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Strategic Player Selection Crucial for Singapore in Upcoming AFF Championship

Coach Ogura must prepare to take a bold step now
Coach Ogura must prepare to take a bold step now

Little time should be wasted now since the writings are already on the wall following the announcement of the draw for the groupings of the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup (hereafter referred to as the AFF Championship) on 21st May.


With both Lion City Sailors and BG Tampines Rovers participating in the AFC Champions League 2 (ACL 2) — the former in the group stage and the latter in the play-off round** (see footnote) as the second-best local team — it is an opportune time for national coach Tsutoma Ogura to broaden his scouting scope.

This is particularly pertinent given the scheduling overlap between the biennial regional showpiece and ACL 2, the new second-tier continental club tournament where many key Lions players are likely to be involved.


Since the AFF Championship is a non-FIFA sanctioned tournament, clubs are under no obligation to release their players for matches, which could make Coach Ogura's task challenging if he persists with the same selection ratio as in his recent Lions call-up for the World Cup qualifiers, where nearly half of the 27 players selected came from both Sailors and the Stags.

Consider the possibility that overseas-based players might not be released by their clubs during the AFF Championship, the former Japanese national assistant coach will see his pool shrink even further.

Geylang International and Balestier Khalsa are free of external commitments
Geylang International and Balestier Khalsa are free of external commitments 

As previously mentioned, this could be an ideal opportunity for Coach Ogura to broaden his selection scope, if possible, when choosing his squad for the regional tournament.

By doing so, he can provide a platform for eligible players from clubs without ACL 2 commitments to showcase their worth and gain valuable exposure.

This is also the right thing to do if the regeneration of the national team is now the top priority. When could a better opportunity than the AFF Championship be offered?


By doing so, we will have to temporarily set aside our pride to allow these raw talents to experience the culture shock at a higher level. Always remember that the differences in all aspects between domestic and international football are significant, and players should be prepared for that impact.

Lion City Sailors will be playing in the Shopee Cup
Lion City Sailors will be playing in the Shopee Cup

Some may argue that the revival of the ASEAN Club Championship, also known as the Shopee Cup for sponsorship reasons, provides another platform for players to gain exposure at the club level without compromising national pride. However, with only one slot allocated to a Singaporean team (i.e., Lion City Sailors), where would the opportunity for those players to gain the experience we are looking for come from?


Given that the remaining FIFA window periods of the year before the AFF Championship (to be held from 23rd November to 21st December 2024) are scheduled during the months of September and October, a maximum of two matches can be arranged during each period.

7-0 loss to South Korea is just another "wake up" call
7-0 loss to South Korea is just another "wake up" call

This will allow Coach Ogura to try out some new players, if any, at a time when the need for rejuvenation of the national team is at an all-time high, especially after the crushing defeat by South Korea in early June in front of 49,000 fans.

It is never too early, but we must not leave it too late as time is no longer on our side when we need the right catalyst to kick-start the regeneration of the Lions.

** According to this AFC article dated 19/6/2024, Tampines Rovers directly qualified to Group Stage of ACL 2 


  1. Good write up Boss. Well thought of. You've always been a Lion-heart. Keep it up!

  2. AFF Championship is a non Fifa sanctioned matches, right? Hence, overseas based players will not be released. This is where ideally, players from Young Lions and future stars from clubs U21 can be used as a platform for them to play an international match to spot an unearthed player potentially to be groomed further.

  3. Since the Coach already know in advance that he may not be able to recall key players, the plan B is to consider calling up those players that some considered good enough at Club levels , or known as the " Fringe" players, I believe they are eager to show their capabilities and lay claim for the right for place in Lions squad in future, and some of the youngsters in the young Lions too, may also be considered , just my humble opinion only.

  4. The national soccer team aspiration to go higher should be a national responsibility. It needs the support of all authorities to try make it happen. Not only we should try out new pool of talents but also give chance to naturalise players that are good enough to don the NT. Right now we are at all.time low in confidence and also rankings. We need to do whatever possible to try get some positive results in the near future. Its an emergency problem for FAS and singapore.

  5. taking AFF championship as an exposure for YL and fringe players??
    Singapore 4 times champions ffs
    seriously gota be kidding me or delusional. Be serious and raise the standards!

  6. It’s a good problem ……. It forces us to confront and move on with the needed players. It’s not as bad, bring in Kyoga and let Shah play 6. Faris and Daniel Goh is up to it. Defensively, be creative and let some of the boys take the helm.
    Good problem …… face it and move on


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