Locals playing overseas good for Singapore football: Officials, players

Losing players to overseas leagues does not mean local football is losing out; not as long as Singapore continues to develop talent to replace the stars who leave.

Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson said fans and football administrators should not have a myopic view on players leaving to ply their trade in Malaysia.

His comments come as a reaction to The New Paper's story yesterday which detailed LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan's lucrative move to Johor FA.

From next year, Baihakki will play for moneybags Johor FA in the Malaysian Premier League in a four-year deal that will see him bank in a total of $1.5 million.

Baihakki, 29, told TNP that he had signed the deal with the Malaysian second-tier side, and sources have revealed that he will be earning $30,000 per month, not including allowances and a signing-on fee.

The defender joins national captain Shahril Ishak and vice-captain Hariss Harun to Johor FA and Johor Darul Takzim respectively.

Thava said the players' decisions were understandable and not an indication that Singapore football was lagging behind.

He said: "The myopic view is that we are losing players to our Causeway rivals. But, though the clubs here will miss out on such players, the national team will still benefit when they return for international duty.

"Football here is in the professional era, and I've always been supportive of players who can get a lucrative contract from elsewhere.

"It's good also for the younger players. Then they can see that when they work hard, success and money will follow."

Thava did admit, though, that S-League clubs are no match when it comes to the financial muscle of Malaysian teams.

Referring to Baihakki's case, however, he points out that this is a unique situation.

"What (Baihakki) is getting is not the market rate," Thava said.

"I don't think even another Malaysian state team could outbid Johor's offer.

"It's not a case of us offering $6,000 and Malaysia offering $7,000. This is $6,000 against $30,000.

"It is a problem when you talk about competing financially, but you must understand that many of these Malaysian teams are backed by the state or royalty.

"Unless a Singapore tycoon comes in on our end, what can we do?

NO WORRIES

"Rather than worry about lack of finances, we should ensure a consistent supply of young talent here. So, if each Malaysian team sign one Singapore player some day, we're not worried."

Geylang International's assistant coach, Mohd Noor Ali, agreed that if a player leaves for Malaysia, it should be viewed as an encouragement for younger players.

"I know Bai personally, and I'm really happy for him," Noor said.

"If I were a younger player, I would be very encouraged by him and Hariss. Whether I'm playing for the national team, LionsXII or an S-League club, I will strive to play well and try to earn that sort of offer from abroad.

"In a way, it does feel as if Singapore are losing out. We want people to watch the S-League but we are losing our best players to Malaysia.

"But you must be realistic. I don't think anyone in the S-League has ever been paid as much as what Baihakki is getting - not even in the beginning (1996) when the S-League was flying high. So his case is a one-off."

On the other hand, Home United striker Indra Sahdan predicts a trend forming.

The 34-year-old former national captain said he would not be surprised if more players from the LionsXII make the move north at the end of next year.

Said Indra: "If the LionsXII keep performing, I won't be surprised if two or three more players sign for Malaysian clubs in the future, especially with the three foreigners plus one Asean player rule.

"It is a problem for us, at least in the S-League.

"Because the talent we lose is their gain. It saddens me, but we can't do anything about it.

"If the clubs here can't pay what others can, players will leave. That will happen in any country."

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