Football: Singapore select to take on Gunners

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said yesterday that a Singapore Select XI will be fielded for the inaugural Barclay's Asia Trophy, taking on English Premier League clubs Arsenal, Everton and Stoke at the National Stadium in July.

The tournament is set to generate tremendous excitement, and takes on even greater significance in Singapore's 50th year of independence, and one school of thought would be to see the Lions play, and experience and learn against the likes of Santi Carzola, Mesut Oezil, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Peter Crouch.

In all likelihood, the squad will be similar to the one beaten 5-0 by Italian champions Juventus in a one-off exhibition match last August.

Back then, the team comprised mainly players from the national side, with the addition of three foreign players in S.League trio Sirina Camara (Home United), Miroslav Pejic and Nicolas Velez (both Warriors FC).

The man at the helm was national coach Bernd Stange and, even though the German's contract is reportedly up this August, he could get the nod to guide the Singapore team in the glamour quadrangular.

In response to queries, FAS director of marketing and communications Gerard Wong said the uncertainty over the availability of Singapore's overseas-based players means a decision on the squad's make-up will be made only later.

"We are certainly keen to field a side filled with our Lions for our fans and we want to expose our players to top-level opponents," he said.

"The Barclays Asia Trophy is not being held during a Fifa international week, which means we will be doing our best to secure as many of our national players - some of whom are playing for foreign clubs - as possible in order to field our strongest side for the tournament."

Currently, three national players play professionally abroad.

Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is in Thailand with Army United, midfielder Hariss Harun plays for Johor Darul Ta'zim in Malaysia and Safuwan Baharudin has a month to go on his loan at Australian club Melbourne City, although the A-League team could choose to make the move permanent.

When contacted, R Sasikumar, the former national defender and current group chief executive officer of sports marketing agency Red Card Global, said: "The Select team need to be able to tempt more fans out. Perhaps they could get a few foreign players in to get the quality up.


"They should go for a team that are 90 per cent made up of our national boys, and a few foreign players with the right quality, so the team can be more competitive.

"Maybe they could even get one or two top players from other South-east Asian countries, to add more commercial value."

Former national striker Indra Sahdan, who as a fresh-faced 22-year-old scored a memorable goal for a Singapore Select side that were beaten 8-1 by Manchester United in 2001, stressed that only the right foreign players should be selected to complement the team.

The Tampines Rovers striker said: "Since it's going to be a Singapore Select team, they should get a mix of the best players from the S.League and the LionsXII.

"I don't think foreign players should be included unless they are much better than our local players. If not, it'd be better to give our local boys a chance to play against some of the world's best players."

Both Sasi and Indra hope a local will be coach of the team, especially if the FAS doesn't plan on extending Stange's contract.

"If Stange is on his way out, whoever is second in line, be it Aide (Iskandar, Under-23 coach) or Fandi (Ahmad, LionsXII coach), should take charge of the team," said Sasi.

"It would be nice for a local coach to have this on his CV."

Added Indra: "If Aide manages to get us a gold medal at the SEA Games in June, then why not? He or Fandi would make good choices."

The fifth Barclays Asia Trophy tournament will take place over two matchdays, on July 15 and 18.

Two matches will be played on the first matchday, and two others - a final and a third-place playoff - will take place on July 18. All four matches will be held at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium. Ticketing information will be announced in May.

This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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