Fazrul Nawaz returns to Singapore training after injury, targets Asian Cup
Singapore and Tampines Rovers striker Fazrul Nawaz has set a target of June for his full comeback after making his return to national training on Monday evening following an eight-month absence.
The 32-year-old hooked up with Lions' coach V. Sundramoorthy and his long-time teammates for a session at Jalan Besar Stadium.
It was his first outing since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee while playing in a S.League game against Hougang United at Jurong West Stadium last August.
"I feel good... I feel stronger than ever before," Fazrul told ESPN FC.
"It's eight months since I stepped onto the pitch so this is officially my first training so I'm quite happy to see my former teammates again.
Fazrul has earned 84 caps since 2006, scoring 11 goals. In recent years, he has been used off the bench for Singapore to create an impact with his speed and hard work up front.
His most recent injury ruled him out of last November's AFF Suzuki Cup, having missed the 2008 tournament after a similar problems with his right knee.
"It's not easy because age also plays a part," Fazrul said. "This is my second [major knee rehabilitation]. It's been a good journey for me. It's tough, definitely tough. But I'm quite pleased with it.
"I just hope that I can repay my fitness coach and all the staff who's been working with me."
Fazrul admits that June's internationals -- Singapore will play Chinese Taipei in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier on June 10 before facing Argentina in a friendly three days later -- may be coming too soon. But he's hopeful of forcing himself into national team selection later in the year.
"I definitely want to help our country to qualify for the Asian Cup," he said. "Singapore have never qualified before apart from the time that they hosted it.
"That's my goal once I come back to Tampines. I want to play as much as possible and, hopefully, I can be back to the national team.
"June is the target from the doctor and myself. I'm taking it one step at a time. So hopefully I will be back in June."
His club team can cut the gap at the top of the S.League table to a single point if they can beat leaders Albirex Niigata (S) on Sunday evening.
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.