AS SINGAPORE prepare for the quest to win the elusive SEA Games football gold, a fixtures clash means the World Cup qualifiers will have to take a back seat.
With the regional sports meet set to be hosted here from June 5-16, there will be an overlap because the second round of World Cup qualifiers for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will begin on June 11.
By virtue of their continental ranking (31st), Singapore have been given a bye in the first round, which is played by nations ranked 35th to 46th in Asia.
The draw for the second round will be held in Kuala Lumpur on April 14.
For the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), winning that elusive first SEA Games gold is the priority this year.
A spokesman said: "It is unfortunate that there may be a clash between the SEA Games fixtures and the World Cup qualifiers.
We had written to the AFC to seek their understanding on the clash of tournaments and to shift the qualifiers to another date.
They have since replied that they are unable to accede to our request as there are no other available dates to shift the matches to.
"The SEA Games is very important to us because Singapore is hosting the Games for the first time since 1993, and we want to do well in the football competition on home soil, in front of our own fans. As such, we will be fielding the strongest team possible."
LionsXII winger Faris Ramli, who is eligible to play in the SEA Games and has established himself as a first-team player with the Lions, wants to help deliver the football gold medal.
"Personally, my focus is on the SEA Games," he said. "The players were told that a lot of effort has been made to help us prepare for the Games and the team really want to win the gold medal for Singapore."
However, SEA Games favourites Thailand have decided to concentrate on the World Cup qualifiers, which is a boost for Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar.
Under current coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, the War Elephants won gold at the 2013 SEA Games and lifted the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup in December.
While he wants to retain the gold medal won in Myanmar, the 41-year-old's eyes are on progress on the continental stage.
Kiatisuk told The Straits Times: "The main target is to go as far as possible in the World Cup qualifiers, so the key players will be in that team. But I'll be in Singapore for the SEA Games as well, for the early part of the tournament."
Meanwhile, the FAS also announced that the Lions will play Thailand in a two-legged friendly to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the kingdom.
The first leg will take place on March 26 in Korat and details of the second match will be announced at a later date.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin said: "Since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Singapore and Thailand on Sept 20, 1965, we have developed strong ties at the government-to-government, business-to-business and people-to-people levels.
"Football is one of the key sports which can further strengthen relations at all levels and we are honoured to have the opportunity to be part of the commemorative events to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between both countries."
This article was first published on March 07, 2015.
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