SINGAPORE - Aide Iskandar has witnessed the Gabriel Quak effect first-hand and he loves it: Teenage girls scream the dashing LionsXII footballer's name during matches and clamour to get pictures of him.
The new national Under-23 coach told The Sunday Times that Singapore football does not have enough talented Chinese players with the appeal to excite the fans.
It has been seven years since a Singapore-born Chinese player, Goh Tat Chuan, featured regularly in the national team. That is too long, says Aide, who played alongside household names Lim Tong Hai, Steven Tan and Lee Man Hon in the 1994 Malaysia League and Cup-winning year.
With the Lions getting ready to make the 50,000-seat Sports Hub their new home ground, they will need bigger drawing power to fill the seats, compared to selling out the 7,500-seat Jalan Besar Stadium in recent years.
Having done a spell as coach of the Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) football team last year, Aide knows there is no shortage of the kind of players he wants.
"I saw that there were a lot of Chinese boys who can really play good football," he said. "The Chinese are the majority in Singapore's population but many drop out of football after the age of 16 to focus on their studies.
"As a coach, I really hope to create a bigger pool of players by looking for more Chinese and Indian players."
He has noted some bright sparks. He thinks Joel Chew, 13, from the Singapore Sports School, is an exciting youngster with flair on the field.
Aide, who is also coach of the Courts Young Lions, has five Chinese players in his S-League team, and rates 21-year-old Stanely Ng highly as someone to watch.
"He could be a big star in the 2015 SEA Games," he said.
At next month's Myanmar SEA Games, Aide will be counting on Quak to make an impact, not unlike how he scored the winning goal against Syria in last month's Asian Cup qualifier.
Said Aide: "Gabriel has proved he is a skilful player with a sweet left foot. He is also a good-looking and marketable talent. If there are more players like Gabriel, the fan base will increase."
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