Stags lead in LionsXII hail

Stags lead in LionsXII hail
LionsXII's Christopher van Huizen, a promising 23-year-old midfielder, at a training session at Geylang Lor 12 Field on 20 November 2015, ahead of their Malaysia Cup first-leg match next Tuesday away in Pahang.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A week after the disbanding of the LionsXII, the fate of many of their footballers is set to be resolved with as many as 10 players securing contracts with S-League clubs.

The swoop for Fandi Ahmad's men is led by powerhouses Tampines Rovers, who are rebuilding almost from scratch by signing at least six of the players - Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Sufian Anuar, Firdaus Kasman, Afiq Yunos and Christopher van Huizen.

Tough centre-back Madhu Mohana has also signed for a S-League club, believed to be Warriors FC.

He tweeted: "Signed and Sealed. S-League."

Geylang International has also announced the capture of overlapping right-back Faritz Hameed on Facebook. The Straits Times understands the Eagles are also interested in tricky winger Gabriel Quak.

The futures of LionsXII midfielders Faris Ramli and Shahdan Sulaiman are still undecided but Warriors and Tampines are believed to be involved in a tug of war.

As Faris, who is also attracting interest from Malaysian Super League side Selangor, said yesterday: "It is not confirmed - I have not made a decision yet and am still in talks."

As Malaysia's Johor Darul Takzim I celebrate a continental triumph in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, second in prestige to the AFC Champions League, the Stags want to assemble a squad capable of making an impact in the 2016 edition.

At yesterday's draw made at AFC, Tampines will meet Selangor, Ceres from the Philippines and Bangladesh's Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in Group E.

The Stags also have an opportunity to qualify for the Champions League when they meet India's Mohun Bagan in the first of three preliminary rounds.

The S-League's other representatives, Balestier Khalsa, are in Group F alongside Hong Kong's Kitchee, New Radiant from the Maldives and the Philippines' Kaya.

Apart from signing a clutch of LionsXII players to signal their ambitions, Tampines also teamed up with Ronaldinho yesterday to jointly launch an academy, which aims to inculcate youngsters in the flamboyant Brazilian game through two coaches from Brazil.

The prospect of featuring in one of Asia's premier football tournaments is a lure for Hafiz to sign with V. Sundramoorthy's team.

The 25-year-old left-back said: "They are playing in the AFC Cup and also in the AFC Champions League (preliminaries), and it is something that I look forward to, something that's new, in my career moving forward now."

Making way for the new players at Tampines are their entire contingent of five foreign signings.

In addition, local veterans such as Noh Alam Shah, Indra Sahdan, Shaiful Esah and Ridhuan Muhammad are not on the retain list.

National left-back Shaiful signed for Warriors on Wednesday, following his release by Tampines.

He said: "I'm just grateful for Warriors for giving me a chance to continue to play.

"I want to repay the club for it."

This article was first published on December 11, 2015.
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