Football: Midfield muddle

Football: Midfield muddle
Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun (left) will not be released by JDT but his replacement Shahdan Sulaiman (right), who is with Tampines Rovers, could also face the same fate.

Another Asian Games, another struggle to secure the release of key players for the football team.

Ahead of the Asiad in Incheon, South Korea, later this month, it appears national coach Bernd Stange will not be able to bring Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder Hariss Harun as one of the Under-23 team's three permitted over-aged players (see sidebar on the right).

The German was thought to have lined up Tampines Rovers midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman as a replacement in case Hariss was unavailable.

But it seems that Tampines, who are in title contention for the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and are in the semi-finals of the RHB Singapore Cup, are also not willing to let their star man go.

As the Asian Games is not a Fifa tournament, it is not compulsory for clubs to release players.

Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng could not be reached for comment last night.

But Stags' team manager Clement Teo said: "We have indicated to the national team that we will not release Shahdan, considering the Asian Games matches are not Fifa 'A' internationals.

"The next few games in the S.League and Singapore Cup are crucial for us, and Shahdan is a key part of the team."

Stange was sick yesterday and did not attend the senior national team's training session at Yishun Stadium, ahead of international friendlies against Papua New Guinea tomorrow and Hong Kong next Tuesday.

However, the two midfielders in the centre of the muddle, Hariss and Shahdan, linked up with the team.

Hariss, who turns 24 on Nov 19, is taking the news in his stride.

"Personally, I always want to represent Singapore in all tournaments, even in friendlies," he said.

"But, the Asian Games doesn't fall on Fifa-specified dates and, if my employers say I can't go, then I'll just have to respect that decision, be professional and get on with my job.

"I wish the team well, and I think there's a good mix of youth and experience for them to perform well, even if I'm not able to go." Shahdan echoed Hariss' sentiments.

Said the 26-year-old: "I treasure every chance I get to represent my country and, considering this tournament is held once only every four years, it's an honour to be mentioned as a possible part of the squad.

"But a solution has to be found for my club. If the FAS and S.League are moving Warriors' games to accommodate Hassan (Sunny), then maybe they should do the same for all Tampines' games, too.

"If they can sort something out, I think the whole situation will be a lot smoother."

Stange told TNP on Tuesday that the Warriors, who are also in the running for the title, have had their S.League fixtures re-arranged so that 30-year-old goalkeeper Hassan and 21-year-old winger Suria Prakash can travel with the Asian Games squad.

Unlike Tampines, however, the Warriors are already out of the Singapore Cup.

The Republic's football team have had a history of problems getting their men for the Asian Games.

Ahead of the 2006 Asiad in Doha, Raddy Avramovic turned to unheralded Ashrin Shariff, then 24, to lead his attack, after his preferred frontmen Indra Sahdan and Noh Alam Shah were unavailable.

Indra suffered a serious knee injury earlier that year, while Alam Shah was needed by Tampines for the Singapore Cup final.

And before the Guangzhou Games in 2010, striker Khairul Amri and midfielder Mustafic Fahrudin, who were playing for Persiba Balikpapan and Persela Lamongan in Indonesia respectively, were not released by their clubs.

This article was first published on Sep 5, 2014.
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