News • February 21, 2017

Young Lions Out To Prove A Point


Garena Young Lions are rejuvenated for the new S.League season as head coach V.Selvaraj believes players such as Illyas Lee and Shahrin Saberin have the ability to guide the younger ones in the squad.

Although this will be the former Singapore international’s second stint as head coach of an S.League club, Selvaraj is no stranger to the developmental outfit as he was assistant coach to former Young Lions head coach Patrick Hesse last year.

Despite coming in ninth, the youngsters did not lose out in terms of commitment and dedication on the pitch as they faced more experienced counterparts in the S.League. While they secured only two wins last season, there were matches in which they put up a good fight and earned the praise of the opposing coach.

While several senior players such as Khairul Amri, Firdaus Kasman and Christopher van Huizen have left the team, Selvaraj feels that it presents a good opportunity for others to raise their game and lead the team by example.

“Everyone, including my coaching staff, have worked hard to prepare for the new season and the team is getting fitter,” Selvaraj said.

“We’ve good leaders in Shahrin, Illyas and Amirul, who are role models. The rest of them are eager to learn and are showing a lot of hunger. As long as we keep showing this desire and spirit, I’m sure the results will come.

“If there are mistakes, they have to learn from them and apply as positive knowledge. Most importantly, they have to be stronger mentally and compete in every game which we play in. These key things will help them in the upcoming SEA Games.”

Even before the new season begins, Selvaraj is pleased with what he has seen with his charges even as they juggle between regular training sessions and off-the-field commitments.

“So far, I’ve seen a lot of professionalism from the boys,” Selvaraj noted. “Most of them come in early and commit their weekends. Even those in National Service (NS) and with school commitments sacrifice and come to attend two sessions in a day.”

All eyes will undoubtedly be on Shahrin who has been singled out by Selvaraj as a mentor for the younger players on and off the field. And having played with seasoned campaigners such as Juma’at Jantan and Abdil Qaiyyim during his stint at Home United, the defender feels that he is able to repay his coach’s faith in him.

“Playing with senior and foreign players has really helped me develop as a player. It’s a good step up for me to come here now and build my character,” said Shahrin, who is one of the new arrivals at the club along with Hafiz Sulaiman and Hairul Syirhan.

Apart from fulfilling his duty as the team’s captain, the 22-year old has set for himself a personal target this year.

“I’m aiming to get a call-up to the senior national team, but the focus now is on helping my club,” said Shahrin. “I’ve to step up as a leader and show more maturity in game play to guide some of the younger ones, who have just come up from the National Football Academy.”

With Selvaraj keen to keep things tight at the back, Shahrin will be working closely with teammate Illyas Lee in ensuring that opponents do not have it easy penetrating their defence.

Lee is a regular in Singapore’s national youth team, having represented the Republic in the Youth Olympic Games and the 2011 Lion City Cup in which he captained the Under-16 in their final match against Flamengo. He was also selected for the Singapore U21 squad for the friendly against China U21 last October.

“There’s no pressure actually. We have really good defenders like Shahrin, Adli, Dhukhilan Jeevamani and Rusyaidi Salime. Of course we’re still learning, but we always go in with the mindset of keeping a clean sheet,” said Lee, who is in his second season with the club.

“It’s been tough for me personally because I’m juggling National Service and football, but I’m just glad that at least I get to be released for training and matches.

“I’m definitely aiming to stake my claim for the SEA Games squad, but first and foremost I’m looking forward to cement myself in the S.League team.”

The Young Lions will begin their new campaign with a trip to Bishan Stadium to face Home United on 27 February. The match will kick-off 7.30pm.

S.League 2017 fixtures: