Sahil Suhaimi will not play for the Courts Young Lions in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League until he passes the mandatory fitness test - the 2.4 kilometre run.
Fresh off a one-month training stint in Turkey that saw the Young Lions train twice every day, the injury-free 21-year-old striker has failed the 2.4km run - twice.
His inability to clear the passing mark of 10 minutes - he clocked 11min, then 10:18 on his second attempt - has also seen him dropped from the national squad who will travel to Muscat to face Oman in the final Asian Cup Group A qualifier on March 5.
"I wanted to test him against Oman but, under the circumstances, I have to drop him. We can't have players who can't pass a fitness test," Lions coach Bernd Stange told The New Paper yesterday.
"It is strange. After one month of professional training (in Turkey), there is no reason for him to be unable to pass, especially if the goalkeepers in the team can."
Tampines Rovers' 43-year-old forward Aleksandar Duric clocked 8:30 on his first attempt.
"We are short on strikers and this affects me, but we will send him to the doctor to see if there's anything wrong," added German Stange.
Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar is determined to help Sahil improve his fitness.
He said: "His match fitness was not a concern for me at the South-east Asia Games, nor in Turkey. In fact, he's got through training sessions impressively.
"I think it's a mental thing and we need to help him get past this, because the team will definitely miss him."
Without Sahil, the Young Lions fell 4-0 to Balestier Khalsa in their opening S.League fixture last night, lacking bite in midfield and imagination up front.
Sahil's inexplicable failure to clear the test has led to speculation in the football fraternity, with sources suggesting that he is holding out for a move to Fandi Ahmad's LionsXII side who play in the Malaysian Super League (MSL). The MSL does not have mandatory fitness assessment. Stange rubbished the rumours.
"We will take only the best players, not the ones who can't run. As long as Sahil can't run, Fandi won't take him," said the 65-year-old.
FITNESS MOST IMPORTANT
"Fitness is basic and it comes before anything else."
Denying the rumours linking himself to Fandi's side, Sahil could not quite explain his struggles with the test that is also used in schools and National Service.
"I don't have a problem with fitness in matches, but I don't know why I can't pass," he said. "It's like there's something telling me to stop when I'm doing the test. I feel so tired when I'm running, but I'm fine after I finish the run."
The league has come under fire for its mandatory fitness tests in the past, but Sahil is determined to clear the hurdle.
"I will train on the track instead of the pitch every day if I have to. I want to pass, get back on the field and help my team."
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