Singapore Select XI's Velez ready to slay EPL giants

While a realistic Nicolas Velez admits that it is unlikely that he will ever get to play for Arsenal, he says there is always hope that he can catch the eye of a scout who can then pave the way for him to play in Europe.
While a realistic Nicolas Velez admits that it is unlikely that he will ever get to play for Arsenal, he says there is always hope that he can catch the eye of a scout who can then pave the way for him to play in Europe.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

One of four foreigners in the team, Arsenal fan wants to repay Sundram's faith

Warriors FC attacker Nicolas Velez has supported English Premier League football heavyweights Arsenal for more than a decade.

But, come July 15, his allegiance will be put to one side as the Argentinian prepares to take on his idols in the Barclays Asia Trophy.

The S-League Young Player of the Year is one of four foreigners called up to a 23-strong Singapore Select XI by coach V. Sundramoorthy.

The team open their campaign against FA Cup winners Arsenal.

Said Velez who turns 25 years old today: "It's going to be a bit strange playing against Arsenal because I really like Mesut Oezil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez.

  • BARCLAYS ASIA TROPHY 2015

    Wednesday, July 15

    • 6pm: Everton v Stoke City
    • 8.30pm: Arsenal v Singapore Select XI

    Match-day tickets: $25-$145

    Saturday, July 18

    • 6pm: Third-place play-off
    • 8.30pm: Final

    Match-day tickets: $28-$155

    Tickets Available through Sports Hub Tix:

    www.sportshubtix.sg
    • Call 6333-5000 or 3158-7888
    • Box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium
    • All SingPost outlets

    SINGAPORE SELECT XI

    The squad for the Barclays Asia Trophy quadrangular

    GOALKEEPERS

    Izwan Mahbud, Zaiful Nizam

    DEFENDERS

    Ismadi Mukhtar, Nazrul Nazari, Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana, Safuwan Baharudin, Kento Fukuda, Shaiful Esah, Hafiz Sujad, Shakir Hamzah, Sirina Camara

    MIDFIELDERS

    Izzdin Shafiq, Nicholas Velez, Yasir Hanapi, Zulfahmi Arifin, Gabriel Quak, Faris Ramli, Shahdan Sulaiman

    FORWARDS

    Khairul Amri, Fazrul Nawaz, Shahril Ishak, Rodrigo Tosi

"But I will have to focus, try to help the team and repay coach Sundram for calling me up."

The quadrangular tournament also features English Premier League teams Everton and Stoke City, who play in the other fixture.

The winners will then play each other for the trophy on July 18 while the losers will cross swords in the play-off for third place.

While he admits pulling on the red-and-white shirt of Arsenal is a far-fetched dream, Velez hopes to impress any potential scouts and earn a move to Europe.

The striker, who also played for a Singapore Selection against Italian Serie A giants Juventus last year, said: "I don't want to think too much about this but there's always a chance (of being spotted).

"In football, you never know. I just want to do my best for the team and I hope I can score or assist."

The other three foreign players are Brazilian Rodrigo Tosi (Tampines), Frenchman Sirina Camara (Home United) and Japan's Kento Fukuda (Geylang International).

On his decision to tap on the four foreign players, Sundram said: "I have been watching them and they are among the best performers in the S-League this season. They will add skills and steel to our team."

The team also feature 19 Singaporeans, including goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, whose star is on the rise following his impressive showing in the Lions' 0-0 draw against Japan in a World Cup qualifier last month.

Besides Izwan, national captain Shahril Ishak, who will skipper the team, and LionsXII top scorer Khairul Amri will also give the hosts additional ammunition.

Said Izwan: "I am excited about taking on the world-class strikers from these Premier League clubs, and my backline and I will do our best to keep them at bay."

Sundram, who assisted national coach Bernd Stange in the World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia and Japan, is hoping for a good performance ahead of the Lions' next qualifier in Syria on Sept 3.

He said: "Most of the national team players in my squad are young and still developing... (the tournament) will benefit Singapore football and the national team.

"If they perform well, it will give them another boost for the World Cup qualifier against Syria."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'VELEZ READY TO SLAY GIANTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe