Former Singapore forward Qiu Li is hoping he will get an opportunity to give back to Singapore football, for what the sport has given him in life.
The Shenyang-born Singaporean was one of few naturalised players during the last decade who made a mark for club and country. In fact, he was the last player under the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) to play for the Lions.
He won the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012 as part of Radojko Avramovic’s lineup and was seen as an unpredictable and talented forward for the Lions, scoring four goals in 24 appearances.
In 2014, Qiu joined the elite 100-goal club of players who have scored a century in the S.League while he was playing for Home United.
The 37-year-old retired from the game abruptly in 2014 after the S.League introduced an age-restriction rule and with a lack of opportunities in Singapore, Qiu headed back to China to begin his coaching career.
He was given a coaching role in Shen Yang Urban FC but quickly rose through the ranks and is now one of the first-team coaches at Hei Long Jiang FC (Qi Qi Ha Er) who finished sixth in the Chinese provincial division 2.
Despite a huge salary package and proving his coaching abilities – his side missed out on promotion to the provincial Division 1 by six points – Qiu reckons he is still a novice in the art of coaching.
“To be honest, I felt that I could have played for one or two more seasons but the new (age restriction) ruling was canceled so late, I couldn’t find a club in time,” Qiu told FOX Sports Asia.
“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise as I was forced to quickly find my feet in the coaching world.
“Thankfully, my old contacts in China gave me the opportunity at Shen Yang and I have since grown so much as a coach.
“I am still a young coach and I feel that I need to learn more and get more scenario experience along with my Pro License before I can go one step further.”
Having been based back in China for the last few years, the 37-year-old returned to Singapore over the weekend to play in Fahrudin Mustafic’s testimonial and even scored the third goal for the Singapore Selection side that drew 3-3 with a Tampines Selection.
Seeing his old teammates brought back a lot of memories and affirmed his plans to hopefully return to the Lion City in a coaching capacity someday.
“No Singapore, No Qiu Li. If not for Singapore, I would never have a career scoring 100 goals in the league,” Qiu exclaimed.
“I’m back in China on a Singapore passport and I intend to keep it because my aim is to come back and do something for local football.
“Sometimes in life, you look back at what made you who you are today and for me, Singapore football is where it started and where I would love to return to.”
Despite the knowledge that coaches in the Singapore Premier League are not on the same five-figure monthly packages like those back in China, Qiu is ready to look beyond the financial terms as he seeks to give back to the local game.
“Yes, the salary for coaches in China is higher and I understand I will not be able to make that kind of money here as a coach but that is secondary.
“If I manage to get a coaching offer in Singapore, it will be about giving back to the sport here and not just about money. As long as it pays the bills, I’m not looking for the same package as I am on in China.
“But for now, I am not the finished article. I still have a lot to learn and hopefully in two to three years’ time, I’m ready and Singapore football will have a place for me.”
Qiu left Singapore on Monday morning to resume his coaching duties with Qi Qi Ha Er. The burly forward is working towards his Pro License as well.