Fandi issues challenge to SEA Games hopefuls
S'pore U-22 coach wants youngsters to impress him
Prove yourselves and earn your place in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games squad.
|HOME UNITED||YOUNG LIONS|
That's what Singapore Under-22 coach Fandi Ahmad is telling not only his players from the Young Lions, but also those from other clubs, ahead of the Nov 30-Dec 11 Games in the Philippines.
With the tweak in ruling that allows each country to field two senior players for the first time since the SEA Games football competition became an age-group event in 2001, it will be a tougher fight for places this time around.
Hence, Fandi has thrown down the gauntlet to the youngsters who are hoping to get on the plane to the Philippines.
They have until August to impress him as the final deadline for team registration is in September.
Said Fandi: "This will definitely be a good challenge for them. Now, they have till August to improve and show what they can bring (to the table)."
The Young Lions have taken heed of his words, shocking big-spending Hougang United 2-1 last Sunday. Tomorrow, they will hope to claim another big scalp when they take on title challengers Home United at the Bishan Stadium.
Players are acutely aware that they are not just helping their team earn the three points from now, but also boosting their SEA Games prospects.
Young Lions captain Joshua Pereira said he can't take his first-team spot for granted, adding that he has to work harder too.
The 21-year-old also has another reason for keeping his place in the team- he wants to play alongside the senior Lions.
He said: "Most of us have never played with (senior) internationals before, so it'll be more of a dream come true - from watching them play live on national television to playing alongside them."
LEARNING FROM SENIORS
Home midfielder Hami Syahin echoed those sentiments. The 20-year-old impressed while playing for the Singapore U-22s in last month's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifiers in Mongolia, but knows he needs to keep it up.
He said: "I feel that I have only a short time to prove to Fandi why I should be part of the squad. (But) I will just play my normal game and also take up as many lessons I can from the senior players at Home."
Defender Irfan Najeeb, who also played in the AFC U-23 qualifiers, said he has been kept constantly on his toes.
"For some of us, we were already fighting for a spot in the first place," said the 19-year-old centre-back, who plays for Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association in the amateur National Football League.
"It depends on whether they (the senior players called up) affect my position, but I will work harder because I want to reach their level when they train with us."
His efforts are not likely to go unnoticed. As Fandi puts it: "We would know who to scout from the clubs or Young Lions because we have enough coaches to go around."