Asian Games' plan may hit a snag

Asian Games' plan may hit a snag
Baihakki Khaizan (above right), Hariss Harun and Hassan Sunny may not be able to answer the call of duty for the Asian Games as they could be required to play for their clubs instead in domestic competitions.

A club-versus-country row threatens to overshadow the Singapore Under-23 football team's preparations for the Asian Games next month.

The Straits Times understands that national team head coach Bernd Stange has cast his eyes on Warriors FC goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan and Johor Darul Takzim's (JDT) Hariss Harun as the team's three overage players.

However, as the Sept 14-Oct 2 Asian Games tournament in Incheon, South Korea, is not listed in world governing body Fifa's coordinated international match calendar, it is not compulsory for clubs to release the players if they are called up.

At least one round of S-League fixtures is to be played during the Under-23's Asiad campaign. Warriors FC, who are fourth in the 12-team table with 38 points, five behind leaders Brunei DPMM, do not intend to release Hassan if the fixtures are unchanged.

Coach Alex Weaver told The Straits Times: "The club has received a call-up for Hassan. But we have a game, which we were told would be played between Sept 15-17, and our priority is to make sure we have the strongest team for that game.

"We have a chance to win the league, and Hassan is a big part of that. We want the best for Hassan and the Warriors but, in this case, the Warriors have to take priority.

"That is the stand of the management. The chairman is supportive.

"We've been more than accommodating in the past with Hassan during the season. We let him go to Austria (July 7-23), and he missed a few League Cup games.

"Now, we've got S-League games and we are sure the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will understand that."

The FAS declined to comment on the players' availability but said an announcement on the confirmed list of players would be made next week.

The inclusion of JDT midfielder Hariss is also likely to cause another club-versus-country squabble.

Even though he would likely not miss any Malaysia Cup matches should he join the Under-23s, JDT are also not obliged to release him as they prepare to win the coveted trophy.

The club could not be reached for comment at press-time.

Baihakki is on loan from JDT at the LionsXII but the FAS confirmed his release is not subject to approval from JDT.

The trio will form the spine of the team should they be called up.

They are required to add strength to Singapore's hopes of qualifying from a tough Group C that also contains Oman, Palestine and Tajikistan.

Singapore kick off their Asiad campaign against Tajikistan in Ansan on Sept 14.

They face Oman in Hwaseong three days later.

Their final group match is against Palestine in Ansan on Sept 21.

This article was first published on August 29, 2014.
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