• Thu. Oct 5th, 2023

Debut for Singapore’s Lionesses at the Asian Games. But why are so many stars missing in action?

Aug 30, 2023 ,

When Singapore national women’s coach Karim Benecherifa released his provisional list of players for upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, the absence of several key players started to raise eyebrows.


Among the missing Lionesses in Bencherifa’s list were Lila Tan, Ernie Sulastri, Nur Izzati Rosni, Danelle Tan and Putri Syaliza. 

All considered among Singapore’s best at present.

Given that the Lionesses participation at the Asian Games will be historic given that it is their debut, shouldn’t the best players be readied for battle?

Women’s football has been offered at the Asian Games since the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, and this year will mark Singapore’s debut at the event.

So why are so many of Singapore’s stars missing from Bencherifa’s list, was a question being floated in football circles.

Lila Tan (photo below), a Lion City Sailors player, was not named in Bencherifa’s squad. 


Her fellow Sailor Nur Izzati (photo below) was declared as unavailable, with several sources pointing to her decision as being linked to Ernie not being part of the squad.


Danelle Tan (photo below), who has been one of the most talked about female players of late, was declared as unavailable due to her current and early stint with Borussia Dortmund’s women’s team (BVB Frauen) in the fifth division of competition.


She told TMSG in a response via DM that she “really wanted to focus on my training and the season with Dortmund.”

“It’s also not an international break window anyway,” she said.

TMSG also received a DM from an insider, who asked for anonymity, alleging friction between players and Bencherifa and friction between clubs and the national coach.

The call for national players during non-FIFA windows which has led to the Women’s Premier League stretching from March to November was also raised as a bone of contention.

For the record, Bencherifa was appointed in February 2023 as the national women’s coach. 


In an interview published on the Football Association of Singapore website, Bencherifa said that his players in the provisional squad for the 2022 Asian Games were selected after meetings and discussions with his backroom staff. 


“We went through each individual’s performance and attitude both on and off the pitch, taking into account their respective technical, tactical, physical, and mental attributes such as focus, determination and adaptability to high-pressure situations which are required when playing strong opponents at the highest level of the continent. 

“All this while taking into consideration the availability of players for Asian Games selection, including those who may have to miss out on this Games due to personal and overseas club commitments.”

He also added that players who could contribute effectively to the team’s strategy and cohesion were prioritised.


Bencherifa’s explanation for some of the missing players raised some questions among followers of the women’s game.

Save for Danelle Tan, who has confirmed that she wanted to focus on her season with Dortmund, there are question marks about the absence of other players.

He also explained how forward Nur Izzati “has also informed us that she is unavailable for the Games, which is unfortunate, but we respect her decision.”

But why did Nur Izzati (photo below) pull out? 


Was it because Ernie Sulastri (photo below) was not selected?


This is a question mark.

Putri Syaliza (photo below), who was Singapore’s first woman player to play in Thailand, and who is currently with the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in the United Stated, was left out given that she will have examinations during the Asian Games period.


Bencherifa made no mention of why Lila Tan and Ernie have been left out from his squad, with fans needing to scour for clues, without any.

What he did say though was that “the door of the National Team is and will always be open for deserving players whose performances merit them a call up.”


Singapore’s Lionesses have been drawn to face North Korea and Cambodia Group C. 

How they perform at the continental competition is anyone’s guess.

With the men’s team not participating given their disastrous Southeast Asian Games outing, there will be a considerable amount of interest in the Lionesses’ performance.

“Let’s not forget we will be playing one of the top teams in the world; North Korea was once a top 10 ranked team, while Cambodia showed lot of progress recently. 

“The challenges we face could include managing nerves, maintaining focus, and adapting to the pace and intensity of international matches.


North Korea was not once a top 10 ranked team as they are currently ranked 10th in the world while Cambodia is still not ranked according to the FIFA rankings roster.

Singapore is currently ranked 135th in the world. 

Bencherifa will have to make do with the cards he has been dealt, and make or break, it will be his head on the chopping block.


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