He came off the bench hoping to mark his 26th birthday with a goal or maybe an assist.
But Geylang International winger Shawal Anuar ended Friday night in hospital instead, after a clash of heads during an S.League match against Home United.
The wound required four stitches, but worse still for the national player, the accident left him with a blood clot in his brain that saw him spend a day in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Raffles Hospital on Wednesday.
The doctors were concerned enough to insist that Shawal be put under observation in the ICU after finding the blood clot had doubled in size – from 0.3cm to 0.6cm – when he returned to have the dressing for his stitches cleaned four days after the match.
When The New Paper visited the player in hospital last night, he was in good spirits.
But he admitted: “I was shocked and scared when the doctor told me I had to be admitted into the ICU.
“I even thought he was joking but he scolded me and said this was no joke.
“Another hit on my head could mean bye-bye.
For now, I am taking medication and they will continue to observe my condition, and if the blood clot continues to grow, then I will have to undergo surgery.”
While his head wound was above his right eye, Shawal said the blood clot discovered was in the back, left part of his brain.
He suspects it could be because he bumped his head on the hard artificial surface at the Jalan Besar Stadium as he landed.
All he remembers is being knocked out cold, and by the time he regained consciousness, he was already lying on the stretcher being carted off the pitch.
Shawal, who was told by doctors his brain had “shifted” a little, said that he started suffering ill-effects two days after the accident.
“I started feeling a pain in my head, worse than a migraine,” he said.
“And whenever I closed my eyes to sleep, I felt a pressing pain too.
“The last few days, I’ve slept at 1am or 2am because I had trouble getting to sleep.
“And sometimes I wake up feeling dizzy and nauseous, although I did not vomit.”
Remarkably, despite the frightening injury, Shawal is disappointed at missing this Saturday’s Sultan of Selangor’s Cup match at the National Stadium. The annual match is set to be played in Singapore for the first time in eight years, and more than 30,000 fans are expected to fill the stands.
He sheepishly said: “This would have been my first time, so I really wanted to play in it.”
National team vice-captain Hariss Harun, who was the Home United player who clashed heads with Shawal, visited his Lions teammate yesterday.
Said Hariss, who suffered a swollen forehead: “Initially I was a bit shocked to learn his situation had worsened, and I was quite concerned.
“But at least today he got some good news being transferred from the ICU to a normal ward.
“I just paid him a visit to make sure everything was okay, and to wish him a speedy recovery.
“He’s a good footballer and we will miss him for the national team. Hopefully he will come back to the pitch soon, and healthy.”
Shawal said he is now only focused on diligently following doctor’s orders, and hopes to be back on the pitch in about a month’s time, although he is in no rush.
“I will take however long is required to fully recover,” he said.
“I’m more worried about (the recovery) than my football.
“Even (national) coach Sundram, who visited me here, told me not to think about soccer for the time being.”What’s important now for me is to listen to my doctor.”