Asian Football Interviews

The Fox in the Box: The Amy Recha Story Part 1

When Geylang International started their 2021 campaign, it seems like the Eagles were struck by lighting. A dark cloud seemed to loom over the club and setback after setback fell upon them. Of course, most eyes would have been on Lion City Sailors and their journey to the Singapore Premier League title, but if you’re a neutral fan or a Geylang Ultra Eagle, you may have noticed a silver lining for Geylang during their stormy start to the season who was fully unleashed once the Eagles found their rhythm again. 

Amy Recha had a cracker of a season. Notching 12 goals and 3 assists for the Eagles is no easy feat. In fact, he outscored foreign strikers like Luiz Júnior, Shuhei Hoshino, Gilberto Fortunato and even former teammate Moresche. After a stellar 2021, quite unsurprisingly, he was given a well-deserved spot in the provisional squad for the upcoming AFF Championship. Yet, little is known about the lethal forward, other than that he regularly terrorized defences with his clinical finishing and electric pace this past season.

Fighting throughout his career both on and off the pitch, Amy’s story is one of perseverance in the face of repeated setbacks.

This is his story thus far.

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

Beginnings

As a young boy, Amy Recha’s love for the sport developed by watching VCDs of football fixtures and movies – something that he is forever thankful to his father for. His father would often purchase VCDs of World Cup games from the nearby pasar malam (night market) and, together with his dad, Amy would avidly watch the highlight reels, captivated by the skills and goals of past legends. Yet, it was some time before he could replicate what he watched on TV on the pitch. Unlike many primary schools, Amy’s school did not have a football team, but that did not deter young Amy from living out his football fantasies. The school basketball court became his field and a plastic water bottle became his ball. Since football was not a CCA, and everyone had to have one, Amy joined the Angklung and Gamelan club.

This of course changed in secondary school. Unlike his primary school, Macpherson Secondary indeed had a football team, but while secondary one students could join the CCA, none of them usually played in their maiden year. Well, of course, there were a few exceptions to this norm, Amy being one of them. He did generate a fair bit of buzz after scoring a goal and earned the unsanctioned title of being the first Macpherson Secondary One student to score in for the school football team.

Yet, school football was never enough for Amy, and along with good friend Zainol Gulam, he would attend trials for clubs during his time in secondary school. It was then he was met with his first setback in football. Despite putting on a decent performance for his trials, no one gave Amy a chance.

“I remember when I went to Sengkang Punggol. They said I was too small. Then, I went to Tampines, they also told me that I was too small. After trying out some more, no one wanted to accept me because of my height. I was around 140cm so I was really really small. So, I stopped looking for club football opportunities.”

He may have been dejected about the repeated rejections but he did not give up on football. Egged on by his secondary school football coach, Simon Khua, he decided to make the best use of his time with the school football team.

“Coach Simon always motivated me to continue and forge on. He’s the first coach to formally really teach me football and how to read the game. He always told me not to be discouraged by the trial rejections and he trusted in my ability, which was why I still continued playing for the school team.”

For four years, Amy would feature for the Macpherson Secondary football team before leaving for the Institute of Technical Education, where a new chapter of his would begin.

An Eagle Was Born

Image Credits: Geylang International

“During his second year at ITE, a secondary school friend of mine asked me to attend a U-18 trial at Geylang United together with him. So, I went for the trials just to sort of accompany him. The funny thing is that I ended up getting selected while he did not. Interestingly, I got in as a right-back because the striker positions were all full. After getting into the U-18 squad, the coach at the time, Geylang icon Brian Bothwell, actually spoke to me and asked what position I played. After explaining to him I played as a striker throughout the years before this, without hesitation, he slotted me into the striker role for games.”

After spending the 2010 season with the U-18 team, where he put in a series of good performances, Amy was promoted to the Prime League squad for the 2011 season by then Prime League head coach, V. Kanan. It was during this 2011 campaign that it dawned upon Amy that he was born to be a footballer. When exactly did this happen? Well, on 25th May, 2011, in the 72nd minute of an S.League away fixture against Balestier Khalsa, Amy Recha scored his first professional goal – on his debut no less. The exhilaration that flowed through his veins was an unparalleled feeling. Sure, he had scored goals before, but this was different.

Besides it being his professional debut, it’s the context in which he scored the goal that made it special. Coming into the match as a substitute and with his team trailing by 3 goals to nil, Amy was able to instill some sense of hope as he managed to convert his chance. Even though the Eagles would lose 3-1, it was a moment that will forever be etched onto Amy’s memory.

“I remember we were losing three goals to zero and then I managed to score the goal but I didn’t know what to do at that moment. So I went over to Kim Jae Hong, who was at the time one of my favourite foreigners, and I just gave him a high-five. But that goal was really memorable for me.”

