Ilhan Fandi out of S'pore's SEA Games squad, but Irfan among over-age options
Singapore's quest for an unprecedented SEA Games football gold has been hit after losing forward Ilhan Fandi and wide player Farhan Zulkifli to ankle and quadriceps injuries respectively.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) yesterday confirmed that the duo are not in the provisional 27-man squad and will miss out on the Under-23 tournament.
However, they will be aided by three over-age players allowed for the competition. The trio will be picked from the quartet of Geylang International goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, BG Pathum defender Irfan Fandi, Hougang United utility player Zulfahmi Arifin and Lion City Sailors midfielder Hami Syahin.
The team will have a local centralised training camp from Monday (April 25), and depart for Vietnam on May 4.
Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir said: "It is unfortunate that Ilhan and Farhan will not be participating in this year's SEA Games, but it will be a great opportunity for other players to step up and prove to me they deserve a spot in the final squad.
"Most of the players are in the youth and senior set-up so they are already familiar with our style of our play.
"We will use the centralised training to further build chemistry between the players and to practise patterns of play so that the boys will be able to execute our philosophy on the pitch. The overaged players that I have selected will also fit into the system that we will deploy, and I am thankful for the support their clubs have given for the national cause."
Singapore's Group B campaign starts on May 7 against Laos, and they will also face Thailand (May 9), Cambodia (May 11) and Malaysia (May 14), as they aim to make it to the semi-finals for the first time since 2013.
Meanwhile, the FAS also announced a provisional 27-player squad for the national women's team who will be taking part in their first SEA Games since 2003.
Overseas-based players Siti Rosnani Azman, a 24-year-old defender who plays for Kibi International University in Japan, and 20-year-old forward Nicole Lim, who plays for University of Edinburgh in Scotland, have been included.
The Lionesses will embark on an eight-day overseas training camp in Chonburi, Thailand, from Wednesday and will play three friendly matches with Thai clubs.
Coach Stephen Ng said: "We are fortunate to have arrangements to go to Thailand for more match practice after the recent international friendly matches (a 6-2 win over Seychelles and 1-0 loss to Papua New Guinea).
"With three more matches under their belt, they will gain more match exposure to play at higher intensities while providing them with the opportunity to continue to work on their match fitness and speed of play."
In the women's football tournament, Singapore are in Group B where they will play Thailand (May 10), Laos (May 13) and Myanmar (May 15).
Both the men's and women's squads will eventually be cut to 20 players for the SEA Games.