Fresh blood for Lions

Balestier Khalsa's Huzaifah Aziz is focusing on doing well after earning his first call-up to the national team.
Balestier Khalsa's Huzaifah Aziz is focusing on doing well after earning his first call-up to the national team.PHOTO: SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

Balestier duo called up as Fandi gives untested players chance to impress ahead of AFF Cup

His uncle is a former national player who was known for his surging runs from midfield and earned 121 caps in a distinguished career. Now Huzaifah Aziz is set to follow in Malek Awab's footsteps and don the famous red jersey of the Lions.

The 24-year-old Balestier Khalsa midfielder was handed a first call-up to Fandi Ahmad's latest 29-man national squad announced yesterday, as the interim national football coach continues to give untested players a chance to impress.

The Lions will play Mongolia in a friendly next Friday at the Bishan Stadium before taking on Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Oct 17.

The matches are part of their preparations for next month's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup where Singapore will face Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor-Leste in Group B.

"I'm delighted as this call-up came out of the blue, but it is too soon to celebrate. I need to control my feelings and focus on doing well at training to impress the coaches," Huzaifah told The Straits Times.

"There are many things I need to improve, like my touches, shooting, movement and speed of thought. I cannot be too excited yet just because I am part of the national team now."

  • SINGAPORE SQUAD FOR MONGOLIA AND CAMBODIA 

  • GOALKEEPERS 

    • Hassan Sunny (Army United, Thailand) 
    • Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya, Thailand) 
    • Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa) 

    DEFENDERS 

     • Baihakki Khaizan (Udon Thani, Thailand) 
     • Fadli Kamis (Balestier) 
     • Faritz Hameed (Home United) 
     • Shakir Hamzah (Home) 
     • Ho Wai Loon (Warriors FC) 
     • Irfan Fandi (Young Lions) 
     • Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Young Lions) 
     • Madhu Mohana (Tampines Rovers) 
     • Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United) 
     • Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang, Malaysia) 
     • Zulfahmi Arifin (Chonburi, Thailand) 

    MIDFIELDERS 
     • Adam Swandi (Albirex Niigata) 
     • Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia) 
     • Huzaifah Aziz (Balestier) 
     • Izzdin Shafiq (Home) 
     • M. Anumanthan (Home) 
     • Jacob Mahler (Young Lions) 
     • Gabriel Quak (Navy FC, Thailand) 
     • Yasir Hanapi (Tampines) 
     • Zulfadhmi Suzliman (Tampines) 

    FORWARDS 
     • Faris Ramli (PKNS, Malaysia) 
     • Ikhsan Fandi (Young Lions) 
     • Iqbal Hussain (Hougang) 
     • Khairul Amri (Tampines) 
     • Khairul Nizam (Warriors) 
     • Shahril Ishak (Home)

And, if he needs any advice on how to perform as a national player, he can always approach his role model Malek.

Huzaifah added: "My uncle has been an inspiration. He has supported me since I was young.

"I didn't get the chance to watch him play for the national team, but I hear that he was a great midfielder. That made me want to do well to get his attention."

Huzaifah's Balestier teammate Fadli Kamis, who earned a cap under former national coach Bernd Stange in a 2-1 friendly win over Papua New Guinea in 2014, was also included in the squad.

The 25-year-old right-back caught Fandi's eye after having scored four goals in each of the last three seasons in the Singapore Premier League/S-League. The 1.73m Fadli believes it is his well-timed runs and not aerial ability that gets him on the end of set pieces.

He said: "It's not all about jumping, I am not very tall. It's about getting my timing and position right when the balls are delivered in.

"I expect to fight for a place in the first XI and, after that, I want to get into the squad for the Suzuki Cup."

Fandi, who started his reign with a 1-1 draw against Mauritius and a 2-0 win over Fiji, plans to use the matches against Mongolia and Cambodia to find his best blend for the AFF Cup.

He said: "Last month's games were important in allowing me to gauge the potential of our players and see how well they gel together.

"I've called up Huzaifah and Fadli, both of whom have performed consistently well for Balestier Khalsa this season. Hopefully, we will be able to give them a chance to show what they can do at the international level.

"As the AFF Suzuki Cup draws closer, these upcoming friendlies as well as our training camp at the end of the month are important as we try to put together the best possible squad for the tournament. "

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'Fresh blood for Lions'. Print Edition | Subscribe