Tag Archives: Darren Teh

Our Singapore Premier League Team Of The Week #1

My buddy Kim Ng co-wrote this one with me. Cheers Fam!

The 2021 edition of the Singapore Premier League has finally kicked off, and what a thrilling first game week we’ve had. We want to start something new here at SoccerKakis, so we’re launching our very own Team Of The Week Series!

Of course, your opinion may differ from us, so let us know what you agree or disagree with and we’d happily engage in a friendly debate. 

The Defence

A total of 19 goals was conceded in the four games that transpired over the weekend, and with no team mustering a clean sheet, every coach would surely be concentrating on their defensive organization for the upcoming fixtures. As such, we have gone with a three-man defence, and the 3 players that have stood out for us are:

Takahiro Koga

This was a tough one because almost all of the keepers did not really have the best of days in their opening fixtures. Takahiro Koga and Zainol Gulam were exceptions, but Koga gets the nod from us after his heroic displays against the Cheetahs.

Darren Teh

The ever-reliable Darren Teh shut down many of the Jaguars attacks and remained a pesky offensive outlet on the right flank. His presence stretched out the Tanjong Pagar side and allowed for the advancement of his side into the final third.

Tajeli Salamat

The defensive dynamo played a big part in the Sailors’ opening goals and, while the Sailors’ defensive organization was questionable, Tajeli put in a fantastic individual display, notching an assist with a timely interception and sprint.

Madhu Mohana

Tampines were faltering behind and needed someone to ignite their comeback – that man had to be Madhu. Besides scoring the first goal in what was to be a 3-3 comeback, Madhu also was decent at the back.

The Midfield

We really wanted to maximize the midfield because there were so many spectacular performances by players in the attacking half. Hence, we went with a five-man midfield. Song Ui-Yong is our honourable mention here for scoring 2021’s first SPL goal amidst a dynamic display, but his early substitution and missed chances means he just misses the cut in our star-studded midfield.

Joel Chew

The former Tampines man may have not played the entire match, but he certainly impressed during his time on the pitch. Big things seemingly await Joel, and it’s a treat to witness his progress with the Young Lions this season.

Chiku Kosuke

The Japanese midfielder notched an assist and demonstrated his creative prowess from corner kicks. It’ll be interesting to see how the Albirex number eight progresses through the course of the season. If his performance against Hougang is anything to go by, he poses a real threat from the middle of the park.

Yasir Hanapi

Okay, we know that Yasir Hanapi played as a forward against the Sailors, but cut us some slack. We had to fit the Tampines skipper in somehow, and so we slotted him in an unconventional left wing spot. Madhu may have ignited the comeback, but Yasir sealed the deal. 

Gabriel Quak

The SPL 2020 Player of the Year demonstrated why, once again, he is arguably the best player to be playing in Singapore right now. 2 goals against the Stags is by no means an easy feat, and Gabriel was a constant presence on the pitch. His only mistake – not scoring more when he could have easily done so.

Šime Žužul

The unselfish Balestier target man channelled his inner Harry Kane as he set up Shuhei Hoshino on two instances, with one being the wonder strike. Some have said that Hoshino and Žužul cannot play together, but their outing against Young Lions really proved otherwise. Other teams beware.

The Forward Line

Ah, we really had our pick for this one – we couldn’t include Stipe, Moreseche and Ilhan Fandi. But we went for a dual samurai combination up top. Jumbo and Tsuboi definitely looked menacing upfront. It will be interesting to see how they fare for the rest of the season after truly making a statement on the opening day of the campaign.

Shuhei Hoshino

‘Jumbo’ was definitely on form this Gameweek, with an absolute peach of a volley to score Balestier’s third in what was arguably the Goal of the Gameweek. His first goal was also a lovely outside-of-the-box curling effort that gave the keeper no chance.

Kiyoshiro Tsuboi

It seems that Albirex manages to unearth a new offensive gem every year, and this year’s marquee Japanese forward proved no exception. His brace consisted of a powerful strike (which, to be fair, should have been handled by veteran Ridhuan Barudin), and an acrobatic diving header that thumped into the back of the net.

