Dribbling through the odds

Rusydi is a three-time recipient of the Scholarship in 2017 (receiving the award from Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung), 2019 and 2020.

26 May 2020

By Randy Ng

Out on the floorball court, Muhammad Rusydi Aqil never stops running. As the centre in his team, the position requires him to sprint non-stop, up and down the court to support both attack and defence.

His lungs burn from the exertion, his legs ache, and his jersey is entirely drenched in sweat. But he continues to pound the floor, tightly gripping to his beloved floorball stick. It is not only excellent stamina that keeps him going – Rusydi runs because he knows every minute on that court has not come easy for him. He runs because he already knows how far he has come from hardship, and he wants to keep going.

Floorball provides an escape for Rusdyi from his personal life. Photos: Muhammad Rusydi Aqil, MK Sports

The 21-year-old is fuelled by memories of a difficult childhood. When he was 10, his mother and stepfather were incarcerated, and he was placed under the care of his uncle. After his mother’s release from prison three years later, his family remained cash-strapped as she was unable to work because of health issues. They remain dependent on Rusydi’s uncle and social organisations for financial assistance.

Floorball provided an outlet to escape from his troubles, but even playing the sport has not been easy. “In my journey, I faced mostly failures,” he said. “There were many times I felt like quitting or taking a break, because I felt I didn’t achieve much.”

Ruysdi (second row, fourth from left) with his floorball team mates

But he never did, which is why the floorball player is a three-time recipient of the Singapore Olympic Foundation – Peter Lim scholarship today. The award assists student-athletes with financial difficulties to achieve their sporting aspirations.

“I was extremely thankful and could not believe that I was chosen from among so many people. It helped me prove to others that despite my background, I could still achieve something,” he said.

Getting hooked to floorball

Floorball started as a curiosity in primary school 10 years ago. “Back then, it was still a new sport. I rarely saw people play it, and I wanted to give it a try,” he recalled. He became hooked to its pace and intensity, and it became a sport that he would diligently commit himself to till today.

But unlike his peers who could easily afford equipment, he often had to borrow from his friends and coach. The cost of a floorball stick can reach up to S$200.

Despite the obstacles, he remained unfazed, as one of his personal mantras is to simply ‘enjoy the moment’.  “Just have fun,” he said. “Things will become interesting and better when you’re enjoying it.”

He did not only enjoy floorball – he excelled in it. His school, ITE College Central, became champions at the Polytechnic-Institute of Technical Education Games last year. This year, they placed second in the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Games.

The sport has had a transformational effect on him. “Last time I used to be shy, but I’m more of a loud and outgoing person now,” he said. “Floorball has taught me sportsmanship, discipline, punctuality and to be a problem-solver when things don’t go my way.”

A mother’s unflagging support

Rusydi and his biggest supporter, his mom Rosmini

There is another secret to his sporting accomplishments: his mother.

“My mother supports me even though she doesn’t know what floorball is about,” he said. “I always tell her that we have no money, and not to spend too much on me. But whenever she has the money, she would pass it to me and tell me to buy the equipment I need. She always makes sure that I am well and eat a lot.”

Money from the scholarship has allowed him to repay his mother in kind. When he first received the award in 2017, he used the money to help his mother pay bills and groceries, in addition to getting a pair of sport shoes and a new floorball stick.

The stick is now one of his prized possessions. “I know some friends who break their sticks in just five days. Mine has lasted for three years,” he said with a laugh.

Paying it forward

Rusydi (extreme left) on stage receiving his scholarship from Olympic champion Mrs Libby Trickett in 2019

Having recently graduated with a Higher Nitec certificate in Mechatronics, he is awaiting his enlistment into National Service, while harbouring many aspirations.

He hopes to qualify for the national floorball team to represent Singapore at major tournaments, with the Southeast Asian Games a main target.  The other is to pursue a diploma in a local polytechnic, with the aim of becoming a physiotherapist.

Understanding the value of help during difficult moments, he has paid it forward by embarking on overseas community service programmes in Indonesia and Cambodia to build houses for the less fortunate. He has also volunteered in The Salvation Army’s Prison Support Services – Kids in Play programme to help children whose parents are in jail.

It stems from what is perhaps Rusydi’s most important aspiration: to inspire younger athletes who have come from a similar background as his. A parting advice to them?

“Hold on and keep on pushing yourself even though things are bad. One day it will come out fine.”