National Team - Lions ● Sep 14, 2018
Patience pays off as Ho Wai Loon overcomes devastation to make Lions debut
SINGAPORE, 14 SEPTEMBER 2018 – The past two weeks has been a rollercoaster of emotions for midfielder Ho Wai Loon.
First called up to the Singapore National Team in March 2017 to face Afghanistan and Bahrain, the 25-year-old was hopeful of making his debut at international level.
But the Warriors FC star had to watch on from the bench as a substitute for 13 games, before getting his opportunity on Tuesday night.
Coming on as a substitute for Lions captain Hariss Harun in the 64th minute against Fiji, the diminutive midfielder with the eye-catching permed hairstyle finally earned his first cap at senior level after a year’s wait.
The versatile Ho was initially supposed to play as a left-back or left midfielder, so he was understandably nervous about playing in centre midfield.
“I never expected to play in the middle,” he told the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) website. “When Coach Fandi (Ahmad) told me before I went on that I was to play in the middle, in my heart I was like, ‘Middle? You sure?’”
Referring to the midfield as the “danger zone”, he was grateful to have the trust of the coaching staff to be deployed there, as well as the guidance of more experienced players around him like Baihakki Khaizan, Zulfahmi Arifin and Irfan Fandi.
Ho certainly rose to the challenge thrown to him on his debut, with an impressed Fandi pointing out after the 2-0 win: “I’m happy for Wai Loon – he played very well and dominated the midfield.”
Even then, the opportunity did not come easy for the tenacious player with a sweet left peg. In the first centralised training session on 3 September, Ho suffered a knee injury that saw him sidelined for the rest of the week.
“It was devastating,” he recounted. “It felt like all my effort over the year has been wasted. It was only the first day and I’m out for the first game (against Mauritius) and the whole week.”
However, the former Balestier Khalsa FC man did not let the negativity overwhelm him and instead focused on his recovery, setting his sights firmly on the match against Fiji as he chased his dream.
“I wanted this (debut) really badly and I thought that it might be my only chance,” he said. “I am glad the backroom staff believed in me and wanted me to come back as well. I tried my best and (managed to recover)!”
That burning desire was translated onto the Bishan Stadium pitch. With the Lions leading 2-0 by then, Ho threw himself right into the thick of action in the middle of the park and his energetic display impressed the 3,000-strong crowd.
“Some friends were in the stands and my family and (other) friends were all watching at home,” he said. “I am very proud to get my debut and I want to dedicate it to my family and my late grandmother.”
Ho is aware that there are plenty of aspects to improve on, citing his confidence and composure in particular, as he targets a spot in Fandi’s 23-man squad for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
But if “Loon”, as he is better known, continues to churn out his trademark displays of boundless energy, it will be no surprise if he realises his dream of playing at Southeast Asia’s showpiece tournament.