Photo Credits: Singapore Premier League, Tampines Rovers, Albirex Niigata, Young Lions

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Meet Geylang International FC Sensation Darren Teh Part 2: The Story Continues

In part 1, I looked at Darren Teh’s beginnings as a footballer and the professional journey he embarked on. Since signing with Geylang in 2017, Darren Teh has largely been a mainstay in the Eagles backline. In this second part, I will look at his professional career thus far, his national team call-up, and his thoughts on fatherhood and his post-playing career.

The Loyal Eagle

For Darren, his second year with the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA) Football team gave him the confidence to pursue a professional career after he completed his National Service. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Darren was very much a raw footballer – with no international or S.League experience and only two years with the NFA under his belt. Winning the treble with SAFSA, therefore, helped open doors for him.

In 2017, at 20 years old, Darren was about to finish his NS and sought for a professional club to transform his footballing aspirations into reality. One of his NFA coaches, Muhammad Effendi Bin Rahmat, was the Assistant Head coach at Warriors and invited Darren to link up with the Prime League squad. However, Darren didn’t feel like Warriors were the best fit for him and was in search for a move to another club. It was then when Umar Akhbar (who was his former NFA team-mate) called Darren and asked if he’d be interested in trying out for Geylang’s Prime League squad. Feeling like he had nothing to lose, Darren went for the trials.

Photo Credits: Geylang International FC

Back in 2017, Noor Ali (who is now the current first team head coach) was the assistant head coach of the first team squad and the Prime League head coach at the time. During his trial, Darren played with confidence, and he did remarkably well. Noor Ali signed him up, and Darren’s professional career was about to begin sooner than he thought.

Many people often assume that Darren started his professional football journey by slugging it out in the Prime League before he got promoted to the senior team. However, that is a major misconception. Darren only played one solitary game with the Prime League squad before lady luck came to his side. Head coach Hasrin Jailani decided, together with his coaching staff, that they wanted to promote two Prime League players into the senior side. While Darren was lucky that the management provided him an opportunity, make no mistake – Darren earned it. If anything, it speaks volumes about Darren’s work ethic and natural ability.

“It was a good call [end of the day] to go to Geylang. I thought I’d be playing Prime League football first but I managed to earn a spot in the S.League team. I remember back then, the S.League team was pretty strong. It was about a year after they dissolved the Lions XI team so Geytlang signed a number of players. We had Gabriel Quak, Safirul Sulaiman, Faritz Hameed, Isa Halim, Syazwan Buhari and Shafiq Ghani.”

Photo Credits: Singapore Premier League

A few weeks before his ORD date, Noor Ali rang Darren up and informed him that he had been selected as part of the Geylang team that was scheduled to play against Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in a friendly. Darren remembered driving into Johor for the match and staying in the KSL resort. Shortly after the match, Darren was signed up to a S.League contract.

Darren’s full debut came against Brunei DPMM at Bedok Stadium – a Brunei side that had the fearsome forward duo of Billy Mehmet and Rafael Ramazotti. Faritz Hameed’s injury meant that Darren had an opportunity to shine and shine he did. Darren was a constant presence during the match and his side came out victorious in a 2-0 win over the Bruneian team.

Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League: Geylang International FC vs Brunei DPMM FC (20 April 2017) Credits: Singapore Premier League

However, despite doing well against the DPMM, Darren rarely featured after that and found himself on the bench. It wasn’t until Hasrin Jailani’s sacking mid-season and Noor Ali’s appointment that Darren found chances aplenty. The right-back practically played every single game. Besides providing him opportunities and regular game time, Darren also admires Noor Ali as a coach.

“To me, he is a fantastic coach. Really, he is fantastic. It’s not because he gave me the exposure or what. But honestly, he is really one of the better coaches that I have actually [worked together with].”

Noor Ali, however, left for a extended coaching stint with J2 Team, Matsumoto Yamaga FC, at the start of 2018. As part of the arrangement, Yamaga coach Hirotaka Usui replaced Noor Ali and took reign of the Geylang coaching duties. While Darren fared well under the Japanese, it’s when Noor Ali returned to the fold that he really progressed. This season, Darren continued his fine development and even managed to score his first professional goal.

Representing Singapore: U-23 and National Team Adevntures

His fine performances in his debut season with the Eagles did not go unnoticed, and quite deservedly, he was called up to the Singapore U-23 side that played friendly matches in anticipation of the SEA Games. Matches against Myanmar and India marked the start of Darren’s international exposure, and after getting a taste of it, Darren relished the opportunity for more.

