PETALING JAYA: It’s normal to look up to your siblings as a role model but quite rare to have a teammate as a source of inspiration.
So it came as a surprise when Perak skipper Shahrul Saad picked foreign import Thiago Junior as the driving force in his career.
The towering Brazilian defender, who featured for Perak from 2015-2017, made a huge impression on Shahrul when he returned to the Silver State from Felda United in 2016.
Thiago, who then joined Felda from 2018-2019, is known for his love of Malaysian football and has even featured for the Malaysia XI in a friendly against English Premier League side Tottenham and Liverpool in 2015. He even scored in the 1-2 loss to Spurs.
The 27-year-old Shahrul said he picked up a lot of things during his time with Thiago and is full of gratitude for all the advice given by his former teammate.
“Thiago was the first Perak import that I combined with and honestly I learned a lot from him. His guidance made me grow as a player, ” said the national team centreback.
“He always gives his 110% and never gives up until the final whistle. Despite being 35, he would make me join him to go up and help in attack.
“He’s also very down-to-earth but can be jovial too which is a rare trait among imports these days. He really made an impact on my career.”
Shahrul, who comes from a football family, is also grateful to his siblings, who are former internationals, for shaping him during his early years in the game.
Defender Syamsul, who is now 45, played for Perak from 2000 to 2008 while 33-year-old Shahrizal was a striker with Perak, Johor FC, Felda and Negri Sembilan.
“Both of them were my idols since I was a kid and because of them I picked up the sport and managed to reach this level, ” added Shahrul.
“My only regret is that I did not play alongside them in Perak. Anyway, I still seek their advice as I know without them, I would have not been this successful.”
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