Shakir Hamzah and Aidil Sharin gun for Malaysian FA Cup win
Former S'pore bad boy in MSL Team of the Season, helps Kedah reach FA Cup final
Once known for his ill discipline and brushes with the law, Singapore defender Shakir Hamzah is winning over his critics with his actions on the pitch for Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Kedah.
On Wednesday, Shakir, 26, was named in the MSL's Team of the Season by the league's official match-streaming partner, iflix.
He is the only Kedah player in the 16-man list dominated by six players from champions Johor Darul Ta'zim.
Aidil Sharin, 42, who led Home United to the AFC Cup Asean zone title last year before joining Kedah, was named the Coach of the Season.
Tomorrow, both Singaporeans will be hoping to win their first piece of silverware with Kedah when they take on Perak in the Malaysian FA Cup final at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Shakir told The New Paper over the phone from Kuala Lumpur yesterday that he is hungry for more honours to add to the Team of the Season gong.
He said: "When I came over here (to Kedah), my plan was to give my 100 per cent in every game. Nothing less.
"The only way that I could respond to the critics was to answer on the pitch. I needed to show people what I can do.
"I am very happy to be named in the Team of the Season because I didn't expect to do that well in my first season. But I want more. I can't be satisfied."
Kedah, who have one of the smallest budgets in the league, finished fourth in the 12-team MSL this term while boasting the third-best defensive record, conceding 29 goals in 22 games.
Shakir, who played mostly at left-back for Home and the national team, has been a mainstay at centre-back for the Hijau Kuning and has also scored four goals.
Shakir revealed that the main factor behind his form was having his family with him - wife Erni Maulood, daughters Emily Aisyah, three, and Estelle Aisyah, two, and nine-month-old son Noah Uwais Sharel.
Said Shakir, who won the 2013 MSL title with the now-defunct LionsXII: "My wife especially has always been there for me and she really kept me motivated. Without my family, I would have struggled."
Coach Aidil told TNP that he felt vindicated in his decision to sign Shakir from Home.
He said: "When I decided to take him to Kedah, many people were asking me, why sign a Singaporean? Why not a Thai or Vietnamese player? Why not just use a local player?
"But Shakir is a big talent and I am happy for him that he has shown that this season.
"Everyone knows about his past, but ask anyone in Kedah and they will tell you he is the most disciplined here."
Ahead of the FA Cup final, Aidil said his Kedah side will be the underdogs.
This, despite Kedah defeating Perak 4-2 and drawing 1-1 in the league. Perak, the defending Malaysia Cup champions, finished fifth in the MSL.
The FA Cup winners will be assured of a place in next year's AFC Champions League second preliminary round.
"The final is a one-off game, at a neutral venue. Perak have strong foreigners, especially (forwards) Ronaldo and Careca who we really need to stop if we are to win," said Aidil.
"Anything can happen in a Cup game but, as we have done all season, we will fight till the final whistle."