LionsXII could go young

LionsXII could go young
Christopher van Huizen, 22, (left) is among the few players who are aged under 23 in the LionsXII squad this season.

There was a tremendous amount of excitement when it was announced that a Singapore team would return to Malaysian club competitions from 2012 to 2015.

The first season set the pulses racing as the LionsXII finished second in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) and reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup.

They roared to the MSL title in 2013 but struggled last year after the departure of several key players.

This year's campaign will be the final one from the original agreement signed between the football associations of Malaysia and Singapore in 2011, but sources have told The New Paper that the LionsXII could extend their participation across the Causeway by another four years.

And this time, the Singapore team could face relegation if they struggle.

When contacted yesterday, Hamidin Amin, secretary general of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), only confirmed that "we will be meeting the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) in the upcoming months to discuss the LionsXII".


Under the current memorandum of understanding, Fandi Ahmad's team will not be relegated to the second-tier Malaysian Premier League if they finish among the bottom two of the MSL.

Instead, the Malaysian side that finished third from bottom will go down.

It was a scenario that some clubs were unhappy with, although the Singapore outfit have never finished in the bottom two - second in 2012, first in 2013 and eighth last season.

Of course, the LionsXII are not allowed to sign foreign players, while the foreign quota for Malaysian clubs has grown from two in 2012 to four per team this upcoming season.

Responding to queries from TNP, an FAS spokesman said: "The FAS and the FAM are always working closely in all administrative and competition matters involving the LionsXII, including the team's participation in the MSL after 2015.

"An announcement will be made at a later time when details are confirmed."

Another issue that could be addressed is the quota for senior players in the LionsXII team.

Currently, 20 out of the LionsXII's 27 players are over the age of 23, although most of them are 24 and 25.

As the team are touted as a developmental side, the requirement for a greater number of players aged 23 or under may well have to increase.

In their debut season in 2012, the LionsXII had 14 players over the age of 23 in their 31-man squad.

Coach V Sundramoorthy had just five "overaged" players in a squad of 30 when he guided the team to the league title the following season. Last season, 11 out of 27 players were over 23.

Such a move will cheer the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League fraternity who feel the LionsXII take away a number of better local players but, of course, any plan to grow the pool of U-23 players in the team will have to take into consideration the Courts Young Lions.

They are a developmental side of the FAS that compete in the S.League and are wholly U-23.

This article was first published on January 13, 2015.
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