Zulfahmi Arifin returns to Thailand's top-tier league
Versatile player joins Suphanburi on one-year deal, following Chonburi stint last year
When his stint with Thai League 1 (T1) club Chonburi FC ended last year, Zulfahmi Arifin felt dismayed.
But, after a year back with Singapore Premier League club Hougang United - during which they finished third, their highest in history - the 28-year-old found himself plying his trade in the region's top league again.
It all started following a phone call barely two weeks ago.
An agent had wanted to sound out his interest in joining Thai League 1 club Suphanburi FC. Within two days, Zulfahmi was offered a one-year deal which he found "hard to resist".
After Hougang gave him their blessings, the left-back, who can also play in midfield, signed up for a second adventure in Thailand.
He will be the fourth Singaporean in Thailand's top-tier league, joining Baihakki Khaizan ( Prachuap), Izwan Mahbud (Trat FC) and Irfan Fandi (BG Pathum United).
Having spent a year with Chonburi, Zulfahmi knows what to expect this time around - be it adapting to life off the pitch or communicating with local players.
He said: "I had a good season with Chonburi. I know I have to move up the pace, and it's not about being faster, but rather, it's about the speed of thought and moving the ball faster.
"Those times really helped me. I hope to be here longer.
"I just want to have a good season, repay the trust and faith that coach has."
Zulfahmi was referring to Suphanburi coach Adebayo Gbadebo, who called him personally to share his plans for him and the club after coming across his profile.
Said Zulfahmi: "He watched videos of my previous games, knows me as a player and I'm quite touched with his gesture.
"There are some changes that I've been wanting to implement to my game.
"As a player, you always hope to unlock more potential."
Suphanburi finished 14th in the 16-team (T1) and escaped relegation only after PTT Rayong, who finished 11th, folded.
While he was looking forward to another Thai sojourn, Zulfahmi was also keen to express his gratitude to Hougang for letting him go on a second overseas stint.
As the second-highest ranked local club, the Cheetahs have also qualified for the AFC Cup for the first time.
They are in Group F with Ho Chi Minh City, Lao Toyota and a play-off winner.
Said Zulfahmi: "It's hard to leave Hougang. Apart from still being contracted to them, I'm also emotionally attached.
"And we have big targets for 2020, playing in the AFC Cup for the first time.
"It was a tough decision, but I have to thank chairman (Bill Ng), coach Clement (Teo) and the players.
"It has happened twice, me leaving for the Thai league, but they have always been supportive and I'm very grateful."