As part of the SEA Games preparation, then-head coach Richard Tardy selected Darren for a training camp that was to be held in Perth. Despite a stellar debut season with the Eagles, Darren failed to make the cut for the final SEA Games squad.

“It was one of my regrets so far – not making it for the SEA Games team. In Perth, it was really cold at the time and it was [constantly] raining. I also have sinus and it was really hard for me to cope with the weather. I actually started in one of the friendly games but I did really badly in that game. So we had two games and I [performed poorly] for the camp overall. The camp was also used as a final selection for the SEA Games and I was actually dropped out of the squad. I made the squad all the way till the last cut – I was one of the last 5 to get dropped. I was really sad at that point in time. I still remember collecting the SEA Games red blazer (that Singaporean athletes wear for the Olympics and Asian as well as SEA Games) and I had to pass Ammirul Emmran my blazer. I still remember receiving the text message that I got dropped and I really felt [devastated].”

Even though it was a crushing blow to a young Darren, it did not stop him from pursuing his ambitions to represent Singapore.

In 2019, Darren finally earned the call-up he had long been waiting for as he was selected for the Singapore national team for matches against Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While most Singaporeans mark their debuts against other regional or lesser ranked national teams, Darren made his debut as a substitute against Jordan and later on his first full start against Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia in a World Cup Qualification match.

With 2 caps already to his name, it is only a matter of time before Darren adds more to that tally. If his performances during the 2020 SPL Season were anything to go by, Darren would surely feature for the Lions once again.

Future Aspirations and Thoughts on Fatherhood

Like all Singaporean players, Darren aspires to play abroad, and it is a goal he wants to achieve before he retires. He recounts how Baihakki Khaizan was sharing the importance of moving abroad and getting the much needed exposure with other players during his time with the national team. However, Darren also realizes that he needs to rack up more national team caps before foreign clubs would come knocking at his door. Thankfully, Darren has already made the first step, which is to make his debut for the national team, but making more appearances for Singapore is the next step for Darren to secure a move overseas.

Photo Credits: Ko Po Hui (@bolasepako)

Besides becoming a regular Singapore international, Darren also hopes to do well in the AFC Cup next season after Geylang International secured a spot by finishing as the third-best Singaporean side. Doing well in the competition would also be a good platform for Darren to take his game to the next level. However, while a move abroad is something that Darren is aiming for, he is not keen on moving to another team in Singapore.

“I’ve been with Geylang for 4 years. I feel that I have an identity with Geylang. The only time I will leave is when I have more reasons to leave than stay and I don’t have any reasons to leave Geylang. Honestly, besides Lion City [Sailors] and their money, I think all the clubs are almost the same. On any day, anyone could win.”

Besides having aspirations on the pitch, Darren also has many goals he wants to achieve off the pitch. At the top of the list: being a great father to his son. As a young dad, I was intrigued to find out more about how Darren juggled his various responsibilities and his thoughts on fatherhood.

“Bering a dad itself, it wasn’t something that I expected at a young age. Yet, it has been an exciting journey. Before becoming a dad, I was really just like a happy-go-lucky person – if I can play football, I am satisfied. I was pretty comfortable. Then when I had my son, Kylian – I took it from Mbappé by the way. My wife decided on the girl’s name and I decided on a boy’s name. So when the gender was revealed, I decided on Kylian because it sounded good and I did not want a common name.

“Kylian’s arrival really changed me as a person. I wanted to scale greater heights and it also explains why I took up another career as a financial manager because I know that I cannot play football forever. That being said, I also ensured my footballing levels were really high. I was more focused in each game and before the game I always think of winning it for him. That gave me an extra motivation.”

However, it has not been an easy ride for Darren to juggle his various commitments.

“I felt like I neglected Kylian. At the same time I feel like I’m at an age where I can hustle for work and carve out a career for myself. Trainings are usually in the evening and by the time they are over, Kylian is already asleep. It’s only usually during the afternoon when I come home for my afternoon naps that I do spend time with him during the weekdays. During the weekends, I make it a point to bring him out and spend time with him.”

To end off, I think it was rather interesting that Darren decided to pick up a career as a financial manager while also playing football. So, naturally I couldn’t help but probe.

