Afiq soldiers on to under-23 squad

Lions S-League player Afiq Yunos will be part of the Singapore Under-23 side to face off their Indonesian counterparts and qualify for December's SEA Games in Myanmar. The 23-year-old footballer treasured the opportunity to play in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League when it came to him and gave it his all. His efforts have paid off and scored him a place in this Saturday's SEA qualifying match with Indonesia. 

SINGAPORE - He is proving to be an anomaly in local sport - a footballer whose game has thrived while he serves his national service.

But the reason behind Afiq Yunos' fine form with the Courts Young Lions in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League is simple.

"When I was in camp, I could not go out at all," said the 22-year-old, who in April received permission from his Army supervisors to resume playing.

"I wanted to be in the team but I couldn't, so when the time to shine came, I gave it my all."

It has paid off. He and Delwinder Singh are the only two S-League players named in the Singapore Under-23 side to face their Indonesia counterparts at Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

The other 22 players selected all play regularly under coach V. Sundramoorthy in the LionsXII.

"I'm really grateful to be selected," Afiq said. "I've been waiting for this since enlisting in February 2012."

His form since returning to action has been impressive - the Young Lions' two League Cup wins this season both featured goals by the 1.84m-tall centre-back.

"He's been playing very well in the S-League," Sundram pointed out. "He's a very useful player who's good in the air, physically strong and very disciplined."

The 47-year-old was similarly full of praise for Delwinder, who missed yesterday's training session as he was helping Geylang International record a 1-0 league win at Hougang United.

"He's having a very decent season at Geylang and can help us," Sundram said of the defender.

Saturday's friendly is possibly the final chance for the U-23 side to convince the Singapore National Olympic Council that they should compete in December's South-east Asia Games in Myanmar. They need to prove they can beat at least the third-placed side of the previous Games, and defeating Indonesia - silver medallists in the 2011 edition - could earn them the nod.

Sundram, who will lead the Singapore U-23s in Myanmar, said Afiq and Delwinder have set a benchmark for other S-League players who wish to make the team.

"Definitely, the door is open to everybody; if they perform well, they will be given a chance to play."

And such a chance is all Afiq is hoping for ahead of the Games.

Turning 23 on Dec 10, this will be his third and final shot at winning the elusive first football gold medal for Singapore. He was in the teams that contested in the two previous SEA Games.

"I really want to win this year's SEA Games title," Afiq stressed.

"That has been all I've thought of for the past year and a half."