By Daniel Fadhil
On the 38th minute, referee pointed to the penalty spot for infringement in the box by Syaqir Sulaiman on Nagasawa. Penalty to Albirex Niigata.
Up steps Sakamoto, the number 11 who taunted Hougang United during the pre-season games.
Sakamoto slots to his right, Fadhil dives to the right at the same time. Ball palmed away from his fists. Penalty saved!!
And the Hougang Hools shouts in delirium into chorus of “You Are my Fadhil, my only Fadhil….” and so on.
One of the most underrated goalkeepers in the nation now, few wondered why the 30-year-old has never donned the Lions jersey of present.
Few wondered why the best goalkeeper, voted by the S.League and also online media Goal.com Singapore as the best goalkeeper of the season.
Fadhil Salim, adored by the Hougang fans, first started his football way back in 2000 with Woodlands Wellington. At 20, he was understudy to veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin. At 24, he became first choice, when Yazid Yasin joined Geylang United. With the Rams, he showed his potential to the S.League with some scintillating saves so far.
Young Lions then come knocking on his doors and under Fandi Ahmad, he and a number of future Lions stars formed the pioneering batch of Young Lions in 2005, including Khairul Amri, Shahril Ishak, Isa Halim, Sevki Sha’aban, Baihakki Khaizan and future Hougang teammate Shariff Abdul Samad, who finished third in his perennial season.
It was with Gombak United in 2007, that Lions came knocking to his door. Not many knew that he was third choice behind Lionel Lewis and Hassan Sunny, when the Lions won their third AFF Suzuki Cup in 2007, his only international accolade so far. However, he has never played a minute for the Lions, even in warm up games.
Now with Sengkang Punggol’s predecessor Hougang United, where he had played for the past four years (apart from a three months hiatus in football back in 2012), he has adored not only Hougang fans, but neutral fans all around Singapore. Against DPMM, he made a string of fantastic saves from the daunting attacking line of Ivan Bosnjak, Joao Moreira and Shahrazen Said. Two penalties saved, sixteen shots on goal palmed or caught by the custodian. If it wasn’t for him, the Cheetahs would have lost to a larger margin.
Yesterday’s save from a Sakamoto penalty kick was his third in two games. However, he could not prevent a well struck thunderbolt by Nagasaki which won Albirex the game. However, as a goalkeeper at his prime, the Lions’ technical team should take a look at a goalkeeper at current form. Hopefully before Fadhil calls time in his career, he should be given an opportunity to be in goal for the nation. As of now, he is the best goalkeeper, to some, that the Lions has never had.