FAS ● Feb 22, 2023
Lions legend Shahril Ishak retires
Shahril Ishak against Thailand in 2014, Image Credits: SPORTFIVE
SINGAPORE, 22 FEBRUARY 2023 – After a stellar career that spanned almost 19 years, a legend of Singapore football has called time on his playing journey.
Shahril Ishak, who confirmed yesterday that he is hanging up his boots, has already cemented his legacy as one of the finest Lions to ever don a Singapore jersey.
In 2003, the same year that the 19-year-old made his professional debut with Young Lions, the forward made his international debut. That came on 4 March against Maldives at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the Mikasa Cup Challenge.
Coming on in the 63rd minute in place of Syed Fadhil, he helped the Lions to finish the match as 4-1 victors.
Shahril Ishak makes his international debut on 4 March 2003 against Maldives
It was the start of a distinguished international career that saw Shahril earn 138 caps, the last of which came in 13 November 2018 against Philippines in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships.
Who could forget Shahril’s double against Causeway rivals Malaysia in the group stage of the 2012 AFF Championship at Bukit Jalil Stadium? That year, he led Singapore to their fourth AFF Championship title as captain and his stellar performances also saw him named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Shahril Ishak celebrates after scoring against Malaysia on 25 November 2012. Image credits: SPORTFIVE
He would go on to score a total of 14 goals for the country, and steps down as the third-most capped player in Lions history – only two behind National Football Academy (NFA) batch mate Baihakki Khaizan.
“I feel very privileged to be playing the game that I love and am so passionate about. Football has always been a huge part of my life as there is no other sport for me. I still clearly remember everything from my youth, everything in my mind was about becoming a footballer. I had nothing else in my mind, the forward said on Instagram.
“I am proud of my accomplishments whilst playing for the national team and clubs that I had represented. I have absolutely no regrets. From the very first professional contracts to my recent last. Playing for and captaining my country was something I had always dreamed off and it was such a great honour.
“Till then, thank you all for helping me fulfill my dream. It was a beautiful journey.”
Part of the pioneer batch of the now-defunct NFA in 2000, Shahril progressed through the various age-groups and at club level, started his professional career with Young Lions.
He was named the S.LEAGUE (now Singapore Premier League) Player of the Year in 2010 and went on to play for Young Lions (2004-2007), Home United (2007-2010), Warriors FC (2017-2018), back to Home United which later became Lion City Sailors (2018-2021) and most recently, Hougang United (2021-2022).
Shahril ventured abroad as well – two seasons with the LionsXII yielded a Malaysia Super League title in 2013, while there were spells in Indonesia (Persib Bandung, Medan Chiefs) and Malaysia (Johor Darul Ta’zim).
Former teammate and NFA batch mate Baihakki Khaizan told FAS.org.sg: ” We grew up together since the National Under-13s and became the pioneer batch of NFA. I still remember the goal he scored against AIK Stockholm in the Lion City Cup back in the Under-15s. I knew he was going to be special from the way he took his goal and played throughout the tournament.
“I think special is an understatement from the contributions he has given to Singapore. Not only was he capable of pulling off mind blowing skills, he was also a quiet but elegant leader who always found a way to rally the team on the biggest occasions.
We have been teammates for almost half of my career and have shared many fond memories. You are a diamond that never fails to shine, and I know you will continue to do so off the pitch.”
Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak celebrate after winning the Malaysia Super League in 2013. Image credits: Leo Shengwei/Playmaker
Singapore football will most definitely not be seeing the back of Shahril anytime soon though, as he has expressed a desire to give back.
“I’m looking forward to my next steps. I can’t wait to find out what life has in store for me. But now, it’s time to make an impact on the game off the pitch.”