having joined Warriors FC in the Singapore Premier League in January this year, the Singapore International made an eleventh-hour move to sign for Navy FC one week before the Thai League 1 campaign started.
Together with Zulfahmi Arifin (Chonburi FC), Hassan Sunny (Army United), Baihakki Khaizan (Udon Thani) and Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya), the quintet have been blazing a trail in Thai football with their solid performances.
This was the 27-year-old’s first overseas stint and while it was a dream move, Quak knew he had to stand out from the rest simply because he is viewed as a foreign import, especially as an ASEAN player.
“I won’t say it has been a huge change in terms of the way I train or play. I’m just more focused because as an import player, especially an ASEAN import, it is not easy at all.” Quak told FOX Sports Asia.
“When you have good moments, you are fine but if you’re facing bad times like a bad training session, poor game, you have to face up to it alone and bounce back quickly. That’s the toughest part of being here.
Quak also shared about the sacrifices he has had to make for his dream.
“Yes the opportunity to play abroad is a dream come true but what people don’t see are the sacrifices behind it. I have a young daughter whom I miss a lot, I cannot be around my wife and family much but I use it as my biggest motivation,” he added.
“When you’re an import player, you’re alone and you have to be strong because everyone is looking to you to be better. Sometimes, you have to stomach it, close your eyes and go to bed, even with tears in your eyes. What has really helped me settle down here is I’m happy with the city I live in, the amenities and also the warm hospitality of everyone around the club and outside of it.
“Take for instance Navy captain Oat [Nattaporn Phanrit]. He is a legend in Thai football but he took me out for meals, introduced me to his family and made me understand the culture of the country. Being settled has really showed on the pitch.”
Despite Navy sitting in the relegation zone with 19 points from five wins, four draws and 11 losses, Quak reckons the club has seen a turn in fortunes with their new coach Ljubomir Ristovski.
“We have played well without getting results but the mood in our camp is positive and we have enough games to try and climb up the table and stay in the top flight,” Quak remarked.
While he may be uplifted by Navy’s recent run of form, Quak knows the quality of the Thai League and the huge challenge he has on his hands.
“It is not easy playing in Thai League 1 with every team so strong. I’ve been really impressed by Port FC and Buriram United for their brand of football and the players they’ve got.
“But if there was one player who has really caught my eye, it will have to be Bangkok United’s [Sanrawat] Dechmitr. The way he dictates and bosses the midfield is something I admire and would love to play alongside him in future.”
OFFICIAL: Fandi Ahmad will lead the Lions for the 2018 @affsuzukicup 🦁
FAS will concurrently continue in its search for the National Team Head Coach, who will be appointed from January 2019.
— FAS (@FASingapore) May 15, 2018
With the AFF Suzuki Cup looming on the horizon, many players are looking over their shoulders to hopefully catch the eye of Singapore head coach Fandi Ahmad but Quak is refusing to give it much thought, choosing to focus on his club form instead.
The former Geylang International winger said: “For now, that’s the least of my priorities. I just want to keep training hard, playing well to earn a contract to stay in Thailand next season
“Don’t get me wrong, playing for Singapore is and will always be the proudest moment of my career but what I need to do is to keep producing the goods at club level and hopefully, that call to don the Singapore jersey again will come.”
With four goals under his belt, Quak is the third highest-scoring ASEAN import in Thai football this season, behind Myanmar star striker Aung Thu who plays for Police Tero and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol’s Filipino hitman Mark Hartmann.
With the Football Association of Singapore yet to announce any upcoming international friendlies in preparation of the Suzuki Cup, Quak can make good his plan to focus on his club form and try to earn a contract to stay in the Thai League next season.