National Team - Lions ● Mar 25, 2022
Christopher van Huizen cherishing his Lions chance
Christopher van Huizen at a Singapore training session, 24 March 2022
SINGAPORE, 25 MARCH 2022 – At the end of 2021, a National Team call-up was the furthest thing away from Christopher van Huizen’s mind.
The 29-year-old had decided to hang up his boots after finishing the AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL) season with Geylang International, having gone through several ups and downs in his professional career.
“I think I have been through quite a lot in the football industry,” he told FAS.org.sg. “My thinking was that it was time for me to give football a break and focus on myself. I have always wanted to be prepared for life after football and I thought that maybe doing it at the age of 29 would help me be prepared earlier rather than like, at 34 or 35.”
It was not the first time that the skilful winger had contemplated leaving the sport. Comfortable with either foot, he was with Geylang’s Under-16 side and moved to Tampines Rovers’ Prime League team at 17, only for National Service to scupper his hopes of playing. For personal reasons, Van Huizen did not play for the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA) side and only found his way back to football in 2014 through a successful stint on the second season of FirstXI, a local football reality TV series.
View this post on Instagram
Taken on by Tampines thereafter, Van Huizen made his professional debut but found his minutes limited. A fresh start was offered by Fandi Ahmad at the 2015 LionsXII side. There, Van Huizen flourished and earned a shock call-up to the Lions side by Bernd Stange the same year – and a subsequent debut against Japan in a World Cup qualifier when he came on for the final 10 minutes.
“I definitely did not expect a call up because I got dropped from the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games squad a few months before and my morale and confidence was just down,” Van Huizen recalled. “Thankfully, Coach Fandi gave me a chance… that was when I started to get my confidence and everything else back there. Getting my first international cap against Japan, although it was a 3-0 loss, was crazy, man. Imagine, I had Shinji Kagawa next to me!
“There were family members and friends that came to watch that game and when I was called in to make a cameo, I was shocked. It was tiring as we were doing a lot of defending, but it was crazy to play against established players from the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A.”
Christopher van Huizen (third from left) after his Singapore debut against Japan, 12 November 2015
However, his fortunes waned and the then-Home United player again thought about quitting in 2018 before Geylang swooped in and made him an Eagle up until last year. In the end, it was a homecoming that changed his mind. Swayed by Tampines head coach Gavin Lee and his assistant Fahrudin Mustafic, Van Huizen is now back in yellow and black for an eighth SPL campaign.
“They contacted me and said that I suit the team’s philosophy, and that giving up on football would probably be a ridiculous idea for me,” he recalled. “So I gave it another go and so far it has been great.”
Christopher van Huizen in action for Tampines Rovers, 13 March 2022
So great that, when Nazri Nasir named his Lions squad for the upcoming Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Tri-Nations Series 2022, Van Huizen found himself in it. While he was taken aback by the inclusion, given a positional switch to a defensive role for the first time in his career as a right-back, it is one that he “really enjoys” and is looking forward to excel in.
“Training has been good; it has been a while, so it is definitely tough,” he said. “The intensity is very high and I am still coping. I hope we will do well against Malaysia and Philippines; Everyone has trained hard and I believe if we stick to our game plan, it will be a strong fight from us.”
The last time Van Huizen donned the Lions jersey was March 2016 against Afghanistan in a 2-1 defeat in World Cup qualifying. Now, he is enjoying himself on the pitch again and relishing the opportunity to earn a fifth cap.
Christopher van Huizen at a Singapore training session, 23 March 2022
“This chance is something I will cherish a lot because not many people will get to do so again and I am just very grateful for this,” he said. “I believe… the moment you start enjoying football, you put everything aside and the love for the game will just come back to you. That is what I have learned, basically, for the past two, three years.
“I think my time with Tampines so far has made me a different player and I am very happy to be back here again. As much as I wanted to leave and focus on life after football, I knew that at the same time it was going to be hard to leave. So, I am really happy that my decision to stay in football has turned out to be a good one for me.”
The Lions take on Malaysia and the Philippines on 26 March and 29 March respectively in the FAS Tri-Nations Series 2022 – get your tickets NOW at fas.org.sg/tickets!