“I did do my diploma and I had to clock in 200 hours of coaching as part of internship requirements. During that whole process, I won’t deny that I did enjoy seeing my players progress and develop. But, deep down I didn’t feel the drive to coach younger kids. If I ever do become a coach, I want to do it at the highest level but I also know that to get there I need to climb there slowly [and start off with the younger age groups]. So, I do enjoy playing but for me personally, I don’t see myself as a coach during my post-playing career. I would contribute back to football by doing some coaching when I eventually retire but I don’t see it as a career.”

Darren Teh’s journey as a professional player thus far is a reminder to Singaporeans that football can be a viable career in Singapore. More often than not, we discourage young players from pursuing a professional footballing career. Yes, while I agree that there have been countless instances of players getting underpaid or delayed salaries in the past, I think initiatives need to be undertaken so that footballers can get the education they need to pursue post-footballing playing careers. Darren’s decision to engage in another job right now and learn a new trait is a lesson for other footballers to reflect upon. Coaching opportunities at the highest level in Singapore are far and few, and unless players invest their time to gain new skills, they’d end up juggling multiple coaching gigs.

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Darren Teh is no ordinary 24-year-old. Geylang International regular, National Team player, Financial Manager, Musician, Filial Son, Doting Husband, and Young Father are some of the many hats worn by the promising right back. At his age, Darren is an accomplished player who also, as the list above suggests, is riddled with commitments. Yet, despite his various responsibilities, Darren manages to put in excellent performances for the Eagles every week.

It was my pleasure to catch up with Darren some weeks back during the season and discuss at length his footballing journey. An extremely humble and helpful young man, Darren truly is a role model to follow. This is his story.

Photo Credits: Ko Po Hui (@bolasepako)

Footballing Beginnings

Unlike many professional players who started their footballing journeys at a very young age, Darren only first started playing football at 11 years old, relatively late for a professional footballer. It was during recess at Rivervale Primary School when Darren first started playing with his friends, but his performances on the field as a goalkeeper caught the eye of the teacher-in-charge of the school football team. As it turned out, the school team needed a goalkeeper and he asked Darren if he was keen on reprising the role as the school’s no. 1. This was a stark contrast for young Darren, who was previously mainly engaged with the Arts – specifically, music. A common occurrence in Singaporean households, Darren learned to play the piano and, in fact, holds a grade 7 certification (though he’s rusty right now because it’s been ages since he last played). Besides the piano, Darren also played the violin when he was younger. As such, he was venturing into uncharted territory when he decided to join the school football team.

However, Rivervale Primary was not well-known for their footballing level and it showed – they were thrashed almost every game by other school teams. That being said, Darren got his first taste, albeit a small one, of structured football with Rivervale Primary. It was also during this period where he moved away from custodian duties and began to be deployed further up the field as a midfielder when he was 12 years old.

While Rivervale Primary was not the best team, Darren showed early brilliance, and his team coach and teacher-in-charge nominated Darren for the Singapore Sports School. Darren was interested about the prospect of playing alongside some of the supposedly brightest footballing talents of his age group. His parents, on the other hand, felt that his footballing development can continue while pursuing a more typical curriculum at a secondary school. It was a decision that Darren agrees with.

“It was not like my parents did not support me. They did support me but they felt it would be better if I go to a normal secondary school. To be honest, at that point in time, I myself was not even serious about [a career in football]. I did not think about it as a [viable] career. So, I ended up going to Guangyang Secondary School, the same school as Gabriel Quak. I never met him in school because of the age difference.”

While primary school may have given Darren a glimpse of what professional football might entail, it was during his time at Guangyang Secondary which opened the doors to the footballing education that he needed. At the core of this was one man – coach Nicholas Wong. Nicholas Wong had been coaching since he was 18 years old, and the experienced youth coach and is still someone that Darren looks up to a lot.

“Nicholas really groomed me into who I am and really, really coached me well. Even today, I would really give him a lot of credit. He’s still coaching, more so at schools. On and off the field, he’s a [really good] friend of mine. At the point of time, I was just 13 years old and he was also quite a young coach, like in his late 20s. There’s more of a [relatability]. Some coaches are like in their 50s and 60s and they’re just there to do their job whereas Nicholas was really like a friend of [the players]. After training, we would always go to the coffee shop and have drinks and stuff [to hang].”

