Suzuki Cup: The foreign legion

Suzuki Cup: The foreign legion
Charyl Yannic Chappuis (left), Nil Maizar (centre), Jerry Lucena (right).

There was a time when Singapore's Foreign Talent Scheme was frowned upon by their regional rivals.

Since Mirko Grabovac and Egmar Goncalves became the first members of the Football Association of Singapore's Foreign Talent Scheme in 2002, the Republic's regional opponents have often viewed the presence of naturalised players as a footnote which has sullied the Lions' successes.

In 2011, former Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim said that the Lions were "nothing" without their foreign-born players, while his then-national coach K Rajagobal labelled them as the "special ones" in the national ranks.

DISAPORA

Lions coach Bernd Stange remains open to the idea of foreign-born additions, but no players have been naturalised since Qiu Li in 2010.

And with no foreign-born players set to be included in Singapore's AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup final squad, it could be a while before we see the likes of players such as Daniel Bennett, Mustafic Fahrudin and Aleksandar Duric donning the famous red jersey.

Meanwhile, other teams in the region have looked outwards - particularly to the diaspora - to improve their chances of footballing success.

Apart from Myanmar and Laos, all of Singapore's Suzuki Cup rivals have naturalised players over the past two years.

The New Paper looks at some of the foreign-born players who could feature at the AFF Suzuki Cup.

THE PHILIPPINES

The Azkals boast a veritable Filipino foreign legion in their national ranks.

The bulk of their AFF Suzuki Cup squad were born overseas, hailing from places as diverse as Germany, Holland, the United States, England, Spain and Japan.

Some prominent names include brothers Philip and James Younghusband, who were formerly on the books of Chelsea; Sporting Kansas City's Martin Steuble; Urawa Red Diamonds youth product Daisuke Sato; Esbjerg's Jerry Lucena and Alvaro Silva, who plies his trade in Kuwait with Al-Qadsia.

INDONESIA

After the Philippines, Indonesia are the team with the most naturalised players.

Their AFF Suzuki Cup squad include foreign-born players like Victor Igbonefo (Nigeria) and Cristian Gonzales (Uruguay) - who met residency requirements after playing in the domestic league - and players with Indonesian heritage.

Serginho van Dijk, who has played in the Dutch second tier, and former Feyenoord youth product Raphael Maitimo have Indonesian lineage.

MALAYSIA

Despite their past jibes about Singapore's foreign-born players, the Tigers have also gone down the naturalisation road recently.

Part-Swedish midfielder Junior Eldstal, who recently signed for Johor Darul Ta'zim, was part of their Asian Games team.

Also part of the Asiad team as one of the overaged players was Australian-born former Sydney FC player Brendan Gan.

The 26-year-old is on the standby list for Dollah Salleh's AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

THAILAND

One of the standout players of the War Elephants' run to the semi-finals of the Asian Games was Charyl Chappuis.

The ex-Swiss youth international's performances in South Korea helped the former Grasshoppers and Lugano player seal his spot in Kiatisuk Senamuang's AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

Other foreign-born players who have been called up by the Thais in recent years include another former Swiss youth international in Peter Lang, American-born Anthony Ampaipitakwong and ex-German junior international Dennis Buschening.

VIETNAM

Vietnam's main sources of foreign talent are France and the Czech Republic.

They have capped Michal Nguyen, who previously played in the second tier of Czech football with Banik Most, while Sparta Prague youth product Mac Hong Quan made his Asian Games squad in Incheon, South Korea, and is in the provisional AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

Ligue 1 club Metz's Michel Le has trained with the Vietnamese Under-23 side, while Monaco youth product Nicolas Martinez has expressed his desire to turn out for Toshiya Miura's side.


This article was first published on Nov 20, 2014.
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