Asean Super League an exciting prospect for players
But don't neglect local pro tournament, say S.League coaches
Singapore's players will benefit from pitting themselves regularly against South-east Asia's best talents in the inaugural Asean Super League (ASL), which is set to kick off within the next two years.
Yesterday, The New Paper reported that the ASL will take off either in August next year or January 2017, with each member association - excluding Australia - represented by at least one team.
They will all be new franchises and will feature the best local players from each country along with four foreign signings.
The LionsXII, currently playing in the Malaysian Super League, will take part in the ASL, while the Courts Young Lions will move from the S.League to the MSL, boosted by four foreign players who have been short-listed under the Foreign Sports Talent programme.
For the potential ASL debutants, it is an exciting prospect to take part in an elite regional competition.
LionsXII striker Khairul Amri said: "If it turns out to be true, which player would not want to be part of the team?
"It would be an interesting experience in another environment.
"It has been on and off for a few years now but, if it is really happening, it would be a new target for us local players to get into the team and win the competition."
Salaries from $5,000 to upwards of $30,000 are also being talked about, and local players are pleased to see the possibility of a better payday.
"The top local players will be keen to be part of the teams, because they won't feel like they're missing a better offer at an overseas team elsewhere," said LionsXII winger Faris Ramli.
LionsXII midfielder Raihan Rahman encouraged future Young Lions players to get ready for a faster and more aggressive brand of football in the MSL, and to be prepared to sacrifice time and effort in a long season of three league and cup competitions.
Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic feels that even as the Football Association of Singapore is set to send a second local team abroad, it has to make sure the S.League is not neglected.
He added: "If every team commit to sending their best local players and sign top foreigners, then for sure it's good for the local players to be part of this team and league.
"If this happens, and the Under-23s play in the MSL, we have to take care of the S.League and make sure there is still quality and young players coming through the league.
"Maybe there can be a regulation to make it compulsory for teams to field three Under-23 or Under-21 players in their starting 11."
Home United coach Philippe Aw feels that as more Singaporean footballers test themselves abroad, the local clubs have to pick up the mantle and produce more players.
He added: "My other concern is whether there are enough resources to sustain competitiveness in Singapore's participation in all three leagues.
"The S.League must progress along with the teams in the ASL and MSL because without a strong local league, you won't have enough players for the other projects and the national team in the long term."
Hougang United coach Salim Moin also felt the Singaporean teams participating in the ASL and MSL will benefit, and agreed with Kraljevic about having a youth quota.
The former national Under-18 coach also asked that these teams do not call up more players than they need; the LionsXII and Young Lions typically recruit around 30 players compared to the 20 professionals S.League clubs sign.
He elaborated: "I hope these teams have a limit to how many players they select because as we have seen from the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions, there are a number of players who don't even get one full game throughout the season.
"As for the S.League, I hope we can cut the number of imports to two so we can field more local players, and introduce a quota to play two or three Under-23 players each game."