By Michael Y.P. Ang
Singapore’s search for that elusive SEA Games football gold kicks off when the Republic takes on Laos on Dec 8. The men’s football event is restricted to under-23 players.
Logic dictates that any national player would naturally be chosen for the Under-23 Lions as long as he is eligible for the SEA Games.
However, that logic apparently does not apply in the case of 21-year-old defender Delwinder Singh, currently with the 20-man national squad that will face Syria in today’s Asian Cup qualifier in Tehran. Singh made his Lions debut in a 2011 friendly against the Philippines.
He impressed former national coach Raddy Avramović enough to be included in the national team throughout all of Singapore’s eight-match World Cup qualifying campaign in 2011 and 2012, making his competitive debut in the last qualifier in February 2012.
The 20-man Lions squad in Tehran has 13 players eligible for the SEA Games. However, Singh is the only one among the 13 who has been excluded from Singapore’s 30-man provisional SEA Games squad.
Coach Aide Iskandar selected eight defenders, with six of them having already played for the national team. The two who have not are full-backs Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman and Ali Hudzaifi.
Singh can play as a centre-back or right-back. Therefore, it can be argued that left-back Hudzaifi is needed. That begs the question: why did Aide choose right-back Al-Qaasimy over Singh?
Perhaps Al-Qaasimy is a more suitable right-back, but wouldn’t Singh’s ‘A’ international experience be more valuable?
Why is there an apparent disconnect between Singh’s SEA Games exclusion and the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) recent call for more non-Malay players.
During last month’s TV interview with MediaCorp’s Suria channel, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said that “We must give an opportunity to everyone, and we must use the system of meritocracy to see who deserves it most.” Aide himself had also spoken of the need for more Chinese and Indian players.
Also, the FAS should ensure that every new national player be given enough opportunities to prove himself.
Throughout his four years with the Lions, goalkeeper Jasper Chan did not get to play a single competitive match for Singapore. Even after the Lions had been eliminated during the World Cup qualifiers in 2008, Chan was not selected to play in the remaining inconsequential matches.