Abbas to Lions: Get out of your comfort zone
Former Lions maverick believes players such as Shakir have what it takes to play in the A-League
Former Malaysia Cup hero Abbas Saad believes Lions leftback Shakir Hamzah is “the whole package” as a defender and can play in the A-League.
The former Socceroos attacker is well placed to judge, having led Sydney Olympic to a league and cup Double in his debut season as coach in the National Premier League (NPL) New South Wales.
State champions Sydney Olympic lost to eventual national champions Campbelltown City in the semi-final stage of the NPL Finals Series.
The NPL is Australia’s second-tier competition, behind the A-League.
Abbas, who is in town to observe his former teammate Fandi Ahmad’s Lions training sessions, told The New Paper: “Shakir, for me, could be anything as a defender...
“He’s got it all – he’s a great athlete, he’s quick, he can be nasty, he’s got great technical ability. He’s got the whole package.
“It’s his mindset, if he can control his mind and lift his game on a more consistent basis, I’m a big fan.
“Safuwan (Baharudin), Shakir and Irfan (Fandi) can play in Australia, no problem, they are physically strong...
“The A-League is a good starting point.
“You can’t get comfortable playing in Singapore and Malaysia, I don’t think it will take you that far. The K-League and A-League are the leagues Lions players should be looking at.”
Safuwan is the only Singaporean player to have featured in the A-League, playing six matches and scoring twice during a loan spell at Melbourne City in 2015.
When TNP told Shakir about Abbas’ comments, the 25-yearold said: “I’m shocked to hear someone like Abbas say that and recognise my attributes.
“Every player wants to try his luck overseas, for me, I have been waiting for (a chance) for the past few years... If I get the chance, I’d love to play overseas...
“From what I see, I believe I’m making progress.
“You can see how many yellow and red cards I used to get, but I want to control (that side of my game) because that stops me from being the best player I can be, as discipline is important in football.”
Shakir and his Lions teammates will play friendlies against Mongolia at Bishan Stadium tomorrow and Cambodia at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, before leaving for a two-week training camp in Osaka.
Fandi will announce his squad for the Nov 8-Dec 15 Asean Football Federation AFF Suzuki Cup after the Japan trip.
Singapore are grouped with champions Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor Leste in Group B of the biennial tournament.
Abbas, 50, admits it is a tough draw for the Lions, even with Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac saying that he won’t call up overseas-based stars Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda, Theerathon Bunmathan and Kawin Thamsatchanan for the tournament.
He said: “I think Thailand’s third team can pretty much win the Suzuki Cup if they play to their potential...
“Singapore have just got to be positive, they’ve got to be fearless. You can’t go to any tournament with a defeated mind.
“I know Fandi’s not that kind of person, I know that will be the message for the boys...
“They’ve got nothing to lose, everybody’s already putting them below Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines...
“Unity is your strength... I’ve loved the atmosphere (at training), they are a very tight bunch.
“If they are going to achieve something, and cause upsets, they’ll need good unity, and the boys have shown that in the last two weeks.”
Abbas Saad (above) says Shakir Hamzah (below) has the “complete package” as a defender.