While Nicholas moulded Darren and polished his game, it was not until secondary 2 when Darren could display his talents. Unfortunately, there were insufficient lower secondary players to fill a complete squad and thus, Guangyang could not compete in the C Division. Still, there was a silver lining. Darren and his fellow lower secondary players had the chance of playing with the upper secondary players, and this exposure benefitted Darren immensely. Thankfully, things took a positive turn in secondary 2, when there were enough players to form a team.

“I remember asking my friends to join the school team and told them that we could be going for trainings together. Secondary 2 was when I would regard, I had my first proper competitive experience. [However,] it was secondary three when the turning point happened in my life and I decided that football will be my career.”

Transitioning to Fullback and playing for SAFSA during National Service

A year later, at 15, Darren took the first step to materialize his footballing dream when he went for trials with Tanjong Pagar United for their U-15 COE side. The Jaguars returned to the league that year in 2011. Darren went for the trials alone –not many knew that he went for the trials to begin with, and he knew no one that went for the trials. Back then, tiny Darren knew that his small size limited his chances playing in his preferred centre-midfield role – that being said, being one of the better players in Guangyang, he practically played in every position. He eventually decided to try out as a fullback to play to his strengths in natural fitness. A year later, Darren sought new pastures elsewhere, and a move to Hougang’s U-16 team materialized soon after. Darren wasn’t the only one linking with Hougang, with his Tanjong Pagar coach, Winston Yap, and a few other U-16 Jagaurs joining him as well. At Hougang, Darren played more of an attracting role down the wings – something he is grateful to have experienced given the importance of attacking fullbacks in the modern game. His stint with the Cheetahs would only last a year for Darren for the National Football Academy.

Picture Taken From Darren Teh’s Instagram (@tehsanity)

In his last year at Guangyang Secondary, Nicholas left and instead was replaced by Dilwant Singh, who ended up becoming the NFA U-18 Assistant coach and earmarked Nicholas to link up with the squad. Saswadimata Dasuki, better known as Saswa or Coach Saswa, was the head coach of the NFA squad at that time. Darren impressed during his trials and played for the NFA for 2 years. Although, while he was playing at the highest level, it was indeed a bitter-sweet experience for young Darren.

“At 17 years old, it was really an eye-opener for me. I remember that we travelled quite a bit. We went to France and Dubai for training camps and stuff like that. It was pretty sad though because I did not have any international exposure aside from that. [International} tournaments that the NFA teams take part in usually occur every 2 years. So, I was in the batch that was in that in between phase where a tournament had just ended [and I would be too old by the time we take part in the next one]. Only the very good players had been called up to play with the older boys.”

After graduating from Guangyang, Darren took up a private diploma with International Sports Academy (ISA) Singapore. Part of his requirements for his private diploma included working 200 hours shadowing and under the tutelage of his former coach and lifelong friend Nicholas Wong. I had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas sometime after this interview in really coincidental circumstances, and he mentioned how Darren had a real knack for coaching should he ever consider to take it up in the future.

Unlike most Singaporean sons, who pursue their post-secondary education before their National Service enlistment, Darren decided to head straight into national service after he turned 18. He decided to enlist early partly because he didn’t too well in his studies – something he regrets and would advise younger players to concentrate on – but also because he wanted to focus on getting National Service out of the way to focus on his footballing career.

Picture Taken From Darren Teh’s Instagram (@tehsanity)

While many complain about their NS days, Darren fondly remember his time as a Canine handler. At the same time, he also remembers playing football on a regular basis. During his National Service, he also spent two years with the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA) Football team. While limited opportunities came by during his first year with SAFSA, things took a positive turn in his second year, when Kevin Wee became the new head coach of the SAFSA team. Kevin wasn’t the only new addition to SAFSA, as the club was bolstered by a slew of talented players– Ikhsan Fandi, Ammirul Emmran, Taufik Suparno, and Suria Prakash.

Under Kevin’s management, SAFSA was ran like a professional outfit, and the team played in the Island-Wide League. During this period, Darren was appointed as captain and led the team to a treble, winning the IWL, the Cup and the Bogaars Cup (the annual fixture between the Army and Police football teams).

These triumphs during National Service emboldened a young Darren who had limited international experience with the NFA. His experience with SAFSA motivated him to reach his next goal – playing for a S.League club.

Featured Image Taken From Darren Teh’s Instagram (@tehsanity)

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