National Team - Lions ● Sep 12, 2018

Fandi: Youth is the way to go for Lions

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SINGAPORE, 12 SEP 2018
– Fandi Ahmad has shown that he is willing to give young talent a chance to succeed at international level, ahead of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup later this year.

The 56-year-old concluded his first two matches as Lions Head Coach last night with a 2-0 victory over Fiji at Bishan Stadium, having drawn with Mauritius 1-1 last Friday at the same venue.

Having called up the Suzliman brothers – Zulfadhmi (above, right), 22 and Zulqarnaen, 20 – and Jacob Mahler (below), 18, for the first time, Fandi then gave them their debuts – the former against Mauritius, the latter against Fiji.

Hami Syahin and Haiqal Pashia, both 20, were also included in the team and Irfan Fandi, 21 and his sibling Ikhsan, 19, already appear to be key to Fandi’s plans going forward even at this early stage.

Tickets for the Mongolia game are available from fas.org.sg/tickets and onsite on match-days. Fans are urged to buy their tickets early online to avoid the queues on match-day.

Fandi had publicly asserted his desire to grant more opportunities to young players prior to this pair of friendlies and he reiterated the stance after the matches.

“Everybody has to buck up and be on their toes because for me, I don’t see age as a barrier,” he said after the Mauritius match. “Anybody that comes (into the national set-up), we will give them a chance.

“I’m just happy the young players worked so hard; one of them (Zulqarnaen) ran so hard that he had cramps… We have to give opportunities to these youngsters and this is great for our football to have these options.”

After victory over Fiji, Fandi added that those who did not make the squad this time will have the chance to do so in October when Singapore play Mongolia and Cambodia on the 12th and 16th respectively.

“We definitely had to get the win (as) we assembled many youngsters and (they) needed the confidence – not just for the boys in the squad but even for those outside, who will believe they can get a chance if they do well,” he said.

“We’ve said (it) before, if you are good enough, you are old enough. This is the way to go – youth, (this) is for sure.”

While the team has only been together since last Monday, Fandi is pleased to see the senior players mixing well with the newer faces, noting that the former group have been “encouraging” and that this fosters healthy competition.

“Everyone is eager and wanting to play, to fight for their spot,” he said. “I’m happy with their commitment and camaraderie. Now the players know their roles and the youngsters must step up.”

But Fandi also cautioned that it takes time for the new-look Lions to continue gelling, particularly as he will be calling up more fresh faces next month to run the rule over before deciding on the 26-man squad for the final training camp in Osaka, Japan in end-October.

Drawn in a tough group comprising Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste, Fandi acknowledged that fan expectations are high following the two positive performances but preferred to take things one step at a time.

“Football is a funny game; yesterday you may have played well, but tomorrow you don’t play well,” he said. “It’s good to stay positive (though) and we hope they (the fans) will support us.

“This is (the) time for us to change, it’s a crucial time… we will do our best. We can’t promise the moon but if we go down, we will go down fighting.”