Lions coach Takayuki Nishigaya calls up five new faces
Since he was appointed as the Singapore national football team coach in April 2022, Takayuki Nishigaya has led the Lions to just five victories in 13 matches.
In a bid to improve on that record, the Japanese tactician has been on a quest to reinvigorate his side and has called up five new faces in the latest national squad announced on Thursday.
They are Balestier Khalsa goalkeeper Hairul Syirhan, Hougang United defender Jordan Vestering, Tanjong Pagar United midfielders Fathullah Rahmat and Naqiuddin Eunos, and Young Lions captain Harhys Stewart, who had skippered the Singapore Under-22 side at the recent SEA Games in Cambodia.
The quintet will be hoping for a chance to impress Nishigaya during June’s international friendlies against Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands at the National Stadium.
The Lions, ranked world No. 158, will host the Papuans (159th) on June 15 before entertaining Solomon Islands (134th) three days later.
Left-back Vestering, who caught the eye in his eight appearances in this season’s Singapore Premier League (SPL), said he was “honoured and grateful” for the call up, and thanked his coaches and family for their support.
The 22-year-old, who has already represented the country at various youth levels, said the call up “is not something that I take for granted”, adding that he will continue to work hard and will give his all if called upon during matches.
Nishigaya said the newcomers have shown their potential, but it is a big step up to international football.
“I want them to join us this week to gain the experience of being in a national environment and be exposed to the higher intensity in training and in the matches, raise their levels of technique and improve how they handle duels and contact on the international front,” said the 50-year-old.
The Japanese, who is using the games to prepare the team for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in October, has been looking to inject new blood of late.
During the previous international window, in which the Lions drew 1-1 with Hong Kong and beat Macau 1-0, he had also handed out new call-ups to Amirul Haikal, Daniel Goh, Irfan Najeeb, Joel Chew and Lionel Tan.
Six players – Adam Swandi, Amy Recha, Hariss Harun, Shah Shahiran, Shakir Hamzah, and Shawal Anuar – all of whom had sat out from that window in March due to various reasons, are back in this squad.
Notable omissions in this squad include midfield linchpin Shahdan Sulaiman along with the three Fandi siblings, Irfan, Ikhsan and Ilhan, who are continuing rehabilitation from their respective injuries.
There are also several experienced players who have been left out, including goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam, Gabriel Quak – who has three goals and an assist in his last four SPL matches – and key defender Safuwan Baharudin, who continues to be overlooked due to medical reasons.
Song Ui-young and Jacob Mahler, who recently joined Indonesian clubs Persebaya Surabaya and Madura United respectively, are also omitted as Nishigaya felt that it is important for them to get settled with their new teams ahead of the Liga 1 season which kicks off on July 1.
The Lions squad will link up for centralised training on Monday.
Goalkeepers: Hairul Syirhan (Balestier Khalsa), Hassan Sunny (Albirex Niigata), Syazwan Buhari (Tampines Rovers), Zharfan Rohaizad (Lion City Sailors)
Defenders: Amirul Adli (Geylang International), Lionel Tan, M. Anumanthan (Sailors), Irfan Najeeb, Glenn Kweh (Tampines), Shakir Hamzah (Tanjong Pagar United), Jordan Vestering (Hougang United)
Midfielders: Adam Swandi, Hami Syahin, Hariss Harun (Sailors), Fathullah Rahmat, Naqiuddin Eunos (Tanjong Pagar), Zulfahmi Arifin (Hougang), Ho Wai Loon (Balestier), Joel Chew, Shah Shahiran (Tampines), Harhys Stewart (Young Lions)
Forwards: Hafiz Nor, Shawal Anuar (Sailors), Amy Recha (Hougang), Faris Ramli (Tampines), Daniel Goh (Balestier)