Iqbal dropped from SEA Games squad
Striker is biggest casualty as Aide names his squad for SEA Games battle
He played in the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, making four appearances for the Singapore Under-23 team that bagged bronze in Myanmar.
He has been a mainstay of the Courts Young Lions in the S.League for the past two years.
When striker Iqbal Hussain heard that he was not included in the final squad of 20 for the SEA Games football tournament which kicks off here tomorrow, he was devastated.
Coach Aide Iskandar delivered the heartbreaking news to nine of the 29 players in the Young Lions' preliminary squad yesterday afternoon.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the usually shy and soft-spoken Iqbal was clearly upset.
When asked if he was surprised at the decision, the 22-year-old said: "I was surprised, everyone was surprised. I can't say I'm taking the news very well."
The others who didn't make the cut were goalkeeper Fashah Iskandar, defenders Taufiq Muqminin, Zakir Samsudin and Nurullah Hussein, midfielders Shameer Aziq, Muhaimin Suhaimi, Christopher van Huizen and Afiq Noor.
The biggest name is undoubtedly Iqbal, who took to Facebook yesterday to vent his frustrations.
In a lengthy post, the 1.86-metre tall striker said the decision "broke his heart" and that the reasons given to him were "unacceptable and didn't make sense".
He also lamented his decision to defer his National Service three times to be able to take part in the Games.
He ended his post by wishing his teammates good luck and urged them to "win the gold".
Iqbal, who notched his sole international cap when he came on as a substitute for the Lions against Papua New Guinea last September, played only 15 minutes for the U-23s in the 2-0 friendly win over Timor Leste at Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday.
He did not feature in the 5-1 drubbing of the Laos U-23s last Saturday because of a groin injury.
But Iqbal said: "I'm 100 per cent recovered now; that was just a minor strain. The coaches' decision to leave me out was down to performances but, for the past few weeks, I have been shifted to a few different positions.
"I've been playing quite often in central midfield, where I hadn't played for quite some time. So I didn't do that well.
"I prefer a more attacking position, whether left, right or centre. Centre midfield takes a while for me to get used to."
Singapore have been drawn in Group A with Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines.
They kick off their campaign against the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday.
Speaking to TNP, Aide said yesterday was one of his most difficult days as a coach.
"It was very hard to cut those nine players, especially Iqbal, Afiq and Nurullah - because they are quality players who have played for me a long time," said the former international defender and Singapore captain.
"Iqbal was not the only one asked to play in different positions. Going into a tournament with just 20 players, it's important to have players who can play in several positions.
"The coaches felt that there were others who were playing better than him. It was a close call.
"We have always said to the squad that they will be picked on current form, not how they played in the past.
"I've told the nine boys not to stop here. They should use this as motivation to work harder and try and get into the national team.
"I want to thank all the players involved in the SEA Games preparation. They are still part of our family and, if we do well, their names will still be next to ours."
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