FAS roundtable

Football: Foreign talent scheme back on?

Bosnian-born Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric celebrates after scoring a goal against Malaysia during the 2012 AFF Cup group stage. Singapore went on to win the title that year but have yet to reclaim the trophy.
Bosnian-born Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric celebrates after scoring a goal against Malaysia during the 2012 AFF Cup group stage. Singapore went on to win the title that year but have yet to reclaim the trophy. ST FILE PHOTO

FAS says it's a stopgap measure, will identify players who spent 'considerable time here'

With the Singapore national football team struggling with poor results, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) wants to re-introduce foreign-born talent into coach V. Sundram Moorthy's squad.

The Lions are bogged down in the lower reaches of Fifa's world rankings, placed 169th out of 211 member associations. In June, they suffered the latest in a series of poor results - a 2-1 home defeat by Chinese Taipei that dealt a blow to their 2019 Asian Cup qualifying hopes.

Which is why having talented foreign players back in the national squad is being mooted as an interim fix to halt the slide.

Said FAS president Lim Kia Tong, at a roundtable organised by The Straits Times last Friday: "If the national team continue to suffer a dip in ranking, it will affect the mood of football in Singapore...

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"The sentiment is the naturalisation of certain players should be re-activated. If you look at the success of previous AFF (Asean Football Federation) Cups, we had players who were naturalised to help us win those titles."

Players like Qiu Li and Shi Jiayi (both from China), Fahrudin Mustafic (Serbia), Aleksandar Duric (Bosnia), Daniel Bennett (England), Agu Casmir, Precious Emuejeraye and Itimi Dickson (all Nigeria) at various times helped the Lions clinch three AFF Cups in 2004, 2007 and 2012.

Lim added: "When we decided to go all-local during the tenure of former Lions coach Bernd Stange from 2013 to 2016, we saw that we were not bringing in success.

"If success is in our minds, and if the successes of the previous AFF Cups were in some way contributed (to) by the naturalised players, we may have to adopt a stopgap measure to inject more vibrancy into the national team.

"This is nothing new. If you look at Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia and even Thailand, they have to rely on naturalised players. Timor Leste's national team has many Brazilian players."

However, he was quick to add this caveat: "The players who are on the radar must be much better than the local players in their position."

Although the FAS has not officially announced the names of the foreigners it is eyeing, it is believed that Warriors FC's Canadian winger Jordan Webb and the Home United duo of Sirina Camara (France) and Song Ui Young (South Korea) are the prime candidates.

FAS deputy president Bernard Tan insisted that the association will be judicious in deciding who it will naturalise.

He added: "Of course, Singaporeans don't want to see the whole national team full of naturalised players. They still want to see the core of the team filled with born-and-bred Singaporeans, raised through our system.

"But selectively, we can (include) two or three players of talent, especially those players who have spent considerable time here. Those are the ones that Singaporeans will readily accept."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Foreign talent scheme back on?'. Print Edition | Subscribe