Young Lions’ Fairuz Fazli and Raoul Suhaimi aim to build on recent senior call-ups, Latest Singapore Football News - The New Paper
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Young Lions’ Fairuz Fazli and Raoul Suhaimi aim to build on recent senior call-ups

Getting called up to Singapore’s recent squad has given Fairuz Fazli and Raoul Suhaimi valuable insights into what it takes to play for the Lions.

While the Young Lions duo did not feature in the World Cup qualifiers against South Korea and Thailand, both said in an e-mail response that they have benefited from the call-up.

Stoked by the experience, the fullbacks are now looking forward to successful seasons in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), with the Nov 23-Dec 21 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship and 2025 Bangkok SEA Games on the horizon. 

Fairuz, 19, who was first named in the senior squad by Tsutomu Ogura in March, said: “(Being in the senior team is) a different level of intensity and professionalism. The level of competition and the pace of play in the national team set-up demands more from you as a player.

“I want to be able to bring back the insights gained from my time with the national team to the Young Lions. With coach Ogura and (assistant) coach Kosei (Nakamura) being involved in both set-ups, it makes it easier for players like me to work towards a common goal.”

Raoul, who earned his maiden call-up, said it was a “dream come true”.

“Training at that level gave me new perspectives on the game and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from the other players and coaches,” said the 18-year-old, who had burst onto the scene in 2021 as the SPL’s youngest debutant at 15 years and 239 days, a record that has since been broken by Nathan Mao (15 years and five days) in 2023.

“The intensity and focus required in every session are aspects of the game that will aid in my development.

“I aspire to leverage on the knowledge gained from the training sessions with the national team to elevate my own performance and positively impact my team’s development this season.”

Coach Nazri Nasir said the duo’s involvement with the Lions is “immensely beneficial”. The 53-year-old added: “It exposes them to higher levels of competition and helps them gain valuable experience that they can bring back to our team.

“With both the Young Lions and national team set-ups aligning in terms of training methods, they send a clear message to the rest of the team that if they can perform well in the Young Lions, they too can be selected for the national team.”

The Young Lions have five foreign players among their ranks this season, so it is even more crucial the Singaporeans are able to compete for starting spots.

Fairuz, who played 23 SPL matches in the 2023 season, agreed that getting playing time is important for him.

“Every minute on the pitch is an opportunity for me to develop as a player,” he said. “I have to try to keep improving myself, to help Young Lions finish as high up the SPL as possible and hopefully, my performances continue to impress the national team coaches, whether it’s for the SEA Games or the senior national team.”

Raoul, who made only nine league appearances in 2023 due to injuries, shared similar sentiments. “I am determined to earn a regular spot in the Young Lions team by working harder in training and performing my best when called upon by the coach, so as to improve my chances of being in the upcoming AFF squad.”


However, while the pair are eligible for the 2025 SEA Games, they believed that it should not be the main target, especially with the year-end Mitsubishi Electric Cup coming up.

Fairuz said: “While being part of the SEA Games team next year would naturally be one of the aims for me personally, I’m committed to giving my best on and off the pitch to constantly improve my game and contribute to the success of the teams I play in.”

Raoul added: “I want to give myself the best possible chance of attaining a place in the national squad that will compete in the AFF competition.”

Nazri emphasised the importance for the Young Lions to be aligned with the senior squad, adding that it means developing the players to give them the chance to be selected for the Cup.

“For me, it’s to get my players performing at a level that he can count on them for whatever games the national teams play. This shift in focus is particularly crucial, as the AFF tournament coincides with the (Asian) Champions League (2), which will potentially render a number of senior national team players unavailable. 

“Consequently, this presents an opportunity for other players to step up and secure their spot in the squad.”

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