Promising young Lions could star in J-League
THE Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have tried hard to get their most promising Lions to ply their trade abroad, to gain more exposure in bigger leagues.
Earlier this year, Singapore striker and skipper Indra Sahdan went for a trial with MLS side Real Salt Lake, while his national team-mate, keeper Lionel Lewis, trained with Manchester City and Swiss club Grasshoppers. Both failed to land contracts. Now, the FAS can look at the J-League as another overseas venue for their players.The 33 clubs in the J1 and J2 divisions of the J-League are currently allowed three slots for foreign players. But for the 2009 season, which starts in March, the Japan Football Association (JFA) have introduced an “Asian Berth”. It allows clubs to take in one more foreign player from the rest of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) 45-member associations.
“We expect this to improve our standards while competing with other Asian players. It will allow us to exploit new markets and have more international exchange,” J-League chairman Kenji Onitake was reported as saying. The move has been welcomed by the football fraternity and the FAS are determined to get local players to play in Japan.
Yesterday, they sent a fax to the JFA expressing their interest in having Singaporean players considered for the J-League’s Asian berths. “Getting our players to play overseas is something that the FAS have been working on and we are obviously going to make a concerted effort to get some of our players to Japan,” FAS assistant general secretary P Sivakumar told Today.
“We’ve sat down with Singapore head coach Radojko Avramovic, technical director Slobodan Pavkovic and Winston (Lee) the general secretary and have come up with a shortlist of players we think can succeed there.”
Sivakumar declined to reveal the names on the shortlist. The Singapore squad will defend their Asean title at December’s AFF Suzuki Cup in Thailand and Indonesia. Former Lions head coach and current Home United boss P N Sivaji feels the team’s recent exploits in the Asean tournament could well see J-League clubs consider Singapore players.
“The J-League is one or two levels above our league and only the best get to play there,” he said. “But we have been Asean champions in the last two series and our players have got rave reviews, so we might be able to see some of them playing in Japan.” So far, only V Sundramoorthy (FC Basel, Switzerland) and Fandi Ahmad (Groningen, Holland) have gone beyond South-east Asia and Hong Kong to play professional football.
Sundram, the Young Lions head coach, warned about the difficulties succeeding so far away from home. “To play abroad a player must have discipline and a strong drive to succeed,” he said. National coach Avramovic agreed. “We have a few players who should try to play in Japan, but I don’t think it’s right for the FAS to push them there,” said the Serb. “It is, however, a good opportunity that players should grab.”
Daisuke Korenaga, chairman of S-League side Albirex Niigata, the developmental team of the J1 club, is already looking forward to watching a Singaporean in action in the J-League.
“I can see Hariss Harun playing in the J-League in a few years,” said Korenaga, referring to the Young Lions midfielder who was capped by Avramovic last year when he was just 16. “But this policy means one Japanese player will lose his spot in the squad, and they might not be happy about that. “But an Asian player will encourage football education in Japan, that’s for sure.”
Adapted from Todayonline