Ab­bas to Lions: Get out of your com­fort zone

The New Paper - - SPORTS - DILENJIT SINGH

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.”

dilen@sph.com.sg

TNP PHO­TOS: JONATHAN CHOO

Ab­bas Saad (above) says Shakir Hamzah (be­low) has the “com­plete pack­age” as a de­fender.

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