When Tatsuma Yoshida first took the reins of the national team, he ushered in a new era of Singapore football. Under icons V. Sundramoorthy and Fandi Ahmad, the national team had unfortunately grown stale during their tenures as national team managers, but Yoshida’s management was refreshing. Fans were behind the former Jurong FC player, and his decisions to take the risk and hand a slew of players first-team opportunities in the national set-up instilled confidence that he was the right man for the job.
However, as local blogger Ko Po Hui [Bolasepako] points out, perhaps Yoshida’s honeymoon period is over in Singapore after a series of heavy defeats in their recent World Cup Qualifying fixtures in Saudi Arabia. Yoshida’s team selection baffled many, as he included players that barely played minutes for their respective clubs. In many ways, his selection echoed problems of old. Yet, can we fully blame him? Of course not.
Yet, it brings a pertinent point up for discussion. Is Yoshida going to “play it safe” with his selections, or is he willing to take a risk on players in the future?
If his World Cup squad selection is anything to go by, it appears he’s decided to play it safe. Perhaps, it was due to the constraints of the global pandemic that forced him to go with players he’s previously managed? Maybe so. Yet, while I hope and pray that Yoshida reverts to his old ways of taking risks, the recent national team selection reminds me of a dark period for local footballers – a time where we kept on seeing the same few faces don the national team kit. Truth be told, we have had this issue for years now.
So I’ve decided to dedicate some time to players I feel deserve some much needed praise and recognition – players who have been robbed of chances to play in the national team. This is Part 1 of a multi-part series.
When we look at players over the age of 23 years old (born before 01/01/1998) with zero caps, we can potentially form a 19-man squad. I re-emphasize this is not including a host of youngsters that have featured prominently in the league. These hot prospects are still eligible for the national under-23 team and I want to focus on players who no longer have that opportunity to play at the national youth team level.
In part 1, 2 and 3, we look at players that have zero national team caps. These players may have been called up to the national team but have never made an official appearance for the Lions and this has to change.
Key Players Spotlight
We’ll be doing two players in each row, and we’ start with attack and move onto the midfield.
Fairoz Hassan has been around for a long time and while the veteran forward doesn’t always make the goals rain, he does, however, contribute to his team in many other ways. Someone who never gives up, Fairoz has done well at Albirex after tenures with Warriors, Geylang, Hougang, Young Lions and Gombak United.
The Stags’ Super Sub has shown up when it mattered the most and this season, and he has been phenomenal up front yet again. Taufik Suparno may have only played 270 minutes, but he has made his minutes count. Besides his 4 goals, he has also notched a total of 11 shots this campaign. Not bad for a player that largely comes off the bench. He adds a certain sense of dynamism to the Tampines Rovers team.
In a season where Geylang has been largely disappointing, Amy Recha has been a silver lining for the club. While Moresche is bearing most of the goal-scoring responsibility this campaign, Amy has scored some valuable goals and made important assists. He is currently the second-highest goal scorer for Geylang behind Moresche, who has eight to his name.
Faizal Raffi has grown from strength to strength since his time at Warriors FC, and he’s developed into a tenacious central midfielder who is a threat in the box during set pieces. This season, Faizal has already added two to his name in 9 appearances. Both goals coming from set piece deliveries no less. A unique player.
Afiq Noor may not always feature for the first team squad nor may he always be on the scoresheet but he can always be relied upon. Whether he’s coming off the bench or starting a match, he will get the job done.
The Hougang United Captain is known as “The Truck” and it’s not difficult to see why. The central defensive midfielder is a dominant force in the middle of the park and, alongside partner Kaishu Yamazaki, has been a key figure for the Cheetahs. Despite a 12-year long career, he has not made a single appearance for the national team.
In tomorrow’s article we look at the second half of the first team squad so stay tuned for that!
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