Football: U-23s can survive Asiad group

Football: U-23s can survive Asiad group

There is a good chance we can qualify for the Round of 32 at the Asian Games.

That is what the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin believes, even though he declined to set a target for the national Under-23 side that will do battle in Incheon, South Korea, this month.

Zainudin is optimistic the team will repay the faith shown by the selectors at the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), after they gave the football team the nod for the Games at the 11th-hour.

Singapore have been drawn in Group C, along with Oman, Palestine and Tajikistan. They will kick off their campaign against the Tajiks on Sept 14 and need to finish in the top two to make the Round of 32.

Speaking to The New Paper at the Asian Games flag presentation ceremony yesterday, Zainudin said: "Following SNOC's decision to let us compete, we need to do our part now and prepare well and play well at the Games.

"Of course there is pressure to prove that we deserve to be there; every athlete will experience that.

Encouragement 

"If we can progress from the group stage, it would be a big plus and huge encouragement to Singapore football and our efforts with youth development."

National coach Bernd Stange will lead the team in South Korea and Zainudin is not worried over the short preparation time for the side.

While it is an U-23 competition, Asian Games rules allow for three over-aged players but the Singapore squad list has yet to be released as club-versus-country issues continue to hinder the selection of two of the three over-aged players - Warriors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and winger Suria Prakash from the S.League and midfielder Hariss Harun, who plays for Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Ta'zim.

As the Asian Games is not a Fifa tournament, it is not compulsory for clubs to release players. The Warriors have already stated their reluctance to release their first-choice goalkeeper and winger as they chase the S.League title.

"We are on the verge of presenting a win-win situation to the clubs; we will have a way forward and hope to finalise everything very soon," Zainudin said.

"The preparation time is not an issue. Coach Stange knows his players inside out, and I'm confident he and the boys will do their best."

aakasim@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Sept 2 in The New Paper.

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