Lion City Sailors’ star Shahdan Sulaiman eyes a dream voyage
National midfielder seeks second league title after winning with Tampines in 2013
Shahdan Sulaiman enters the 14th season of his professional career, but the national midfielder just can't wait for the kick-off.
The playmaker, 31, is itching to start the new campaign with new club Lion City Sailors, previously known as Home United.
Shahdan, one of several stars poached by the first-ever privatised club in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), said: "After listening to the club's ambitions, I was convinced to come here.
"It was a very difficult decision to leave Tampines Rovers after a good season, but I am definitely very excited this year.
"Just hearing about the players that I would be playing with already excited me... I hope we can all do well together."
Besides Shahdan - one of three nominees for last season's SPL Player of the Year and the Stags' Player of the Season - the Sailors have also acquired Lions forward Gabriel Quak, who was arguably Warriors FC's best player, as well as national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.
They have also been boosted by ex-Albirex Niigata defender Kaishu Yamazaki, one of three nominees for last season's SPL Young Player of the Year, and Australian forward Andy Pengelly from Brisbane Strikers.
It led to Tampines chairman Desmond Ong comparing the Sailors' off-season as playing "Championship Manager on a cheat code" during an interview with The Straits Times.
Shahdan, who was an integral part of Singapore's victorious 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign and also in the LionsXII's 2015 Malaysia FA Cup-winning side, is eager to add to the 2013 S-League title he won with Tampines.
But he knows that it will be easier said than done.
He said: "It will be a tough season. Everyone will want to beat us. You can see it on social media...
"But, with that, comes the pressure and it's about how we handle it. I want us to take it in our stride and perform better."
Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar believes Shahdan's quality will be vital to his side.
Said the former Australia captain: "He's a classy player. There is a reason why he was nominated as one of the players of the competition last year.
"He has a calming effect on the squad, he knows how to increase the tempo and slow it."
Be it stormy seas or choppy waters ahead, the Sailors can be assured, knowing that they have seasoned campaigners like Shahdan on deck.
LION CITY SAILORS
Coach: Aurelio Vidmar
Homeground: Bishan Stadium
IN - Hassan Sunny (GK, from Army United), Zulqarnaen Suzliman (DF, Young Lions), Kaishu Yamazaki (DF, Albirex Niigata), Shahdan Sulaiman (MF, Tampines Rovers), Saifullah Akbar (MF, Young Lions), Gabriel Quak (FW, Warriors FC), Andy Pengelly (FW, Brisbane Strikers)
OUT - Kenji Rusydi (GK), Faritz Hameed (DF), Suhairi Sabri (MF, all to Tanjong Pagar United)
Last season: 6th
Outlook: With a star-studded side and quality even among their Under-23 players, it's hard to see the Sailors not cruising to the title.
March 6 (7.45pm)
- v Tanjong Pagar United (away)
March 18 (7.45pm)
- v Tampines Rovers (away)
April 4 (5.30pm)
- v Albirex Niigata (away)