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.
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.
– 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