Shakir in SEA Games muddle

Shakir in SEA Games muddle
LionsXII left back Shakir Hamzah (right) and teammates during a training session at the Jalan Besar stadium

He was the captain of Aide Iskandar's squad charged to go for gold at this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.

But defender Shakir Hamzah (right), one of the most experienced players in the Singapore Under-23 squad, recently lost the armband.

In a startling move, especially with the clock ticking down to the start of the SEA Games football tournament - the Games will officially be held here from June 5 to 16, but football starts on May 29, with the final on June 15 - Shakir is now in Johor for the LionsXII's Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final, second-leg match against Johor Darul Ta'zim II.

The 22-year-old has moved to the LionsXII and is no longer a member of the Courts Young Lions team that play in the S.League - the side that are made up of most of the U-23 players for Singapore's SEA Games team.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad said: "Yes, I'm definitely hoping to play him (today).

"We'll have to see how he manages, but he's a very experienced player who has been there (with the LionsXII in Malaysian football) for the past few seasons."

The LionsXII hold a 2-0 lead after the first leg and are favourites to advance to the Malaysian FA Cup semi-finals.

With the Singapore Under-23s poised to enter centralised training from May 1, the question is whether SEA Games coach Aide Iskandar will have all his players back for what will be a critical phase in the team's build-up to the tournament.

RESPONSE

Responding to queries from TNP, Gerard Wong, the Football Association of Singapore's director of marketing and communications, said:

"As part of our continuous efforts to look for ways to improve the Under-23 squad in their final phase of preparations for the SEA Games, we explored various options, including allowing some players to represent the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League.

"While waiting for senior management to make its decision on the various recommendations that have been put forth, Shakir was allowed to travel with the team to Johor. In the end, FAS' senior management supported the recommendation by (Aide) for the U-23 squad to stay intact for centralised training."

Which suggests that if the LionsXII make it for the FA Cup semi-finals, Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi and Shakir will miss out, because all three players are vital to the U-23s' SEA Games hopes, and the team's final phase of preparations will feature two centralised training camps (May 1 to 9 at the Singapore Sports School and May 10 to 17 in Japan).

The two legged semi-finals will be played over the weekend of May 9 and May 16, with the final scheduled on May 23, all important dates as Fandi searches for a first trophy since he took the LionsXII reins in 2014.

The LionsXII's move to sign Shakir - a check with the Football Association of Malaysia revealed that documents for his registration had already been submitted - comes during the current mid-season transfer window in the Malaysian Super League, which closes on April 28, and Fandi revealed that he has also requested for two more players from the Courts Young Lions, left-footed attacker Shahfiq Ghani and midfielder Safirul Sulaiman.

Said Fandi: "We did request for Safirul and Shahfiq too, but I'm not sure about the full details, we'll have to check with the management for that.

"They are supposed to join us after the SEA Games, but the transfer deadline is April 28, and there is no more room for further extension."


This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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