Kelvin Leong suggests five Singapore Premier League players that Fandi Ahmad should consider for the Singapore national team.
As Fandi Ahmad assumes his new role as head coach of the Singapore national team, his immediate task will be to sift out players worthy of wearing the nation’s colours.
Since Radojko Avramovic left his post in 2012 after taking Singapore to their fourth AFF Suzuki Cup, the word “rejuvenation” has been bandied around without a concrete plan in place.
Bernd Stange and V. Sundram Moorthy experimented with various youngsters but almost always reverted back to the trusted soldiers when the need arose.
With the first round of Singapore Premier League (SPL) fixtures done and dusted, there have been a few Singapore youngsters who have stood out from the crowd.
Here are five young players who should be in Fandi’s first national team sheet when he makes the announcement.
Shaqi Sulaiman – Balestier Khalsa
Balestier Khalsa have played eight games so far and Shaqi has been involved in six. He probably wasn’t Marko Kraljevic’s first-choice centre-back at the start of the campaign but his stellar performances have pushed him to the top of the pecking order as the Tigers’ main defender.
Along with Irfan Najeeb and Faizal Roslan, they could be contenders in a Singapore back three with Irfan Fandi in the middle as the guiding light. Yes, they lack experience at the international stage but with a few games under their belt, these young guns could be pivotal for the Lions in the coming years.
Shaqi has shown maturity beyond his tender age of 19 and the way he marked out Volodymyr Priyomov in Balestier’s 2-1 loss warrants a closer look at him.
Irfan Najeeb – Tampines Rovers
The new SPL U-23 ruling has allowed youngsters to dream. Tampines’ 18-year-old defender Irfan is one such example. A virtual unknown before the season started, the youngster has been an ever-present in the Stags’ defence.
Started the season wobbly but has brought a fearless attitude to his game alongside Fahrudin Mustafic and Daniel Bennett. His reading of the game allows him to cut out threats early and with two seasoned mentors in Bennett and Farra, Irfan will only get better.
And did we mention his goals? He has one apiece in the AFC Cup and SPL and will be a good weapon to have at set-pieces for the Lions. Some may say he is too young and should be given more time to develop but if you are good enough, you should be selected. Just look at England’s Wayne Rooney.
Adam Swandi – Albirex Niigata FC S
Since his days with the National Football Academy U-15 side that thrilled Singaporeans at the Lion City Cup, Adam has been touted as Singapore’s next big football star.
His travels around the world to Newcastle United and FC Metz have given him invaluable experience and he has translated that into his strong showings for Home United in the Singapore Premier League last year.
This season, he became the first Singaporean to play for the White Swans. Two goals and three assists in six appearances won him the Young Player of the Month gong. If Singapore are gunning for glory, they must build a team around the 22-year-old playmaker.
Ho Wai Loon – Warriors FC
The Warriors FC defender is fast becoming Singapore’s version of Phil Neville. In the recent 2-1 loss to Albirex, Ho was moved into four different tactical positions by coach Mirko Grabovac and still managed to shine.
He has been with the national team under Sundram but has yet to earn his first international cap despite showing commitment and desire regardless of where he is played.
Two goals and two assists in the SPL this season must surely have caught the eye of Fandi and the national team selectors. Ho’s versatility makes him a good choice to be Singapore’s utility player at the Suzuki Cup. Since Shaiful Esah faded from the limelight, the Lions have not unearthed a left-footed delivery that was always a focal point on the international stage.
Faizal Roslan – Home United
Singapore’s penchant of developing amazing goalkeepers and quality centre-backs continues with the emergence of Home United’s Faizal.
Protectors coach Aidil Sharin has thrown Faizal into the deep end and the 22-year-old has not looked out of place, clocking in some amazing displays at centre-back.
What makes it even better is Faizal’s ability to find the back of the net having already scored three goals (2 in SPL, 1 in AFC Cup) this year. If he bulks up and gets mentored by the likes of Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin, Singapore may have a defensive rock for many years ahead.