Football: Irfan Fandi may get his first Lions call-up against Afghanistan

Footballer Irfan Fandi.
Footballer Irfan Fandi.PHOTO: ST FILE
Coach Bernd Stange supervising national football team training ahead of Thursday's friendly against Myanmar and their last World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan next Tuesday.
Coach Bernd Stange supervising national football team training ahead of Thursday's friendly against Myanmar and their last World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan next Tuesday.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

He may be in Lions squad for final World Cup qualifier if he impresses against Iran U-21s

Irfan Fandi may have been selected for the national Under-21 squad who will be travelling to Iran for two friendly football matches against Iran's U-21 team.

But a bigger match could be in store for the 18-year-old Home United player.

Should Irfan impress in the two games on Saturday and next Monday at the Enghelab Stadium in Karaj, he could get his debut call-up to the seniors Lions squad the following day.

Singapore will be taking on Afghanistan at the Takhti Stadium in neutral venue Teheran, Iran's capital, next Tuesday in their final 2018 World Cup Group E qualifier.

GREAT CHANCE

It's good news for me and I'm excited about it. But it means that I have to work really hard.

IRFAN FANDI , 18-year-old Home United forward, on his possible senior call-up.

National head coach Bernd Stange has hinted that he is willing to hand Irfan his first senior international cap. Said the German at the Lions' training session yesterday: "If (Irfan) is good, if he performs well, we will take him into our squad for our match. We will give him exposure in the national team."

Said Irfan: "It's good news for me and I'm excited about it. But it means that I have to work really hard."

With the Lions missing their main striker Khairul Amri, who is out with a calf injury, Irfan could be another option for Stange to consider to field in attack.

Said Tampines Rovers striker Fazrul Nawaz: "He's still young, so if he does get a call-up, it'll be a good experience for him."

Singapore can seal third spot in Group E if Japan beat Afghanistan on Thursday. That will secure them entry into the next qualifying round for the 2019 Asian Cup.

Nevertheless, the Lions will still be looking for victories in both the Afghanistan match as well as the Myanmar friendly at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday.

This is because the wins will boost their Fifa world rankings and they could get a more favourable draw for the Asian Cup qualifying third round beginning next March.

The 23-player squad are hoping to shake off some rust against Myanmar, as they play their first international game since last November.

However, winger Faris Ramli will not be travelling to Iran owing to a groin injury, while veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan is doubtful too, as he also nurses a groin strain.

Fazrul, 30, said: "We have to take these two games as preparation for what's coming ahead, not just to improve our rankings, but for the Suzuki Cup as well."

The next two matches will likely be Stange's swan-song with the Lions, as the 68-year-old's contract with the Football Association of Singapore ends next month.

But it is business as usual for the players. Midfielder Hariss Harun, 25, said: "He's still the head coach. Whether he stays or he leaves, it's difficult (to say) now.

"For us, we go about playing how he wants us to play, we take orders from him, it's not going to be any different."

  • Additional reporting by Yogaraj Panditurai
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Call-up for Irfan against Afghans?'. Print Edition | Subscribe