Monthly Archives: January 2009

Newsflash: Three big names to be axed from Lions squad, says source

Three big-name Singapore players are likely to be axed from the national squad when national coach Radojko Avramovic re-gathers his Lions for the remainder of 2011 Asian Cup Group E qualifying matches in November.

A source close to the national set-up has revealed to the Singapore Sports Fan the names of the three ‘stars’.

However, the SSF has decided not to unveil them on this blog for now.

But Singapore’s 2-1 win over Jordan on Wednesday should give a pretty good idea to sharp-eyed and discerning fans just who some of these players might be.

When asked why the players will be axed, our source said: “After winning two Asean Championships, some of the senior players think they are big stars who are indispensable to the side.

“They have gotten too big for their boots. It is also quite clear that they choose the matches that they want to play in.”

When asked what he meant by the last statement, our source said: “It is very obvious that they pull their punches when Singapore takes on much tougher opponents. They don’t go all out, and they don’t contribute to the team effort.

“All these recent developments have definitely affected team morale.”

Our source’s explanation ties in with Avramovic’s cryptic remark at the Singapore-Jordan post-match press conference.

National coach Raddy Avramovic is expected to axe three big-name Lions by the time the Asian Cup qualifiers resume in November (Picture taken from www.daylife.com)

National coach Raddy Avramovic is expected to axe three big-name Lions by the time the Asian Cup qualifiers resume in November (Picture taken from http://www.daylife.com)

When asked to assess his team’s performance, the 59-year-old Serb had said: “The team spirit is back a little. It’s not back to 100 per cent but it’s back.” (‘Lions back on track’, TODAY, 29 Jan 2009) 

Avramovic did not elaborate further on the ‘team spirit’ remark.

Our source added that one of the Lions who will be axed has already lost the confidence of his team-mates because of his poor technical ability.

“His recent poor performances have caused his team-mates to lose their confidence in him,” he said. “They feel that he panics under pressure and gives the ball away too quickly.”

Finally, our source tells us that the Lions are likely to have a new skipper at the helm when the Asian Cup qualifying campaign resumes in November.

“We need someone who is a fighter and who can lead by example,” he said.

“We’ve identified the person and hopefully, the captaincy will also help him to mature further as a player, and enable him to channel his natural aggressive style of play into leadership qualities.”

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

P/S: By the way, check out this nine-minute video which captures all the highlights of Singapore’s 2-1 win over Jordan in an Asian Cup qualifying match on Wednesday.

I thought it was a great piece of editing by the author who goes by the moniker ‘footy4life09’.

But more importantly, the video will show you that national coach Avramovic is already making some progress in his efforts to reshape the national team. Singapore put up a tenacious display, one that was full of running and decent passing.

The performance is still some way off the top-notch display that enabled Singapore to stun Iraq 2-0 in 2007.

Nevertheless, the signs are promising.

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Two rays of hope for the young aspiring Singapore Chinese footballer?

The report:

The Sunday Times (25 Jan 2009) carried a pretty good interview with national coach Raddy Avramovic, in which he revealed his plans to wield the axe on a number of Lions and replace them with up to six new faces.

It has to be done, he explained , simply because he feels that time has caught up with ‘this generation of players.’

According to the report, insiders say that the new faces include Young Lions centre-back Afiq Yunos, midfielder Gabriel Quak and strikers Eugene Luo and Khairul Nizam.

Some may wonder at the timing of the move to bring in new faces espeically since Singapore is now in the midst of its Asian Cup qualifying campaign. Apart from hosting the tournament once in the 80s, the Lions have never qualified for the competition on their own merit before.

But Avramovic felt that it is the right time to do so. “Even if we beat Jordan, it is still the right time to bring in the young faces and give them a feel of international football… to let them learn from the experienced players and understand the pressure international football brings,” he said. 

You can click here for the full article.

My thoughts:

Two things struck me instantly when I read the above-mentioned article.

Firstly, the report named only four of the ‘five or six young players’ that Avramovic plans to introduce into the national squad.

This, to me, is a strong hint that the remaining two players are likely to be naturalised citizens.

If that turns out to be true, then it means that the Lions will now have 10 naturalised citizens in their ranks.

The current batch of naturalised citizens includes defenders Precious Emuejeraye and Daniel Bennett, midfielders Mustafic Fahrudin, John Wilkinson and Shi Jiayi, and strikers Agu Cashmir, Aleksandar Duric and  Qiu Li.

Assuming that the Lions squad is 22-strong, this means that half of the Singapore team will be made of foreign talents. But I have a feeling this number will drop to eight eventually. 

I am working on the assumption that Precious will probably be axed from the team eventually while the ageing Duric – he is 39 this year – will likely have to call time on his international career if he wants to prolong his club playing career.

The other thing that struck me: the fact that two of the new faces are Singaporean Chinese players.

You cannot imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see the names “Eugene Luo’ and ‘Gabriel Quak” in the article.

