SINGAPORE - The Merlion Cup will be revived in the form of a mini South-east Asia Games football tournament as the under-22 national teams from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines join hosts Singapore in a friendly quadrangular next month.
The June 7-9 competition will be held at the Jalan Besar Stadium and will serve as preparations for the four teams ahead of this year's SEA Games in the Philippines. The biennial Games is from Nov 30-Dec 11.
At the press conference on Wednesday (May 15), Young Lions coach Fandi Ahmad said: "Football needs to be revitalised in Singapore and the Merlion Cup will be a good opportunity to expose the young players to international football.
"All teams are equal and we won't fear any opponents. Hopefully, with good preparation and home support, we will play some good football like we did in the AFC U-23 qualifiers."
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong said the tournament will be an annual affair, although it could toggle between a senior and age-group competition depending on their needs.
For this year's edition, Singapore will face the Philippines while the Thais take on the Indonesians in the other semi-final on June 7.
The third-placed play-off and final will be two days later.
Young Lions defender Lionel Tan said: "We are very excited and raring to go and do Singapore proud by putting up good performances. We will focus on our own strengths and abilities and play to our coaches' instructions."
The Merlion Cup had been held annually in Singapore from 1982 to 1986, and once in 1992, and was widely considered the Republic's premier invitational football tournament.
It featured countries such as the Netherlands, Australia, Iraq, China, South Korea and international club sides like Inter Milan and Lokomotiv Moscow.
It was last held in 2009 at the old National Stadium, when Singapore were beaten 5-0 by English giants Liverpool.
In 2015, there were talks of reviving the tournament after international sports media rights agency MP & Silva's $25-million deal with the FAS was announced in February that year.
The J-League's Yokohama Marinos, Chinese Super League's Shanghai Shenhua and Myanmar national team touted as likely participants but cost issues saw MP & Silva pull out of negotiations with the Singapore Sports Hub in December 2015 over the staging of the Merlion Cup in 2016.