Asian Football

The Fox in the Box: The Amy Recha Story Part 2

In part 1, we looked at how Amy began his football journey. He started his professional career with Geylang International in 2011 and finished the 2015 season with Young Lions. In this second part, we continue his journey by looking at what transpired following his return to Geylang in 2016 until the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup.

An Eagle Reborn

In 2016, Amy Recha returned to the club where it all began. After a two-year hiatus, he was an Eagle reborn, ready to strike again.

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

Amy was off the mark for Geylang International from the get-go. Scoring in a pre-season friendly against none other than the mighty Johor Darul Ta’zim. The Eagles’ S.League opener for the 2016 campaign happened to be the Eastern Derby as they were pitted against Tampines Rovers. After conceding two goals in the first 34 minutes, Amy Recha helped reduce the deficit to one as his left-footed shot found the back of the net. The match would end with both sides sharing the spoils in a 3-3 draw.

Amy would have a decent season with the Eagles and earned a second call-up for the Sultan of Selangor Cup side. It would also mark the first time Amy was called up for the national team. While he did not play in any official matches, he did feature for the national team in unofficial friendlies in Japan. Yet, while he had a decent season overall, it was not without regrets.

“Looking back, one of my regrets is not winning anything with the Geylang team in 2016. At the time, it was a really strong team. We had Syazwan Buhari, Faritz Hameed, Yuki Ichikawa, Gabriel Quak, Daniel Bennett, the late Shariff Samat, Stanley Ng, Sahil Suhaimi, Shafiq Ghani, Carlos Delgado, Mark Hartmann, and so many other stars.”

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

Yet, just as when Amy thought his career was finally gaining serious momentum, 2017 would prove to be a challenging year. With issues both on and off the pitch, Amy seriously contemplated hanging up his boots for good. Injury issues plagued the pacey forward and he struggled to last 90 minutes for the Eagles. Off the pitch, Amy was suffering from personal issues, which affected his concentration on the pitch. As a result, Amy only managed to register 3 goals and 2 assists in 26 appearances for Geylang. While goals and assists don’t define a good player, Amy believes he could have done better were it not for such issues. Thankfully, his wife was by his side during this tumultuous period and he decided to forge on with his professional football career.

Becoming A Protector

“In 2018, then-Home United and now current Lion City Sailors General Manager Badri [Ghent] approached me to join Home. He had actually asked me to join the club before in 2016 but I was still under contract with Geylang and I had to honour it.”

Yet, things were different this time around and after his contract with Geylang expired in 2017, Amy was free to sign for another team. The prospect of playing continental football (AFC Cup) and rubbing shoulders with his idol growing up, Sharil Ishak, won Amy over. He signed on the dotted line.

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

“Growing up, I idolized Sharil Ishak. I copied the way he played and his style of play. I really wanted to play with him. As a player, whenever he got the ball, you know something magical was bound to happen.”

Amy may not have started many games but he often came off the bench to make valuable contributions. The highlight of his 2018 season was undoubtedly the historic AFC Cup run by the Protectors. Home United emerged as ASEAN Zonal final champions and progressed to the competition’s quarter-finals. However, they were eventually thumped 11-1 on aggregate by North Korean side April 25.

Singapore Premier League

As the 2018 season was drawing to a close, then-head coach Aidil Sharin rang Amy up and told him that he wanted to retain the forward for the following season. However, Aidil would leave for Kedah in 2019 and, as usual, a change in management often leads to a change in plans. Thus, the decision to keep Amy was scrapped.

Without a club, Amy was handed a lifeline by Noor Ali, who asked if he was interested in returning to the Eagles for a third spell. Amy did not hesitate.

Back Again To Geylang International

Amy had a decent 2019 season. He had a friendly competition with Fareez Farhan for the striker spot in the team. Yet, the start of his campaign was filled with agony – quite literally.

“I was playing regularly in the pre-season friendlies and I was feeling good. Then, during this particular friendly fixture, I got injured. I was going for a goal but the keeper went for my legs and I landed awkwardly, fracturing my wrist. Then, to make matters worse, I injured my ankle during training whilst recovering from my broken wrist. So, I was suffering from unnecessary injuries essentially.”

After scoring two goals against Warriors FC. Image Credits: Singapore Premier League.

While that may be, Amy did contribute when it mattered. He scored 6 goals and made 4 assists in the league that season. His goal tally included bagging a brace in a 5-2 victory over Warriors, one goal in a 1-3 defeat to Brunei DPMM, scoring a 94th-minute winner against Balestier in a 4-3 victory, netting a 89th-minute winner against Warriors in yet another 4-3 win and one goal in a 3-2 defeat to former club Home United.

He may disagree, but his 2019 season laid the foundations for a potentially great 2020 run.

The Geylang squad had an excellent pre-season in Kuala Lumpur, and the Eagles also made the trip to Jakarta to take on Indonesian titans Persija in a friendly match. Unfortunately, the Eagles would lose the fixture 3-1 to the Indonesians, but these experiences primed Amy and his Geylang international teammates for the season ahead.

However, fate would have other ideas.

After two SPL fixtures, the league was indefinitely suspended due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. Zoom became the medium of communication. Amy recalls how he dreaded the online sessions but also added that he found it amusing how his teammates realized everybody was getting buffer. This went on for a couple of months before the announcement that the season would resume in October.

