Singapore needs to revisit having more naturalised footballers in our national team as one of the short-term fixes, said the acting president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Bernard Tan, noting that Singapore has only one naturalised player over the past decade.
Tan was speaking to Mothership in an exclusive interview on 23 May about the various short-term and long-term solutions required to improve Singapore’s football.
During the interview, Tan told Mothership that he believed that the Singapore national team needs about five to six naturalised players.
“Not all will be ready to play but if we have that kind of numbers, I think we would have a pretty strong squad,” he said.
But if they are not ready to play, why would we want to naturalise them?
He also added that countries within Southeast Asia had benefited from “serious naturalisation”, and highlighted Malaysia, which contains the likes of Darren Lok (photo below), Stuart Wilkin and Sergio Aguero.
These three players scored in the 4-1 defeat of Singapore at the last Mitsubishi Electric Cup.
“It does hit you that a lot of the [good] performances of [Malaysia’s] ‘A’ team is due to the fact that there are naturalised talents.
“Philippines doesn’t even hide it— almost everyone is a naturalised talent.”
“This is what we’re up against. [Singapore has] only naturalised one [player], which is Song Uiyoung, over the last 10 years.
“I think we need to revisit this.”
WHY ONLY 1 FOREIGNER IN NATIONAL TEAM
Tan said in the Mothership interview that Singaporeans may not be ready to accept foreign talents, even though some players have a large fanbase.
He also added that FIFA’s eligibility rules have made it difficult to naturalise foreign players.
Tan said that because naturalised players are not able to hold on to two passports, foreign players are less inclined to take up citizenship and play for Singapore.
“I think we have systemic issues but nevertheless, I think we can overcome them and make a concerted effort to try to naturalise players.”
Song’s citizenship was announced in August 2021.
WHY DID SINGAPORE STOP
Singapore’s move to go local stemmed from unhappiness in the early 2010s following the 2012 win at the then-Suzuki Cup.
A decision was then taken to build a house filled with local players, which included building the base to feed the national teams.
This was after a decade of having players like Daniel Bennett, Agu Casmir, Itimi Dickson, Precious Emuejeraye, Shi Jiayi, John Wilkinson, Qui Li, Aleksandar Duric and Mustafic Fahrudin fill up places in the national team over what was regarded as a golden era for local football.
The task to have more kids play football in schools, build up the grassroots and also have kids play organised football for at least 35 weeks of the year were all announced in 2014, all of which were tasked to Tan, then parachuted into the decision making body of the FAS.
Critics of Tan’s leadership point to his responsibility of having to work on these areas, which were not fulfilled.
MAIN PHOTOS: FAS