Team Singapore

Surprise inclusion

Mustafic and Bennett named in 35-man provisional squad

IN AND OUT: Mustafic Fahrudin (top) and Daniel Bennette (centre) are out of the country while Isa Halim (above) is definitely out of the AFF Suzuki Cup. PHOTOS: TNP, ST FILE

They have been overlooked for almost two years.

So the inclusion of veteran duo Mustafic Fahrudin and Daniel Bennett in Singapore's provisional 35-man squad for next week's AFF Suzuki Cup certainly raised a few eyebrows.

They last donned the national jersey in Dec 2012, as part of the squad that won the tournament a record fourth time.

But the chances of the pair making the cut for the final 23-man squad are slim.

The New Paper understands that Tampines Rovers defensive midfielder Fahrudin, 33, left for Serbia - his country of birth - last Thursday. He plans to return at the turn of the new year for pre-season training with the Stags.

Meanwhile, Warriors FC's Briton-born defender Bennett, 36, left for Britain after the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League Awards Night last Sunday.

Asked why the two players are included in his draft squad, national coach Bernd Stange quizzically responded: "The provisional squad is not important for our final selection. We (will) strictly follow our way to rebuild a young and powerful national team."

One player who will definitely not be in the Suzuki Cup squad is Isa Halim. The 28-year-old LionsXII captain had struggled this year from a niggling ankle injury.

He went under the knife in late March and returned to action three months later.

Despite his recovery, the midfield hardman was not selected by Stange for a month-long training camp in Austria in July.

Isa, who made his national team debut aged 19, told TNP: "Like any player, I always want to represent my country. And, after being a part of the national team for so long, it's very disappointing not to be involved this time round.

"But I understand this hasn't been my best season because of injuries and my own performance, and I don't want to get selected just because I'm the LionsXII captain.

"I just want to forget the year, wish the team luck, and I'll keep working hard to earn my place back in the team."

THE PROVISIONAL SQUAD

  • Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Warriors FC), Izwan Mahbud (LionsXII), Syazwan Buhari, Rudy Khairullah (both Courts Young Lions)
  • Defenders: Baihakki Khaizan, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah, Madhu Mohana, Faritz Hameed, Afiq Yunos (all LionsXII), Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Amirul Adli (both Young Lions), Ismail Yunos, Daniel Bennett (both Warriors), Shaiful Esah (Tampines Rovers)
  • Midfielders: Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta'zim), Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Zulfahmi Arifin, Nazrul Nazari, Hafiz Abu Sujad (all LionsXII), Shahdan Sulaiman, Ismadi Mukhtar, Mustafic Fahrudin (all Tampines), M Anumanthan (Young Lions), Hafiz Rahim (Warriors), Yasir Hanapi (Home United)
  • Forwards: Shahril Ishak (JDT II), Khairul Amri, Khairul Nizam, Shahfiq Ghani (all LionsXII), Sahil Suhaimi, Iqbal Hussain, Adam Swandi (all Courts Young Lions), Fazrul Nawaz (Home).