Another blow to U-23 footballers' SEA Games plans
He joins LionsXII, but FAS says Aide will have Under-23 squad intact for next month's centralised training
He was the captain of Aide Iskandar's squad charged to go for gold at this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.
But defender Shakir Hamzah, one of the most experienced players in the Singapore Under-23 squad, recently lost the armband.
In a startling move, especially with the clock ticking down to the start of the SEA Games football tournament - the Games will officially be held here from June 5 to 16, but football starts on May 29, with the final on June 15 - Shakir is now in Johor for the LionsXII's Malaysian FA Cup quarter-final, second-leg match against Johor Darul Ta'zim II.
The 22-year-old has moved to the LionsXII and is no longer a member of the Courts Young Lions team that play in the S.League - the side that are made up of most of the U-23 players for Singapore's SEA Games team.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad said: "Yes, I'm definitely hoping to play him (today).
"We'll have to see how he manages, but he's a very experienced player who has been there (with the LionsXII in Malaysian football) for the past few seasons."
The LionsXII hold a 2-0 lead after the first leg and are favourites to advance to the Malaysian FA Cup semi-finals.
With the Singapore Under-23s poised to enter centralised training from May 1, the question is whether SEA Games coach Aide Iskandar will have all his players back for what will be a critical phase in the team's build-up to the tournament.
Responding to queries from TNP, Gerard Wong, the Football Association of Singapore's director of marketing and communications, said: "As part of our continuous efforts to look for ways to improve the Under-23 squad in their final phase of preparations for the SEA Games, we explored various options, including allowing some players to represent the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League.
"While waiting for senior management to make its decision on the various recommendations that have been put forth, Shakir was allowed to travel with the team to Johor. In the end, FAS' senior management supported the recommendation by (Aide) for the U-23 squad to stay intact for centralised training."
Which suggests that if the LionsXII make it for the FA Cup semi-finals, Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi and Shakir will miss out, because all three players are vital to the U-23s' SEA Games hopes, and the team's final phase of preparations will feature two centralised training camps (May 1 to 9 at the Singapore Sports School and May 10 to 17 in Japan).
The two legged semi-finals will be played over the weekend of May 9 and May 16, with the final scheduled on May 23, all important dates as Fandi searches for a first trophy since he took the LionsXII reins in 2014.
The LionsXII's move to sign Shakir - a check with the Football Association of Malaysia revealed that documents for his registration had already been submitted - comes during the current mid-season transfer window in the Malaysian Super League, which closes on April 28, and Fandi revealed that he has also requested for two more players from the Courts Young Lions, left-footed attacker Shahfiq Ghani and midfielder Safirul Sulaiman.
Said Fandi: "We did request for Safirul and Shahfiq too, but I'm not sure about the full details, we'll have to check with the management for that.
"They are supposed to join us after the SEA Games, but the transfer deadline is April 28, and there is no more room for further extension."
- When: May 29-June 15
- Where: Bishan Stadium, Jalan Besar Stadium and National Stadium (ticketed)
- On offer: 1 gold medal
- History: 0 gold, 3 silvers, 7 bronzes
- Milestones: 1983, 1985 and 1989 SEA Games silver
- The team (to be cut to 20): Syazwan Buhari, Fashah Iskandar, Rudy Khairullah, Shakir Hamzah, Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Fadli Kamis, Amirul Adli, Irfan Fandi Ahmad, Taufiq Muqminin, Zakir Samsudin, Nurullah Hussein, Ho Wai Loon, Faris Ramli, Safirul Sulaiman, Stanely Ng, Anumanthan Mohan Kumar, Shamil Sharif, Shameer Aziq, Afiq Mat Noor, Christopher van Huizen, Suria Prakash, Pravin Guanasagaran, Shahfiq Ghani, Sahil Suhaimi, Iqbal Hussain, Amy Recha Pristifana, Taufik Suparno, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Adam Swandi
- Did you know? The legendary Fandi Ahmad scored Singapore's only goal in the 1989 final which Malaysia won 3-1 and, this year, his eldest son Irfan will get a chance to go one better and create history.
- The New Paper's medal prediction: The elusive gold medal may be a bridge too far for the Young Lions, considering the strength of the mighty Thais. But if they can emerge from their group, they could finish with a medal.