Up to 3 foreign footballers 'may don Singapore jersey'

Canadian Sherif El-Masri, 24, is a possible candidate.
Canadian Sherif El-Masri, 24, is a possible candidate.
Courts Young Lions' Jordan Webb is one of the names being bandied about.
Courts Young Lions' Jordan Webb is one of the names being bandied about.

Four years after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) last naturalised a foreign-born player to represent the country, up to three new players have been earmarked to don the red jersey.

National coach Bernd Stange revealed this on the sidelines of a media lunch ahead of Aug 16's friendly against Juventus at the Sports Hub - the first football match to be played at the new National Stadium.

The 66-year-old German, who will lead a Singapore Selection side comprising national footballers and three foreigners from the S-League to face the Italian club, said he will include "one to three players whom I believe have a chance to become Singaporeans".

"I'm not ready to mention any names but I have a few players in mind," he added.

World governing body Fifa requires foreign-born players to fulfil a five-year residency period before they are eligible to play for that country's national team.

Sources believe Courts Young Lions' Canadian duo of Jordan Webb, 26, and Sherif El-Masri, 24, are two of the players shortlisted by the FAS who are eligible to apply for citizenship. Webb, a winger, arrived in 2010 to play for Hougang United, while El-Masri joined Home United in 2009.

The latter, for one, is keen to don Singapore colours. "Of course, I'm keen," he told The Straits Times. "I would not have stayed here for so long if I wasn't.

China-born forward Qiu Li was the last foreign player to be naturalised in 2010. However, the imports have delivered mixed results. Strikers Mirko Grabovac (no goals in 12 international games) and Egmar Goncalves (four goals in 15 games) had since renounced their citizenship and returned to Croatia and Brazil respectively.

But there were success stories in Daniel Bennett (England), who earned a national record of 128 caps. Midfielder Fahrudin Mustafic (Serbia) became a key player for the Lions in the 2007 and 2012 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup triumphs.

Stange said he hopes the foreign talent injection will help Singapore defend the Asean crown in November: "It was a very successful way for us to win the AFF Cup ...For now, our AFF Cup team is all-local and very young. It would be good to add one or two top players who are available and ready to play for Singapore."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg

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