New boy Suria slips but makes the grade
He's 21 and frightens S.League defenders with his pace.
Nobody would have pictured what was about to unfold when Warriors FC's flying winger Suria Prakash faced down national coach Bernd Stange, 66, in a routine attacking drill in his first training session with the Lions yesterday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
German Stange acted as a dummy defender in the drill, which required players to pass the ball wide for wingers to swing in crosses for the strikers to finish.
Unfortunately, Suria fluffed his lines as he was tried to sweep the ball to a teammate, and crashed into a tackle by Stange.
"He told me to release the ball faster next time, and told me to try again," the shaggy-haired winger sheepishly told The New Paper later.
"I got my first touch wrong."
That moment aside, Suria didn't look out of place with the Lions.
He has been in fine form for the Warriors this season in their battle for the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title and has been rewarded with a call-up to the national team for the first time, as the Lions prepare to take on Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Hong Kong in international friendlies over the next week.
The former ITE College East student hopes this call-up will be the first of many.
"I hope I will be a permanent part of the national team from now on," said Suria.
"Getting the chance to train and learn from the seniors will help me a lot."
The softly-spoken youngster put in an outstanding shift in his S.League debut for the Warriors, a 1-0 win in a top-of-the-table clash against Brunei DPMM on May 22.
Stange believes Suria has a bright future ahead of him, if he can keep improving.
"I first saw him in the Prime League, then in his first S.League game against DPMM, and I recommended him to Aide (Iskandar, national U-23 coach) and he has been a part of our set-up since.
"Players like Suria, Adam Swandi and Faris Ramli have the ability to win games on their own.
"They can manage well in one-on-one situations and can make a difference.
"But they are not ready for the international level yet, and they are still at the start of what I hope will be a long career. So I hope they will work hard and improve."
With one eye on the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea later this month, Stange has named a young team for the PNG and Hong Kong matches (Sept 6 and 9).
The average age of the 25-man squad is 23, and only seven are above that age.
The football tournament at the Asiad is an U-23 affair, with each team allowed to register three overaged players.
The Asian Games will be the first major assignment Stange will be in charge of from start to finish, seeing as how he took over the Lions only two games into their Asian Cup qualifying campaign last May.
And he is playing it cool.
"I'm not a young coach who gets excited leading an Under-23 team in a tournament," he said.
"Our focus and priority now is the Asian Games, that's why this squad is young.
"I don't know much about (Group C rivals) Tajikistan but we are watching some videos of them, and Oman and Palestine. We will do our best."
SINGAPORE vs PAPUA NEW GUINEA (Saturday, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
SINGAPORE vs HONG KONG (next Tuesday, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
*Tickets, priced at $12 (grandstand) and $3 (concession for students and senior citizens), are available at TicketBooth’s website, the 12 TicketBooth outlets or AXS machines islandwide until 4pm on matchdays. Ticket sales will then resume on matchday from 4.30pm onwards at the Hougang Stadium, subject to availability.
THE LIONS SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Warriors FC), Izwan Mahbud (LionsXII), Rudy Khairullah (Courts Young Lions) Defenders: Safuwan Baharudin, Baihakki Khaizan, Afiq Yunos, Shakir Hamzah, Madhu Mohana (all CYL), Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman, Fadli Kamis, Amirul Adli (all CYL), Shaiful Esah (Tampines Rovers)
Midfielders: Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta’zim), Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli (both LionsXII), M Anumanthan, Shameer Aziq, Stanely Ng (all CYL), Shahdan Sulaiman (Tampines) Suria Prakash (Warriors)
Strikers: Fazrul Nawaz (Home United), Sahil Suhaimi, Iqbal Hussain, Adam Swandi (all CYL), Shahfiq Ghani (LionsXII)