Geylang's Chris van Huizen rediscovers the wind beneath his wings
Van Huizen resurrects his football career with the Eagles
Once close to quitting professional football after a series of disappointing spells with local clubs, Geylang International winger Christopher van Huizen admitted that he has rediscovered his love for the game.
The renaissance stems from the stellar season that the 27-year-old enjoyed after joining the Eagles last year.
And it showed when he racked up 10 assists - the highest in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) - sharing that honour with two foreigners, Brunei DPMM's Andrei Varankou and Tampines Rovers' Ryutaro Megumi, who has joined Felda United.
The turnaround has been immense for a player who nearly quit to focus on his studies and work towards his coaching badges in 2018, while being a bit-part player for Home United.
Van Huizen, who first made his name in local football on the reality TV show, the FirstXI, said: "I thought I had enough. I wasn't quite enjoying playing any more and I wanted to just focus on other things.
"But when coach Noor (Ali) spoke to me and showed a keen interest in me, I changed my mind. He told me to give it one last go, give football another chance and I'm glad I did."
While his form was not rewarded with a national team call-up last year, van Huizen did make it to the training squad under coach Tatsuma Yoshida.
Not surprisingly, he is hoping to add to his four international caps this year.
Van Huizen attributed his revival to going back to basics.
He said: "Last year, with coach Noor Ali's advice, I focused on getting the basics right and delivering the balls into the box for my teammates.
"But I have plenty to improve on, especially in terms of going for goal. I am aiming to get at least five goals this season. And I am right on track to pushing hard to be back in the national team this year."
Noor Ali, a former winger himself, believes van Huizen will only get better.
Said the former Singapore international: "He is the best crosser of the ball that I've seen in this league.
"I was trying to understand him and slowly I realised that he just didn't have the belief in himself. My job was to get that (confidence) in him."
"He is as good as some of the national players and he needed to realise that. He is now at an age where he needs to be playing consistently for club and national team and I hope this season, he will do that."
This year, the Eagles have added Kyrgyzstani youth defender Kamolidin Tashiev and Greek midfielder Panagiotis Linardos as their foreign imports, while retaining Japanese defender Yuki Ichikawa and influential midfielder Barry Maguire.
But Noor Ali admitted that the loss of striker Shawal Anuar and defender Anders Aplin to Hougang United was a blow.
Nevertheless the 44-year-old is unfazed, maintaining that the target is to improve on last season's fifth position.
He said: "I'm more than happy if another two of my players get bigger contracts elsewhere... It's not just about winning titles.
"We are at a development level and I want to see players improving to a level and then getting good contracts...
"This season will be tougher than last with all the quality foreigners coming in to the various teams, but we know we can improve as a team and we will work towards that."
Geylang International factfile
Coach: Mohd Noor Ali
Homeground: Our Tampines Hub
IN - Joshua Pereira (MF, from Young Lions), Kamolidin Tashiev (DF, FC Abdysh-Ata Kant), Panagiotis Linardos (MF, Panachaiki FC), Khairul Nizam (FW, Warriors FC), Iqbal Hussain (FW, Hougang United)
OUT - Jufri Taha (DF, to Balestier Khalsa), Anders Aplin (DF, Hougang United), Shawal Anuar (FW, Hougang United), Danish Irfan (DF, Young Lions)
Last season: 5th
Outlook: The loss of Anders, Jufri and Danish will hurt the squad. Poor pre-season results could be an indication of how they will fare this year.
Feb 29 (5.30pm)
- v Albirex Niigata (away)
March 11 (7.45pm)
- v Young Lions (home)
March 15 (5.30pm)
- v Hougang United (away)