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Don't Shy Away For Not Trying Them Out

Lions' coach Bernd Stange has been keeping low of late
Lions' coach Bernd Stange has been keeping low of late

It was not surprising to see the usual reaction from some supporters following the announcement of the national team for the recent friendly matches against both Thailand and Guam.

The usual grouses centered around those players who are constantly ignored by the establishment despite churning consistent performance in the S.League day in and out.

And not without questioning those selections they deemed dubious (based on my interpretation of some postings online).

In certain cases when preparing for any major overseas tournaments, it would see the inclusion of players having the "necessary experience" to cope with the higher intensity and competitiveness that are usually demanded by the international level which is something not the local league can provide (as compared to Thailand's TPL).

Coach Raddy Avramovic had his frustrations during his time here
Coach Raddy had his frustrations during his time here

Therefore, it is not uncommon to see those they claimed the "familiar few" since the days of former Lions coach Raddy Avramovic who once highlighted the dearth of local players lacking international experience on club level had restricted the pool of selection ready for the national team.

Coach Raddy's concern was evident when all these while Singapore was represented chiefly by powerhouses such as Tampines Rovers, Home United and Warriors FC (since they were known as SAFFC) in continental tournaments (i.e.: Asian Champions League and AFC Cup) and not forgetting those plying their living in MSL with Lions XII.

Singapore clubs no longer have it easy in the AFC Cup
Singapore clubs no longer have it easy in the AFC Cup

So when Balestier Khalsa broke the "continent oligopoly" after earning their ticket out of the island by winning RHB Singapore Cup last year, it was seen as a chance finally came to allow players who never have a chance to play for the national team an opportunity to play the game at a much higher level.

Of course, it would be too much to ask from the Toa Payoh-based Tigers to advance their way from the group stages where the key to allowing their players to experience and be exposed to different football cultures (although some may argue the presence of foreign sides in S.League should be adequate).

Coach Marko of Balestier Khalsa - pragmatic approach in AFC Cup to date
Coach Marko - pragmatic approach in AFC Cup to date

Since then, Marko Kraljevic's men have themselves a decent account in AFC Cup Group F to this stage.

Apart from the beginner's jittery that saw them lose three-nil away to Kitchee SC in Hong Kong, the next two matches chalked a heartbreaking loss to Malaysia's Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) followed by an upset victory over Kingfisher East Bengal of India a week later.

That recent two home matches were credible enough to suggest these Balestier players, whom many are never within the radar range of the national selectors, have shown decency at that level.

Zaiful Nizam deserves a chance in the national team

Thus, it hardly raised any eyebrow and justified the suggestion by Kraljevic, himself, that his custodian Zaiful Nizam should be given a chance in the national team.

Alongside the former Gombak United 'keeper, names like Jonathan Xu and Poh Yifeng (who was once selected by Coach Raddy back in 2012) had also proved their worth in matches against JDT and East Bengal.

A compliment to Poh and BK after JDT game

Furthermore, with the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers merely months away, it shall do little harm not to try out some of the players who just sampled some regional competitiveness.

So why not give these guys a chance to earn a cap that would only benefit the whole like widening the pool of players for selection?

Unless someone can convince me the current model is still feasible in spite of the brickbats thrown at them.


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