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Excelling at a double life

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Our Sporting Hero My Neighbour Fariza Begum

Her students in school know her as Ms. Fariza, a good-natured, hip and young teacher. But once she picks up her gleaming helmet and floorball stick, she’s Fariza Begum, goalkeeper extraordinaire, part of the region’s top team.

To her pupils and fans, Fariza appears to shuttle effortlessly between her two worlds, imparting knowledge to shape the nation’s future generation by day, and then preparing to realise her own sporting dreams on the court after that.

Slated to make history this year as she plays in the first official SEA Games floorball match, the 26-year-old is working hard, amid her teaching commitments, towards the coveted top spot in the competition. The stakes in June will be much higher than the demonstration matches of SEA Games 2013.

“It’s a dream come true, having floorball included in our SEA Games medal tally. Finally, we’re given the opportunity to play at the Games, so it’s definitely something really great,” enthused Fariza.

The dedicated athlete picked up floorball in 2005, playing for her secondary school before joining a local league club and eventually qualifying for the national team in 2009. That very year, Fariza, along with her fast-rising team, made it all the way to the prestigious World Floorball Championships in Sweden. Singapore, the current Southeast Asian Floorball Championships title-holders will contest once more at this year’s World meet in December.

With such a hectic competition and travel schedule, one must surely wonder how Fariza manages it all. After all, teaching itself is already a very demanding job. Nevertheless, she copes, firm in her resolve to excel at both teaching and floorball.

Mentioning that she had her colleagues and superiors to thank for supporting and making allowances for her when necessary, she quipped: “It’s mainly about keeping your fitness up and not neglecting whatever responsibilities you have, both as a teacher and as a sportsperson.”

“It’s definitely a challenge because you have to be up early and you have to stay up late. You have to really manage your time and get your priorities right,” she continued.

While she does make juggling two careers at once sound easy, her journey has certainly not been an entirely smooth one. Revealing that she had faced setbacks to retain her spot as first choice in the goal, she spoke about having to sit out of matches, watching from the sidelines as her highly competitive teammates lived the dream in the arena.

“There are times when you’re at your peak where you will shine, but there are moments where you need to be excluded, so you’re able to reflect and come back stronger. [I wasn’t fielded during] the recent Southeast Asian Floorball Championships, and it got me thinking about how or what went wrong. But I picked myself up and learnt my lesson,” she acknowledged.

“I really worked my heart out for the SEA Games selection, and [I learnt] to never be complacent about what you have and what you’re able to do. You really have to push yourself forward and if you really want to be on the team for the next few tournaments, you have to [make it happen],” she added.

It is perhaps fitting then, that the tenacious athlete plays goalkeeper on her team, arguably one of the most important positions on the court.

Asserting that it was the challenge that appealed to her the most, she remarked: “I trained with guys [when I started out], so it gave me a good feeling when I managed to save shots taken by [bigger-sized people]. That actually led me to become more competitive, and realise that I wanted to pursue floorball goalkeeping.”

“As a goalkeeper, I’m looking to lead and nurture the younger goalkeepers by providing goalkeeping clinics, so I’m working with a couple of keepers in Singapore, where we’re giving small clinics along with another floorball company,” she expressed.

But, true to her “Ms. Fariza” alter ego, Fariza does not just work to make a significant contribution to the local sporting community. Sharing how she hopes to bring together her life as a national athlete with her role as a teacher, she said: “As an educator, I share the values I’ve learnt [through my sport], along with the sacrifices and challenges I’ve faced and overcome, with my students. For those who intend to pursue their co-curricular activities further, I hope to really help them and tell them that nothing is impossible to achieve.”

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