Singapore international Hafiz Sujad free agent, eyes return to Thailand

Now a free agent, Singapore international midfielder Hafiz Sujad is on the lookout for clubs and has prioritised a move back to Thailand, despite interest from the S.League.

The 26-year-old has resolved his contractual situation with Big Bang Chula United (BBCU) after the Thai second-tier club abruptly withdrew from domestic competitions in late April.

He had signed a one-year contract only three months earlier after moving from Tampines Rovers.

ESPN FC understands that Hafiz and the rest of the BBCU players are now free to move on as the club did not turn up for numerous scheduled meetings with the Football Association of Thailand (FAT), despite being issued an ultimatum.

Compensation is currently being worked out, with Hafiz entitled to receive the pay for the remaining seven months of his original contract.

"It's a huge relief that everything is settled and now I'm just looking for clubs to play for," Hafiz told ESPN FC. "The S.League transfer window is now open [between May 22 to June 16] so potentially there are some clubs who may have slots.

"But I'm also working with my agent Abdul Halim to look out for clubs in Thailand. The transfer window there opens on June 4. If there's still the chance to play overseas, I will definitely want to.

"Right now when I'm still in the market, why not? If there's some club who likes my style of play and needs someone to play on the left side, I reckon I'm up to the task."

Should he not be able to secure another contract in Thailand, Hafiz would not begrudge a return to the S.League, and has been linked with a move back to Tampines.

"It's definitely not a step down to play in Singapore again," said the utility man, who started his professional journey in 2009 with Young Lions. He was the only local nominee for the Player of the Year in 2016, due to his impressive displays for the Stags.

"I still have to perform and show my abilities to get into any team, it's not like a walk in the park. For me, the most important thing is playing time; I don't want to lose out on too many games.

"As for a return to Tampines, the most important thing is whether they think I fit the team. It's a different coach -- coach Jurgen [Raab] instead of coach Akbar [Nawas] and they play a different system now. Let's see what happens, it's not just because I was previously from there means I automatically get to go into the team again."

No official reason was given for the sudden BBCU pullout. Nonetheless, Hafiz is grateful for the opportunity to venture abroad and play at a higher level, even if just for a few weeks.

"It's unlucky that my journey ended this way; of all clubs, it has to happen to my club," said the former LionsXII player. "But it was a real eye-opener for me from the atmosphere, the fans, the coaching staff to the players. There's a lot for me to gain.

"I played around 10 games, starting out at left back, played at left wing back for a few games and also played centre midfield once. It wasn't difficult to communicate with my teammates because most of them understand a bit of English. On the pitch, it's all about football language. You don't have to talk that much, sometimes just simple eye contact will do."

Hafiz is part of V. Sundramooorthy's provisional Singapore squad for the crucial 2019 Asian Cup qualifier against Chinese Taipei, sandwiched between friendlies against Myanmar and Argentina.

His last involvement in a Lions shirt was in the 0-0 draw against Philippines in the AFF Suzuki Cup last November, where he was given a straight red after just 34 minutes, missing the two remaining group games.

He was absent from the 2-1 friendly defeat to Afghanistan and 0-0 Asian Cup qualifier draw against Bahrain in March due to injury.

"I'm thankful that coach Sundram has kept the faith in me," said the man who has 34 caps to his name. "I'm a bit rusty to be honest [after not playing for a while], but I've been doing runs in the gym and having solo sessions with [fitness coach] Sasha [Aleksandar Bozenko] to keep up my fitness.

"The squad still have to be trimmed down, so I cannot take it for granted. I will respect coach's decision on whether I'm in the final squad. If I'm selected, I will surely give my 100 percent."