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 By Kelvin Leong

Tampines' Hafiz Sujad strives for Ryan Giggs' consistency for Singapore

Known as one of Singapore football's most consistent and versatile footballers, Tampines Rovers midfielder Hafiz Sujad is aiming to emulate the consistency of Manchester United and Wales legend, Ryan Giggs.

Hafiq plied his trade in central midfield as Young Lions captain from 2009 to 2012, but his tenacity to succeed anywhere on the pitch caught the eye of then-LionsXII boss V. Sundramoorthy, who converted him into a flying left-back.

It proved to be successful as LionsXII went on to claim the 2013 Malaysian Super League title. And it was in the 2015 campaign, under Fandi Ahmad, that Hafiz added scoring to his weaponry, with five goals in 34 matches to help the Singapore outfit win the Malaysia FA Cup.

Still only 25, Hafiz is now a regular starter for the Singapore national team. With a relatively untested squad on the tour of Japan, Hafiz is the fifth most capped player with 28 appearances, behind Daniel Bennett (124), Khairul Amri (104), Fazrul Nawaz (83) and Izwan Mahbud (38).

Singapore midfielder Hafiz Sujad
Hafiz Sujad helped Singapore hold Japan to a goalless draw in Saitama last year.

"Never will I see it that way [that I'm a senior of this team]. Most of the squad are familiar faces who have played together for club and country for a long time," Hafiz told ESPN FC.

"For me, I still come to work every day with the same mentality. I don't count the number of caps or games I play so as not to stress myself out.

"It is all about going into training and games with the same attitude and doing the job that the coach wants me to do."

Despite his star continuing to rise, Hafiz refuses to let fame get to him as he continues to seek the one quality he has always strived for as a young footballer: consistency.

"All I've been wanting the past few seasons is to be consistent in my game play. Thankfully, I've been playing a lot of games with Tampines and LionsXII but there is always something new to learn," he said.

"People like Fazrul, and even more senior players like Bennett, are good to have in training because you can see what they do and pick up small things to improve your own game."

Singapore midfielder Hafiz Sujad
Hafiz has gone up against some of Asia's top players, including Japan and AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda.

Even as he continues to be played in different positions for club and country, the cousin of Fandi Ahmad is comfortable with being Singapore's 'Mr Versatile'.

Growing up, he wanted to fly down the wings like the legendary Giggs did for much of his career with the Red Devils until he retired at the age of 40 in 2014.

Hafiz said: "When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a winger. I'm a Liverpool supporter but I looked up to Ryan Giggs. He was left-footed, fast but not fancy on the ball. He chases down everything and just keeps running. So these were things I wanted to do in my own game.

"Right now, I've been played in a few positions but I don't mind it at all. The coach lays out his tactics for each game and I just go out there in whatever position given and go for it."

Having scored in the 3-2 loss to the Niigata University of Health and Welfare on Wednesday,  Hafiz vows to keep working hard to seal his spot in Sundram's starting lineup for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

He added: "We are in Japan to continue sharpening our preparations for the Suzuki Cup. Nobody is guaranteed a spot and we all have to impress coach Sundram if we want that jersey. But to play in the Suzuki Cup and lift the trophy, that will be a wonderful way to finish off 2016.

Singapore have been put in pot three along with Vietnam. Co-hosts Philippines and Myanmar are in pot one, while 2014 finalists Thailand and Malaysia are in pot two.

ESPN FC editor Kelvin Leong is a former media officer for Singapore and ex-regional editor of ESPNSTAR.com. Twitter: @KelvinLeong29.

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