After months of inaction, the Eagles were hungry for football and aimed for continental qualification.

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

“We really wanted to qualify for the AFC Cup the following season. We had a ton of experienced players and we were a pretty good side. I remember Khairul Nizam scoring the wondergoal from the halfway line and I was in complete awe.”

Yet, the back-to-back schedule did put a strain on the players’ conditions. Regardless, they fought on and on the final day of the season, managed to salvage a draw with Tampines Rovers, and thus qualified for the 2021 AFC Cup group stage. That draw with the Stags also meant they denied their Eastern Derby rivals the SPL title because the Stags needed all three points to deny Albirex Niigata (S) from clinching the championship.

2021: Becoming Elite

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

In previous years, Amy had been a fantastic forward for his team, but Amy rose to an entirely different level this year. He was more clinical, more skillful and certainly faster. Yet, Geylang International began their 2021 campaign rather poorly.

The squad suffered a ton of injuries at the beginning of the season and with some key players released during the offseason, Geylang struggled in the league. Their talisman Barry Maguire suffered a serious injury in the 12th minute of their opening fixture against Tanjong Pagar United, which ruled him out for a couple of weeks. However, when he returned to the starting lineup, he was forced to play in a slew of different roles because several other players were sidelined with injuries during the same time. Hence, Barry was slotted in whichever position depending on who was available, rotating between centre-midfield, attacking midfield and central defensive positions.

The Eagles would suffer more heartbreak of sorts as all ASEAN Group Stage fixtures of the AFC Cup were cancelled due to the failure to find centralized venues to host the games. The pandemic did Geylang International dirty, as it robbed the club of continental football after a decade-long absence.

It was during this period of utter chaos that Amy Recha stepped up. The forward was the silver lining during Geylang’s stormy first half of the season. After some reshuffling of the squad during the mid-season transfer window, Geylang sprang to life. Amy fostered great chemistry with Barry Maguire, Moresche and Chris Van Huizen. Amy often found the back of the net after some exciting link-up play orchestrated by the quartet moving forward.

Image Credits: Singapore Premier League

12 goals and 3 assists in 21 games. That was the figure come the end of the season, but how did Amy reach this stage?

Well, two reasons.

For one, Amy took better care of his body. Investing in exercise equipment, Amy kept to a disciplined exercise routine and worked hard to improve his fitness. Eating right and constantly pushing himself, he was laying the foundation blocks for his breakout year.

On a more personal note, Amy wanted to fight for his family, particularly his wife.

“I was motivated to do my best on the pitch for my wife who had gone through a lot of hardships the past two years. She suffered two miscarriages. It really pained me a lot when she suffered her first miscarriage and to see her cry every day. I did not know what to do but to fight for her by playing my best on the pitch. I adopt a kittens for her and named it ‘Messi.” That being said, I had to fight for my place and fight for my family.”

Amy does mention that Noor Ali’s words of wisdom during the mid-season break certainly helped instil confidence to elevate his game.

“Coach Noor Ali pulled taled to me one day and said that I had everything – speed, shooting, and being able to use both feet – but I had to focus on the end product. When he told me this, it was always on my mind during training hence after and I worked hard to become more clinical.”

A New National Team Icon

Amy’s goals record come the end of the season naturally earned him a place in Tatsuma Yoshida’s provisional national team squad. A decade after making his professional football debut, Amy finally achieved the pinnacle of every Singaporean footballer’s dream – making your national team debut.

In the 77th minute against Kyrgystan, Amy Recha was brought on and he earned his first cap for the Lions. It was a surreal moment for the skilful forward as he tasted international football for the first time.

Not long after, Tatsuma rightfully named Amy in the final Singapore squad for the 2020 AFF Championship.

Image Credits: SoccerKakis

Amy offered Singapore a different kind of striker – something we missed during the 2022 World Cup Qualification fixtures in June. However, it took some time for Amy to gain some meaningful minutes in the Singapore kit. He made brief cameo appearances against Myanmar, Timor Leste, and Thailand and was an unused substitute against the Philippines in the Group Stages. Personally, I felt Amy needed more time on the pitch to really make an impact and I share this with those around me (particularly Jerome from sgfootballpodcast). Perhaps Tatsuma caught wind of my feelings, because Amy was introduced much earlier in the first leg of the semi-final fixture against Indonesia, coming on for Ikhsan Fandi in the 70th minute (seconds after Ikhsan equalized).

“I was over the moon when I made my national team debut. It was a real honour and blessing to don the national team jersey – it felt like all my hard work paid off. This feeling still hasn’t sunk in yet but all I know is that this feeling is a dream come true for me.”

Against the Indonesians in the second leg of the semi-final, Amy was handed the responsibility of leading the front line. It was a dream come true for a player who had been imagining this moment for decades. For 60 minutes, Amy was a thorn in Indonesia’s side. Constantly demanding the ball from his teammates and finding spaces to unleash shots, the Singapore faithful gave him a rousing set of applause and cheered loudly to sound their appreciation for his efforts.

Amy Recha (left)

If one thing is for certain, Amy is a fighter and will never ever give up. This will not be the last we see of him in national team colours. 2022 is there for Amy to continue his fine form but he will do so with a new team. Which team will that be? All will be revealed in due time.

Featured Image Credits: Singapore Premier League & SoccerKakis

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…

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