Turkish delight for Young Lions

Lions assistant coach Aide Iskandar (in black) gives some advice to Anumanthan Kumar and Iqbal Hamid (left) during a training session.

The Singapore men's Under-23 football team will leave for Myanmar on Tuesday confident of winning at least a medal at this year's South-east Asia (SEA Games), which will kick off next month.

The official target is to reach the final, but many believe the side are even capable of winning Singapore's first football gold at the Games.

The official target when Singapore hosts the 2015 SEA Games is gold. And the quest to realise the dream on home soil will start in January next year - in Turkey.

Even before this year's cohort have packed their bags, plans for the 2015 team have taken shape.

Aide Iskandar, the man tasked to lead Singapore this year as well as the 2015 Games, revealed yesterday that a 25- man squad from the Courts Young Lions will spend four weeks in Turkey between mid-January and mid-February.

The team will play five games against European club sides who will also be spending time there during their winter break.

The squad will also train three times a day to make the most of their time in Europe.

Speaking to The New Paper, Aide said: "A gold medal in 2015 is a lofty target, and it's important that we start preparations early, get some quality opposition for the boys and play and train at quality facilities.

"Based on Bernd's (Stange, Singapore national coach) experience, teams like (German sides) Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt will be there...along with Russian teams like Rubin Kazan and Lokomotiv Moscow.

"And we will look to play games against their first teams, and also other second-tier sides."

Big challenge

"This will be a big challenge for the boys, but it will be good to play against big opponents because even though we may get whacked, we can get stronger," added Aide.

Aide's squad will be made up of players born in 1992 and several of them will be in National Service (NS), but the former Singapore captain is hopeful that most will be able to make the trip. The former central defender said: "We are working closely with the Singapore Sports Council and the Ministry of Defence (Mindef ). Of course NS is important, but we hope that they will be able to utilise leave under the SAF Sportsmen's Scheme and go."

The SAF Sportsmen's Scheme gives serviceman-athletes full pay for unrecorded leave for sporting purposes.

Under the watchful eyes of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director, Slobodan Pavkovic, and national fitness coach Aleksandar Bozenko, the Young Lions started their first day of pre-season training last night at Hougang Stadium.

Aide will take the reins when he returns from the SEA Games in Myanmar.

More is in store for the 2015 SEA Games squad tasked to win gold in front of a home crowd at the new 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Instead of playing in the League Cup and RHB Singapore Cup next year, the Young Lions aim to participate in a tournament on foreign soil, with another overseas training stint pencilled in at the end of 2014.

"Early preparation is important, and Turkey is just the first bit of our SEA Games 2015 preparation plan," said Aide.


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