Football: Sundram to closely monitor Singapore footballers playing overseas

Winger Ridhuan Muhammad in Arema FC colours. He was at the Indonesian Super League club from 2009 to 2013 and was part of the squad that won the 2009-10 title. He will be hoping to make a similar impact with new club Borneo FC and in the process, ear
Winger Ridhuan Muhammad in Arema FC colours. He was at the Indonesian Super League club from 2009 to 2013 and was part of the squad that won the 2009-10 title. He will be hoping to make a similar impact with new club Borneo FC and in the process, earn a Lions recall.PHOTO COURTESY OF OVAN SETIAWAN

Borneo-bound Ridhuan latest to move as more S'pore players sign for foreign teams

It will not be just Tampines or Toa Payoh where national football coach V. Sundram Moorthy will be seen watching matches this year.

He could also travel to Malaysia, Thailand, and even Indonesia or Saudi Arabia to track his Lions as he prepares for the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup.

With winger Ridhuan Muhammad (Borneo FC), left-back Hafiz Sujad (Johor Darul Takzim II) and forward Shahfiq Ghani (UKM FC) the latest to sign for foreign teams, the number of Singaporean footballers playing overseas will enter double figures for the first time.

National goalkeepers Hassan Sunny (Army United) and Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya) and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin (Chonburi) are in Thailand, while midfielders Hariss Harun (JDT), Shahdan Sulaiman (Melaka United), defender Madhu Mohana (Negeri Sembilan) and utility man Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang) are in Malaysia.

Naturalised defender Precious Emuejeraye plays for Churchill Brothers in India's I-League, defender Baihakki Khaizan is negotiating terms with Saudi Arabia's Jeddah Club and The Straits Times (ST) understands that winger Faris Ramli has been linked to Malaysia's PKNS FC.

Sundram told ST: "It is a good issue to have and we will track these players. Most of them are in neighbouring countries and we have enough manpower to do so.

  • SINGAPOREAN FOOTBALLERS ABROAD

  • INDONESIA 

    RIDHUAN MUHAMMAD 

    33, midfielder 
    Borneo FC, Liga 1 

    MALAYSIA 

    HARISS HARUN 

    27, midfielder
    Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysian Super League (MSL)

    MADHU MOHANA

    26, defender
    Negeri Sembilan, MSL

    SAFUWAN BAHARUDIN

    26, midfielder
    Pahang, MSL

    SHAHDAN SULAIMAN 

    29, midfielder
    Melaka United, MSL 

    HAFIZ SUJAD 

    27, defender
    Johor Darul Takzim II, Malaysian Premier League (MPL) 

    SHAHFIQ GHANI 

    25, forward U
    KM FC, MPL THAILAND 

    ZULFAHMI ARIFIN 

    26, midfielder 
    Chonburi, Thai League 1 

    HASSAN SUNNY 

    33, goalkeeper 
    Army United, Thai League 2

    IZWAN MAHBUD 

    27, goalkeeper 
    Nongbua Pitchaya, Thai League 2

COMING FULL CIRCLE

I'm happy to play in Indonesia again, and I'm thankful to Borneo for believing in my ability regardless of my age and willing to give me this opportunity.

RIDHUAN MUHAMMAD, 33-year-old Singaporean football winger, looking forward to playing in Indonesia again.

CHARTING THEIR PROGRESS

It is a good issue to have and we will track these players. Whether it is Malaysia or Thailand, I will personally attend some of their matches as it is important to be at the stadium to watch them.

V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, national football coach, will keep a close eye on the development of local footballers at clubs across the region.

"Whether it is Malaysia or Thailand, I will personally attend some of their matches as it is important to be at the stadium to watch them.

"I think even for those who are playing in the second division, they will find themselves in a very competitive league with at least four foreigners. As imports themselves, I believe they will work hard to stand out and that will only be good for the national team."

Football Association of Singapore technical director Michel Sablon was used to monitoring Belgian footballers who played abroad in his time as assistant manager and technical director of Belgium's national team.

He said: "In Belgium, players leave at a young age for big money and we are concerned whether they play enough first-team football. If they play regularly in a strong championship, it will be good for their development.

"We make plans to see them on a regular basis, to understand their progress, or why they are not playing. If they are injured, we also assess if they need to return to their home country for rehabilitation.

"It is absolutely important to track players who are overseas and the national coach will send scouts to do so and provide progress reports. Now everything is easier as we have the Internet and videos to analyse player performances."

Ridhuan, who will play in Indonesia again almost 10 years after his first spell, hopes to impress Sundram enough to earn a recall to the national team.

The 33-year-old signed for Borneo last week and will head to East Kalimantan tomorrow. ST understands that he will play in the Indonesia President's Cup as he seeks to help the reigning runners-up go one better this season. The tournament ends on Feb 4. The club will then decide if they want to retain him for the league campaign which kicks off on Feb 24.

"I'm happy to play in Indonesia again, and I'm thankful to Borneo for believing in my ability regardless of my age and willing to give me this opportunity," he told ST.

Ridhuan spent four years with Arema FC from 2009-2013, winning the 2009-10 Indonesian Super League title and scoring 14 goals in 75 league games. He also played another 11 games for Putra Samarinda.

During his heyday, keychains, T-shirts and caps bearing his name and face sold like hotcakes at souvenir shops in Malang, where Arema are based.

After his Indonesian spell ended, the two-time Asean Football Federation Championship winner featured for Tampines Rovers, Geylang International and Warriors FC from 2014 to 2017, scoring 11 goals in 85 S-League games.

He still attracts a following in Indonesia, as the announcement of his signing garnered almost 8,000 likes on Instagram. He said: "I'm grateful that they still remember me even though I have not played there for a long time."

Left-back Hafiz, 27, and forward Shahfiq, 25, have also joined the exodus of big-name local players, signing one-year deals with their respective second-tier Malaysian Premier League teams.

Hafiz is hoping his latest venture will be more successful than his previous move to Thailand, where he played just seven games for Big Bang Chula United in the second division before the club withdrew from the league last year.

While league regulations prevent JDT II from being promoted to the top-tier Malaysian Super League as they are a feeder club, their coach Benjamin Mora is still aiming to win the Premier League title.

Hafiz said: "Even though my team won't be eligible for promotion, we will still work hard to achieve our goals. I will give my best in every training and match to justify my place as an import."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2018, with the headline 'Sundram to monitor overseas contingent'. Print Edition | Subscribe