Scoring on his debut as a nineteen-year-old, Amy would feature a further 4 more times that season but he regularly made the bench and was even called up for the Singapore U-21 team. Even though he did not feature as much in the S.League, Amy was ever grateful for the opportunity, especially during a very challenging year.

After two years studying aerospace at ITE, Amy would make the jump to Temasek Polytechnic to pursue a diploma in mechatronics. Besides coping with a new discipline and increased academic rigour, Amy also had to juggle double training sessions since he was part of both the Prime League and S.League squads. However, the load would prove too challenging for Amy, and after two years at Temasek, he would drop out.

“My grades started to take a hit and I really could not cope with the packed schedule. The head of engineering came to me and she sort of gave me this ultimatum. She told me, ‘if I want to study, I better stop football; if I wanted to play football. I better stop studying.’ When she told me this, I knew for a fact that I wanted to play football. My mum was really upset about my decision because she wanted me to study. I was set on playing football but some people may think that I was foolish to have dropped out at the point of time.”

Nevertheless, Amy does believe that education is important, and in 2017, after being spurred on by his then-girlfriend (now wife), he managed to finish a private diploma in mechanical engineering.

While off the pitch, 2012 was the year he dropped out of Temasek Polytechnic, it was also the year where he began to feature more prominently on the pitch for Geylang United and scored an important goal in a 2-2 draw against SAFFC midway through the season. It was also during this midpoint where Amy would get interested from Lee Lim Saeng, who was then in charge of Home United.

“Coach Lee attended one of our games and I believe he went to catch the game to watch Jozef Kaplan. So, I was playing in that fixture and I think I must have caught his eye. That night, he texted me and was asking if I was interested to play for Home next season. I replied that I would get back to him but I don’t know why I never get back to him, till today. I remember this was because it was the day before the Sultan of Selangor Cup.”

Image Credits: Amy Recha

Besides playing in the Sultan of Selangor Cup, Amy would also be called up for the AFC U-23 qualifiers at Pekanbaru, where he featured alongside fellow class of ’91 and ’92 players like Delwinder Singh, Shamil Sharif, and Madhu Mohana. The Singapore U-22s would narrowly miss out on qualification and naturally, the atmosphere was pretty solemn on the final day of the competition. That is, until good old Mike Wong came to the rescue.

“We drew against Australia [0-0], lost to Japan [3-1] and won against Timor Leste [2-1] and Macau [3-0]. So, we were in a very good position but then, we lost our match against Indonesia [2-0]. During our team talk, we went to the meeting room and everyone was pretty sad and the mood was dull. So, then Mike Wong suddenly told us, ‘you know what I like to do every morning in front of the mirror in the toilet? I will shout good morning handsome!’ So, he shouted ‘good morning handsome’ and it jolted us. So, we also shouted back ‘good morning handsome!’ Mike is really a nice guy and he was the one who gave me my big break at Geylang.”

However, the end of 2012 also signalled a pause in Amy Recha’s professional career because the call to serve the nation came in and, like most Singaporean sons, he had to answer it.

National Service, Young Lions & The 2015 SEA Games

Amy enlisted with the Singapore Police Force in 2013 and served as a Physical Training Instructor for the bulk of his NS. Despite this, he would still be active in football. The pacey forward turned out for the Police Soccer Association (Police SA) in the National Football League (NFL) in his first year and would also go on to win the Boggars Cup with the Police team. In his second year, Amy would join Young Lions. One would expect Amy to have been happy to be back in the fold. However, he was far from pleased and in fact, Amy seriously contemplated giving up football altogether.

Photo Credits: Singapore Premier League

While he returned to the professional arena, he was, unfortunately, struggling for minutes on the pitch. As he was seriously deliberating about early retirement, Young Lions came in with a contract extension and Amy decided to sign on the dotted line, taking it as a sign that he was to be a valued member of the squad for the 2015 campaign. The 2015 SEA games held in the middle of the year also influenced his decision to extend his tenure with the cubs.

The 2015 SEA Games had special significance for the U-23 national team because it was held on home soil. For years, Singapore has been trying to break its hoodoo of not reaching the SEA Games final. On paper, they had one of the most exciting U-23 lineups in recent memory and coupled with home ground advantage, the Lions had a lot of expectations to shoulder.

However, in an unexpected twist, the Lions crashed out in the group stages after suffering a 1-0 loss to Indonesia in their final Group stage fixture. The bitter taste of exiting the 2015 SEA Games lingered on, but while others may simply accept it, Amy vowed to bounce back stronger.

Seeing out the remainder of the 2015 year, Amy would return to the club where his professional football journey began after a three-year spell away.

An eagle was reborn.

In part 2, we discuss how Amy progressed through the years following his return to Geylang and eventually became the lethal forward he is today. Stay tuned for that. 

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