Wycombe's O'Nien keen to play for Singapore
O'Nien, likely to face Villa in FA Cup tonight, is keen to represent the Republic
WYCOMBE WANDERERS v ASTON VILLA
(Tonight, 8.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
A future Singapore international could be playing against Aston Villa in the English FA Cup tonight.
Hertfordshire-born Luke O'Nien (pronounced "Oh-nigh-en"), a 21-year-old midfielder playing for League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, is eligible to play for the Republic's national team through his late Singaporean grandfather, Lim Cheng Siong.
Lim, who married an Englishwoman, is the younger brother of the late Lim Kim San, a former long-time Cabinet Minister fondly remembered as "Mr HDB" for solving newly independent Singapore's housing woes in the 1960s.
O'Nien's mother, Monica Lim Hong Geok, married Englishman Terry O'Nien.
In a Skype interview with The New Paper on Tuesday, O'Nien said he was keen to don the Singapore jersey.
"It would be a great opportunity, a great experience, and I'd love to have the opportunity to play for Singapore," he said.
"Playing for the national team is massive. It's an honour.
"Obviously everyone's dream is to play for his country.
"When I was growing up, I always wanted to represent England.
"(But) if the call comes from Singapore... it'd be a proud moment for me and I'd highly consider it."
According to Fifa rules, a player is eligible to represent more than one nation if "his grandmother or grandfather was born in the territory of the relevant Association".
Should the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) be interested in calling O'Nien up for future Lions squads, a written request has to be submitted to the Fifa general secretariat.
The Fifa Players' Status Committee will then approve or reject the request, after verifying the player's eligibility.
There is a similar precedent in South-east Asian football.
In 2012, Raphael Maitimo, a Rotterdam-born footballer who played for Holland's youth national teams, represented Indonesia's senior national team as his grandfather was born in Sumatra.
In response to queries, an FAS spokesman said: "The national team selectors would consider all top-performing players who are eligible to play for Singapore, which includes meeting Fifa eligibility and Singapore citizenship requirements."
Born in Hertfordshire, North-east London, O'Nien joined the academy of Premier League Watford at the age of nine.
He worked his way up to the fringes of the first team and made his league debut for the Hornets in their 3-0 win over Barnsley on March 15 , 2014, but was released when his contract expired at the end of last season.
He joined League Two outfit Wycombe this season and has been a key part of the Chairboys push for promotion.
The side, coached by former QPR midfielder Gareth Ainsworth, are currently sixth in League Two, with just over half the season gone.
O'Nien has proven a fan favourite at Wycombe and even has his own hashtag: #SweetChildONien, a riff on the famous Guns N' Roses song.
He has always been aware of his Singaporean lineage, although he says he has visited the Lion City only twice: in 2000 and 2006.
"Both times, I visited Singapore during the Christmas holidays... I still have family over there," he said. "I didn't get to meet my granddad because he sadly passed away before I was born, but I got to meet Lim Kim San. I have some fond memories of him and where he lived."
With his jet black hair, O'Nien claims he stood out as a kid because of his looks.
"At school, I was also one of the more tanned students," he said. "People always saw that there was something different, but they could never work it out.
"They were always quite surprised as well when I say I'm a quarter-Singaporean. Some people didn't believe me."
Veteran defender Daniel Bennett is the only Singaporean footballer who has played professionally in England.
The 37-year-old, who has signed for Geylang International ahead of the new S.League season, enjoyed two stints (2001-02, 2002-03) with Welsh club Wrexham.
In his second spell, he helped the club win the Football Association of Wales Premier Cup and promotion to the English second division.
Born in England, Bennett moved to Singapore aged three and became a Singapore citizen in Sept 2002.
He went on to earn 122 caps for the Lions, a record that was eclipsed by Shahril Ishak last June.
- Name: Luke O'Nien
- Date of birth: Nov 21, 1994
- Place of birth: Hertfordshire, England
- Height: 1.74m
- Weight: 74kg
- Former team: Watford