ATM's K. Reuben: Remembering humble roots but aiming high in 2015
Armed Forces FA (ATM) utility player K. Reuben has won the Malaysia Premier League, played in a Malaysia Cup final and represented his country, at home and abroad. But whenever he needs to keep his feet on the ground, he'll pay a visit to the orphanage where he grew up.
For 30 years, his family has run Desa Amal Jireh, a charitable home for over 100 orphans, underprivileged children and destitute senior citizens at Semenyih, Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur. It was set up by his parents, Rev. Terrence K. K. Sinnadurai and Mrs. Kamala Sinnadurai.
Twenty-four-year-old Reuben was raised on the premises and was treated the same as the other residents by his parents, even when he was enjoying success as an outstanding youth footballer.
"I was literally born into this place and some of my best friends are from the home," Reuben told ESPN FC. "I've grown up with them and I've seen how difficult it is for them. It makes me appreciate life more."
Ahead of the new Malaysia Super League (MSL) season, Reuben invited his head coach B. Sathianathan to pay a visit to the orphanage. Sathianathan, who sponsors four children at the home, used the occasion to hold a first birthday party for his son, Dorshen Prisat Nair.
"It feels very blessed because almost nobody knows what my parents are doing here," Reuben said. "But Coach Sathia takes pride in helping out and that means a lot. I'm very happy he's here today."
Reuben, who can slot in at full-back, centre-back or in the midfield, will be an important player for Sathia as he looks to improve on a disastrous 2014 campaign that saw ATM only avoid relegation on goal difference. He missed most of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in an MSL game against Terengganu in February.
Sathia saw many of his best players sidelined in a season that was in contrast to their 2013 campaign when they finished sixth, just two wins off second spot. The previous year, they were promoted as Premier League champions and made the final of the 2012 Malaysia Cup, losing 3-2 to high-flying Kelantan FA.
"Last season a lot of regular players were injured and we couldn't cope with it," Reuben said. "But this year the coach has gone for depth and we have better players. We just have to work harder.
"My target is to get myself well established in the team. I need to get my spot back in the national team and be a regular as well."
Reuben has earned four full international caps and made his debut against a star-studded Australia team in Canberra in 2011. He also was part of Dato Ong Kim Swee's 2013 SEA Games team and has made five appearances for the U-23s.
A whole-hearted and committed team player with good mobility and skills, Reuben says he is slowly getting back to his best.
"I need to work harder on my match fitness and all other aspects of the game. In football you need to be tip-top in all aspects of your game."
Reuben added that he would need to strive further to regain his place in the national squad, given the good performance of Malaysia at December's Suzuki Cup, where they came within 10 minutes of lifting their AFF second title.
"A new coach came in and he managed to get the players to work for him. The players did very well to make the finals and I want to congratulate them for that."
In the meantime, Reuben knows he has to establish himself again as one of the outstanding players of the MSL. With the addition of new foreigners including Honduras World Cup striker Jerry Palacios, ATM should be stronger this season.
"We would like to win at least one Cup and to finish top two or top three in the league. We have four good foreigners we also have some very good local players. It's a really good healthy competition that we have now. Now everyone needs to perform to be on the pitch."
It will be a busy 2015 for Reuben and not just because of his on-field commitments. He still helps out at the charitable home, dropping in once a week to ensure that the food supplies are well stocked. Just like the task of re-igniting his promising football career, it is very much a labour of love.
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.