National Team - Lionesses ● Nov 22, 2018

Late coach’s influence charts Huraizah’s footballing journey

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SINGAPORE, 22 NOVEMBER 2018 When Huraizah Ismail joined her first football club at 14, she met a man who would go on to shape the course of her life.

At EB Sports Women’s Club, Huraizah blossomed under the tutelage of her coach, Bernard Tay, who would coach her until his passing in 2009.

The decade of guidance under her mentor greatly influenced Huraizah’s sporting journey and she attributes her success in football to him. Nine years on, the memory of Tay still springs to mind whenever the 34-year-old laces up her boots.

“I grew up under his care throughout my football career and he was like a father figure to me,” Huraizah shared with the FAS website. “Till today, whenever I have a football match, I think of him. His vision and passion for football is something I will always remember.”

Tay certainly left a mark on Huraizah, whose life has been dedicated to the Beautiful Game.

STREET SMARTS
Huraizah started playing football at nine after she was inspired by watching her father play.

She soon took to the street football courts to hone her craft and it was during one of these sessions when she was talent-spotted by a coach, who persuaded her to join EB.

The club was renamed to Bishan Arsenal FC (and later to Middle Rangers FC) and joined the Women’s League, which was set up by FAS, in 2004.

Huraizah shone for her team, quickly developing herself into a fearsome midfield playmaker with an eye for both an assist and goal under the tutelage of Tay.

From 2008 to 2010, she finished as league top scorer – a feat she describes as the highlight of her career. In 2009, Huraizah was awarded her Golden Boot award not long after Tay had passed away.

After picking up the accolade, she told the media: “I feel surprised and happy for finishing as top scorer. I want to dedicate it to the late Bernard Tay because if not for him, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.”

Huraizah’s football career would also not have taken off if not for the support from her family.

“My mum and late stepdad were very faithful supporters,” she said. “They were at every football match whenever possible and were there to send me off at the airport for National Team games. Till today, my mum still constantly motivates me.”

LIONESS MENTOR
Huraizah’s impressive performances meant that National Team representation was always inevitable and she earned her first call up in 2000, aged just 16.

Despite a Lionesses career spanning 18 years, Huraizah continues to be proud every time she puts on the Singapore jersey.

“I definitely feel ecstatic but nervous at the same time,” she said. “It isn’t easy to be selected for the National Squad as there are many young potential players out there.”

Huraizah’s strong technical ability and vast experience gave National Team Head Coach Razif Ariff enough reason to call her up for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament 2020 Asian Qualifiers earlier this month.

The Lionness travelled to Dushanbe, Tajikistan to face Mongolia, Philippines, Chinese Taipei and Tajikistan and Huraizah was by far the most experienced member of the 20-strong squad that had an average age of just 24.35 years.

Despite failure to qualify, the team benefitted from the overall experience and Huraizah remains committed to being a positive influence on her teammates.

“It was definitely an eye-opening experience as we played against higher-ranked teams,” she said. “I had to be disciplined in order to be a good role model for the younger players especially since this isn’t my first time in the National Squad.”

Her mentorship has come full circle and she is now a source of education for younger players, just as Tay was to her.

Huraizah will continue to mentor her team-mates as she is part of the squad that will represent Singapore at the FAS International Women’s Quadrangular 2018, which kicks off on Friday, 23 November.

Photo courtesy of Huraizah

PASSING IT ON
Having been in the scene for so long, Huraizah is generally impressed with the increased emphasis on women’s football here.

“When I was younger, there wasn’t much exposure to women’s football,” she said. “People in the older generation use to see football as a sport only for men. However, parents these days are more open and supportive.

“We now have women’s football tournaments, the National Football Academy for Girls, the National Football League and the Premier League. There are more than ten women football clubs now. This shows how much we have evolved with the involvement of women in football today.”

However, she believes that more can be done to provide benefits to female players as she feels this area still falls short compared to their male counterparts.

Huraizah’s 20-year affliation with local football guarantees her affinity with the welfare of the sport and the fraternity, and she has not ruled out the possibility of having a career in football even after hanging up her boots.

“I don’t have any concrete plans on retiring or going into coaching as of now but who knows, years down the road I might find my passion to coach young talents,” she said.

“Even when I retire, I know I’ll still make time to participate in small tournaments like the National Street Soccer League and others.”

Perhaps one day, Huraizah will follow in the footsteps of her mentor Tay and in her own way, inspire young girls to believe in themselves and change their lives.