Tampines Rovers' evergreen defender Daniel Bennett wants to play on
Evergreen defender, who turns 42 in January, is annoyed by constant talk of his retirement
The Singapore Premier League (SPL) may have rebranded itself in recent years with a focus on injecting young blood into the competition, but former Lions defender Daniel Bennett is determined to buck the trend.
When the next edition of the SPL gets underway, Bennett, who holds the record for most appearances for the Singapore national team, will be 42 years old and he confirmed to The New Paper that he will be playing on.
As he put it: "Why not?"
After capping the recent season by winning the Singapore Cup with Tampines Rovers, Bennett admitted he was annoyed by the constant queries on when he would be hanging up his boots.
Bennett, who has 142 international caps, said: "People here always seem to make the decision for me without even asking.
"Every year, they ask if I am retiring and some even assume that I am retiring. I think these people don't watch football, so they don't know what's going on.
"If I'm playing and have chosen to continue, it means that I believe that I can really make a good contribution to the team. I'm not a player who wants to sit on the bench. I'm not a player who wants to let the team down.
"I am honest with myself, so I don't really care about what others have to say.
"I will know when I should stop."
Bennett's longevity is staggering.
He made his debut on June 18, 1999, when the SPL was known as the S.League. He made his bow with Balestier Central, who are now known as Balestier Khalsa, in a 1-1 draw against Jurong FC.
In 20 years since, he has amassed five S.League titles, four Singapore Cups and three Asean football championship triumphs with the Lions.
This past season, Bennett has again taken care of himself impeccably and has been a fixture at the heart of the Stags' defence.
In the past year, he has also taken on a coaching role with ActiveSG, overseeing about 180 kids at the grassroots centre in Queenstown Stadium, while also coaching the Under-10 development team at Bedok Stadium.
Bennett, who is also an active property agent, said: "I like to fill my time and I think being able to coach is a way of giving back and using my experience well. I thoroughly enjoy it."
But even the evergreen Bennett isn't exempt from the anxious wait that players face at the end of every season, as clubs wait on confirmation of funding and player regulations before offering contracts.
Club officials that TNP spoke to revealed that the Football Association of Singapore has yet to confirm what is in store for next season.
However, Tampines coach Gavin Lee is certain that the Stags will do all they can to extend Bennett's contract, which expires at the end of the year.
Said Lee: "He is a model professional and has been ever reliable for us again this year. We have to do our due diligence before we can start talking to players, but definitely Dan is a key player for us and will have a huge role to play."
What is Bennett most looking forward to next season?
"A contract," Bennett quipped, before offering an assessment.
He said: "There needs to be real competition and the league's quality will improve and the national team will improve.
"When I was in the national team, during training, I couldn't look at some of the players really, because we've fought so hard in the league and there was so much competition. There was a huge rivalry back then, but now it seems like everyone is in one big happy family.
"If you really want to increase the quality of the national players, they need to have good competition week in, week out. We need more clubs for that and that way, you will get young players playing because they are good enough and not because the rules state that they have to."
With over 20 seasons of football under his belt, Bennett still craves and welcomes the competition.