After all, there has not been a Singaporean Chinese player in the Lions first 11 since midfielder Goh Tat Chuan was axed from the national squad by Avramovic in 2006.

There are two Chinese players – Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li – but they are China -born naturalised citizens.

Considering the fact that 76% of the Singapore population is Chinese, this current dearth of local Chinese players in the national squad makes for a pretty ridiculous and embarrassing situation for the Singapore football fan and the Football Association of Singapore.

Hopefully, the arrival of Luo and Quak is a sign that things are about to change. The fact that they’ve been called up to the national squad will hopefully inspire more Chinese boys to follow their footballing dreams.

By the way, the reason why I am so cheered by Luo and Quak’s call-ups is not because I am Chinese myself.

It is because the dearth of local Chinese footballers means that the FAS has, in the past, only been able to tap on 24% of the Singapore population in its search for local footballing talent.

This itself has had severe repercussions for the progress of Singapore football.

After all, if your pool of talent is already so small, logically, it just means that you’re going to hit a wall sooner or later. The fact that the FAS has been recruting foreign talents to play for the Lions means that it hit that wall a long time ago.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that Luo is a striker. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a  local Chinese forward in the national team.

In fact, the Singapore Chinese striker has been such a rarity in the past 30 years that you can practically count them with  one hand.

That’s not all – the legendary Quah Kim Song aside, the rest were mainly bit players in the national set-up.

They included

– Wong Kok Choy (my favourite player from Singapore’s 1980 Pre-Olympic qualifying campaign adventure who strangely disappeared from the scene after that )

– Michael Tan (who played just a couple of Malaysia Cup matches in the early 80s before disappearing from the scene),

– Tay Peng Kee (who was usually used as a substitute during his stint with the Lions in the late 80s. Nevertheless, he still managed to score a handful of goals)

–  Toh Choon Ming (a prolific striker in the S-League for Gombak United and Jurong in the late 90s, but who would either disappoint in the few national team matches he played in or drop out of the squad, citing work commitments each time).

What about Steven Tan? Well, the fact that the ex-Tanjong Pagar United and Tampines Rovers winger was often called Super-Sub during the Malaysia Cup days shows that even he had difficulties commanding a place in the first eleven.

So I’m really looking forward to seeing Quak and Luo in action for the Lions one day. Here’s hoping that they will grab with both hands the precious opportunity that has been given to them and make full use of it.

I’m also hoping that Luo will turn out to be a decent and fairly regular goal-scorer. That is a sure-fire way of not only capturing the public’s imagination but of inspiring other young aspiring Chinese footballers.

As I wrote in one of my first few posts nine months ago, Quah was such an inspiration that kids were proudly wearing Quah Kim Song t-shirts which were bought from the market.

Back then, even my Teochew-speaking nanny, who had no formal education, knew who Kim Song was. And she would proudly say each time on the eve of a Malaysia Cup game: “As long as Kim Song is playing, Singapore will win.”

I’m not sure if we can ever say the same of Luo. After all, he would have already been noticed and featured in the papers a long time ago if he is such a prodiguous talent.

I would be more than happy if he emerges as a reliable forward. That would be good enough for this long-suffering Lions fan, thank you very much.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

27 May 2008 – Go for it Jasper (but alas, you are no Kim Song)

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How poor were our Lions against Iran? Check out this clip and judge for yourselves

Still on Singapore’s recent 0-6 thrashing by Iran in their group’s opening Asian Cup qualifying match.

Here’s a video of the match highlinghts namely Ismal Yunos’ dismissal and the six goals that Iran subsequently scored.

I’ll leave it to you decide how badly Singapore played in the match after Ismail’s sacking in the 39th minute.

As you watch, do recall national coach Raddy Avramovic’s criticism of the Lions:

“They didn’t want to play as a team. It looked like nobody wanted to put in the extra effort that is necessary when you play with 10 men. That is just wrong.”

 

“Some players don’t feel responsible for the team, that was clear. When we were in possession, nobody wanted the ball. You will only concede three goals in five minutes if you play without responsibility.”

 

Do you think Avramovic’s criticisms were justified?

As for me, what I can see from the video was a woeful performance by the Singapore backine and some seriously horrendous marking (or lack of).

Note:

Singapore takes on Jordan on Wednesday, 28 Jan, at the National Stadium. It has to win this match if it wants to grab one of the group’s two qualifying spots for the 2011 Asian Cup. Jordan drew 0-0 with Thailand in their opening group encounter.

You can watch the video of that game here:

Also, check out this blog: http://goalztv.tk – it has a collection of Asian intenational matches and seems to beupdated fairly frequently.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

14 Jan 2009 – Newsflash: Singapore goes down 0-6 toIran in Asian Cup qualifying opener

16 Jan 2009 – Singapore v Iran – Then and Now *Shudder*

20 Jan 2009 – Our Lions start to show their true colours and growing arrogance

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