National Team - Lions ● Mar 09, 2019

Thank you, Baihakki!

Baihakki wheels away to celebrate after scoring in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup final against Thailand at Jalan Besar Stadium.

SINGAPORE, 9 MARCH 2019 – Former coaches and team-mates have paid tribute to Singapore stalwart Baihakki Khaizan, who announced his international retirement on Thursday night.

One of the finest defenders of his generation, Baihakki earned his first cap on 4 August, 2003 against Hong Kong at Jalan Besar Stadium. He completed the game, an international friendly that the Lions won 4-1.

The 1.9m centre-back, who could also play at right-back, went on to amass 133 more caps for Singapore and was involved in a record eight ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaigns – winning three of those. Most memorably, it was Baihakki’s goal two minutes into stoppage time against Thailand in the first leg of the 2012 final at Jalan Besar that effectively sealed the Lions’ fourth regional crown.

Baihakki was part of the pioneer batch of the now-defunct National Football Academy in 2000 and progressed through the various age-groups, while at club level he started his professional career with Geylang United (now Geylang International). He was named the S.League’s (now Singapore Premier League) Young Player of the Year in 2003 while with Geylang and went on to play for Young Lions and Warriors FC.

Two seasons with the LionsXII yielded a Malaysia Super League title in 2013, while Baihakki also had spells in Indonesia (Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung, Medan Chiefs) and Malaysia (Johor Darul Ta’zim). He became the first Singaporean player to score in Thai league football when he netted for second-division side Udon Thani in a 3-0 win over Thai Honda last February and is currently contracted to Thai top-flight outfit Trat.

Baihakki Khaizan in his last international appearance – against Thailand in the Suzuki Cup on 25 Nov 2018 (Photo from AFF Suzuki Cup)

Baihakki’s final appearance for the Lions was on 25 November 2018 as a substitute in the Suzuki Cup match against Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium and the 35-year-old retires as the third-most capped Singapore player.

Here are what some of his contemporaries, past and present, had to say:

Radojko “Raddy” Avramovic, former Singapore head coach, gave Baihakki his Lions debut
“We brought in young lads in that squad… he was in that generation and we worked with them to prepare them for the national team. Some of them had earlier opportunities to play, some later but most of that generation played nearly ten years (or more). Like all others, Bai had his ups and downs… we worked with them in bad times also and at the end it paid off because for so many years they have played and contributed to Singapore.

“His height was an advantage and he is a clever guy. He was also fortunate that when I put him in to play for the national team, he was surrounded by the likes of Aide Iskandar and S. Subramani and they all helped him to develop.

“He was focused on football and for so many years, he played outside of Singapore; it means the trust we had in him paid off.

“He has spent so much time in football and he should continue to be a coach or an official; he should stay in football and try to help other people fulfil their dreams. A lot of people helped him to get where he is now and I think in some way, he should help them in different ways.”

Ridhuan Muhamad, former Singapore international, close friend
“Since we were young, we grew up together and progressed together. He is so determined both as a player and as a person. He took great pride when he donned national colours; we were room-mates so we would psyche each other up (before games). He is not only a close friend; we are like family. He can be playful and nonsensical at times but there are also times he will share his thoughts and give advice.

“My best memory with him is during our time in the national team together, playing with him as my right-back and me in front of him on the wing under Raddy, who believed in us. We understood each other on and off the pitch, respected each other and fought for each other. I am not surprised his career has lasted so long. He always took care of his diet and put in extra training as he knew footballers needed to do more (to take care of themselves) as we age. Even now, he is not playing at a lower level; the Thai division 1 is considered a high level (in Southeast Asia).

“I am sure he has planned ahead (for his future) when he announced this retirement. I think there comes a time for every player to… move on and he can look forward to more time with his family and (also focus on) other aspects of his life. I hope he does well in time to come.”

Singapore vs Laos during their AFF Suzuki Cup 2004 Group A match at My Dinh National Stadium on 13 December 2004, in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Stringer / Lagardere Sports

R Suria Murthi, former Singapore international, National Team youth coach
“I coached Bai when he was 15. Shahril Ishak, Hassan Sunny, Bai – they were my first batch and he was actually playing for Jin Tai (Secondary) back then. I went scouting and brought him in. We went to every (school) game and watched them (in order to find the best players). He had good height and that was very useful in defence and attack. I coached him for two years,

“We had a very good team and we used to beat all the Under-18 sides. We scored 112 and conceded 12 goals out of 24 games. We trained three times (on the pitch) and two times a week, we did weight training. They were a good set of boys. Bai read the game well, was good with the ball and he improved a lot.

“He is a very nice guy, carries himself well and speaks well. He was one of the most handsome (in the team), like a model!

“He did everything he had to do for Singapore and he is still playing in Thailand. I feel he can still continue, but the decision is his. I think he has served well as a player for the country; he’s a good boy and I wish him all the success in future.”

Lim Tong Hai, former Singapore international, played with Baihakki in defence in his first season at Geylang
“I enjoyed playing with him, he was up and coming, had lots of enthusiasm and the entire team also leveraged on his strengths. Along the way, we gave constructive feedback. You could see he had the potential to go pretty far and there wasn’t any doubt that he was going to play for the national team.

“Talent is one thing, working hard is another and he has put in the hard work. He deserved all he has achieved.

“It will be good if he can stay in the game, be it in a technical role, coaching or even on the administrative side. It’s up to him what he wants to explore; with his experience and contacts, if he can put it to good use, that would be great (for the local game).”

Lionel Lewis, former Singapore goalkeeper, played in three Suzuki Cups with Baihakki
“I think he is a great player, having played with him for so long since the Young Lions days right up to the national team matches. He is always there to guide the younger players and as a player, he was calm and composed; he will be missed.

“He is a nice guy, easy-going, always working hard and striving; even now, he is playing top flight football and I want to wish him all the very best.”

Baihakki playing against Vietnam during their AFF Suzuki Cup 2004 Group A match at Thong Nhat Stadium on 07 December 2004, in Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam. Photo by Stringer / Lagardere Sports

Zulqarnaen Suzliman, current Singapore international, room-mate with Bai during 2018 Suzuki Cup
“I am blessed to have been a teammate and roommate with him. He gave me a lot of advice, like how to bond with the team and how to start and end my career; he helped me to gel with the team and get to know everyone. Before games, he always told me not to feel pressured and to just play my best, like a normal game.

“I was also touched when he shared how he started from the bottom to how he got this far in his career today and I think it is very inspiring for all the youngsters out there.

“I wish him a happy retirement and good luck for the future!”