Skipper Shahril raring to go against Afghanistan
Shahril could start on Thursday, with Hariss and Safuwan ruled out
GROUP E: SINGAPORE v AFGHANISTAN
(Thursday, 7.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - ELEVEN)
He remains national captain, but the armband no longer sits on his arm.
These days, when the Lions play, Shahril Ishak more than likely starts on the bench.
He is fit, but hasn't played a minute in the last three World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifiers since his last appearance, a 10-minute cameo in the 4-0 win over Cambodia in June in their opening game.
And it's killing the 31-year-old.
"To be called up for the national team is always an honour for me, regardless if it's to win the first cap or the 125th cap," said Johor Darul Ta'zim II skipper, Shahril, who is hoping he will start when Singapore take on Afghanistan in a vital group clash at the National Stadium on Thursday.
"To be called up and not play, however, has been frustrating because I can still contribute."
Having played a record 124 times for his country, the 31-year-old will be honoured by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Thursday.
He made his debut for Singapore in 2003 and hit his peak in 2012, when he scored four goals to help the team lift the Asean title for what was then a record fourth time (Thailand equalled the feat last year).
Shahril, who along with veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan play for Johor Darul Ta'zim II in the second-tier Malaysian Premier League, was voted MVP in the tournament.
Mostly deployed as a playmaker in his career, Shahril's scoring form was impossible to ignore and then-coach Radojko Avramovic used him as a centre forward, moving regular No. 9 Aleksandar Duric to the wing.
Current coach Bernd Stange, appointed in May 2013, instituted a change in the way the Lions operated.
The German's use of the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 system has forced Shahril on to the bench.
Over the last few internationals, Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq have formed a solid three-man midfield, while the front three have featured striker Khairul Amri alongside two quick wide men.
The formula has worked.
In three away World Cup qualifiers, the Lions blasted Cambodia 4-0 before the stunning 0-0 draw with Japan, followed by a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat by Syria.
Hariss and Safuwan are both suspended for Thursday's game and Shahril may be about to feature in the starting 11 again.
He said: "This is football. When you get the chance, you have to grab it. I have been in this position before.
"So in another way, I am happy that the younger players have stepped up and done so well.
"I understand now that we have a different approach and system, which have been getting results recently, so I have to make way for other players.
"I am frustrated but I will be professional about it. I just want to work hard ahead of the Afghanistan and Cambodia games to fight my way back into the first team.
"And that means doing the best I can for JDT II in the Malaysia Cup now."
Stange, 67, has consistently made it clear he is building a national team for the future.
Asked whether Shahril will play on Thursday, the German would only say: "I hope a man with such experience can step in at the right moment.
"It is not helpful for us to have two of our most experienced players in the second division in Malaysia. But I believe in them and they have delivered every time we called upon them."
- Syria v Japan
Watch Lions' matches on ELEVEN
ELEVEN Sports Network will broadcast Singapore's next four World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium.
It will first broadcast the matches against Afghanistan on Thursday and against Cambodia next Tuesday live in full HD on ELEVEN (Singtel TV Ch 109).
Viewers can enjoy expert commentary on a special studio show hosted by resident presenter Richard Lenton, accompanied by a line-up of expert pundits and special guest Gabriel Quak.
The network will also broadcast the Lions' matches against Japan (Nov 12) and Syria (Nov 17).
ELEVEN Sports Network has also launched its "Roar With The Lions" campaign, where fans are encouraged to post images of themselves roaring on the Lions with the hashtag #RoarWithELEVEN. The winners will bring home 11 pairs of tickets for the Japan match. - DAVID LEE
Present A Copy Of TNP, Redeem A Scarf
The national football team need the fans to get behind them in their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Afghanistan at the National Stadium on Thursday.
And what better way to show your support than to wave the Singapore Scarf at the Stadium.
In a partnership with the Football Association of Singapore, fans who show up at the stadium with a copy of Thursday's The New Paper will get a Singapore scarf (right), while stocks last.
Scarves can be redeemed at an FAS booth in front of Gate 10 from 6pm to 8.30pm.
WIN AN EXCLUSIVE SIGNED LIONS JERSEY
The FAS is also offering four fans the chance to win an exclusive national jersey (above) each - autographed by the whole national team.
Answer this simple question:
- Shahril Ishak is the captain of the national football team.
- True or false? E-mail the correct answer with your full name and contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org by 6pm tomorrow. The four lucky winners will be notified by the FAS