Hassan can’t wait for football to resume – but only when it’s safe

It has been a strange couple of months for our Lion City Sailors custodian Hassan Sunny.

After all, since starting his professional career at Geylang United (now called Geylang International) in 2003, the 36-year-old has hardly ever been away from a football pitch for such a long period of time, injuries notwithstanding.

But, with the Covid-19 pandemic putting a temporary halt to all sporting activities in Singapore in March, Hassan has had no choice but to stay at home – away from the familiar surroundings of the Bishan Stadium – and wait for the virus to blow over, so that things can return to normal.

And, while Hassan fully understands the need to be cautious when it comes to the virus, he admits that it has not been easy for him to live without football these past two months.

“I don’t see anyone, or any athletes, having a good time at the moment,” said Hassan. “I watch the news closely every day, hoping for when it’s finally announced that we’re allowed to train again. Even if it’s in small groups of three or four, all of us just can’t wait to be back out on the pitch.

“Because football is in our blood, and we have been playing football since we were young, and this virus is like a huge block to stop us from doing what we love. In fact, it’s not just us professional athletes. I’m sure most people out there have ‘itchy legs’, and can’t wait to exercise or play sports as well.”

Nonetheless, Hassan acknowledges it is imperative that the SPL resumes only when it is safe to do so. And he expressed his confidence that the authorities in Singapore would make the right call at the right time.

“We as Singaporeans have to be thankful and we have to appreciate the things going on in Singapore,” Hassan mused. “Everything is about health. I’m sure when football resumes, all the necessary measures and checks will come first before football.

“I think it’s safe to say that us players don’t need to worry that much, because if any of us don’t pass the checks, we won’t be allowed to train or play with the team. So, if you talk about fears in terms of health, I’m sure everything will be detected early, and I think there’ll be no worries on that end.”

In the meantime, to keep himself focused on football, Hassan reveals that he has taken to watching his past matches, while also ensuring that he remains in tip-top shape physically.

The Sailors ‘Superman’ explained: “I’m sure all of us athletes and football players have been doing a lot of individual work at home or at our neighbourhood parks. On the football side, however, what I do is watch my matches from previous years…just to keep my brain on football and help me stay in the game.”

Hassan, however, will have to remain patient for a while longer – the return date for the Singapore Premier League (SPL) remains up in the air, even as the country slowly but surely moves towards the easing of restrictions.

But even after the SPL is given the all-clear to resume, the veteran Singapore international believes that there will be changes that clubs and players will have to adapt to.

“As much as people in Singapore would love to see football again, I’m sure things won’t go back to normal,” said Hassan. “Case in point – I recently watched the Bundesliga and the Korean league, and they don’t have fans watching them. I’m sure that affects those players, and it would be the same thing for us as well.”


LCS Football Academy is a game-changer for youth players: Saifullah

Since its official launch on June 10, our Lion City Sailors Football Academy – along with the announcement of an elite development programme scholarship worth S$1 million for promising young players – has been the talk of the footballing community in Singapore.

Modelled after some of the leading academies in Europe, our LCS Football Academy programme is geared towards grooming young talent in local football by creating a holistic environment to help them to grow and develop to the best of their potential.

This includes providing youth players access to a whole suite of professional services critical to the development of footballers, including nutritionists, sports psychologists, video analysts and sports doctors.

Our LCS Football Academy and its elite development programme has since been hailed by several local football observers as a boost for Singapore football, with Sailors midfielder Saifullah Akbar hailing this latest development as a step in the “right direction” for the local game.

Speaking to the official LCS website, the 21-year-old said: “The launch of the LCS Football Academy shows that our chairman is trying to build a youth set-up which is very similar to what they have in Europe, where they have not only football training sessions, but also cater time for students to focus on their studies.

“I personally think that’s the right strategy to develop youngsters, because it also ensures that they have a good educational background. So, I think the launch of the LCS Football Academy, as well as the elite development programme is a really positive thing, not only for our club, but for Singapore football as a whole.”

Having come through an academy as a young footballer, Saifullah understands first-hand how important it is for youth players to develop in a professional and well-rounded environment like the one offered by the LCS Football Academy.

“Being in a well-run academy like I was, helped a lot in my development,” he shared. “During my time as a trainee, we had things like motivational and nutritional talks…it had a positive impact on me because as a young kid, I needed all that knowledge. And when I grew up, this knowledge stayed with me, and I now apply it in my professional career, and it’s been going well so far.”

With our LCS Football Academy charting a viable career pathway into professional football – either through the senior squad of our Lion City Sailors, or through our vast contacts with overseas clubs – Saifullah believes it will provide an impetus for youth players in the academy to raise their game and work even harder to improve themselves.

“As a young player, if you have that kind of motivation to make it in professional football, you’ll work extra hard every day to try and achieve those goals,” said Saifullah.

“So, this career pathway is good because now everybody will be fighting for that goal, and will put on their A-game every single time. It drives players to push one another, which can bring the best out of them. This can help to produce very good footballers for Singapore.”

Nonetheless, while our LCS Football Academy will strive to provide the best for our players, Saifullah insists that one’s success in the game is really down to one’s own hard work, discipline and determination.

“There are no shortcuts for wanting to achieve your goals,” he declared. “So, my advice to the players coming through the LCS Football Academy would be to take note of the little things…to achieve your professional career goals.

“For myself…I would have very good sleep, eat good meals, and make sure my body is always in shape to bring out the best in me on the pitch.”

Media Watch

Media Watch – Lion City Sailors Academy

Million-dollar move by Sailors (Straits Times)

They were already a trailblazer for Singapore football as the country’s first privatised club in February and Lion City Sailors have again shown their ambition by committing $1 million to their Lion City Sailors (LCS) Football Academy.

Billionaire chairman Forrest Li hopes the revamped programme will help the Sailors grow into one of the top football clubs in Asia.

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Lion City Sailors aim to develop talent good enough for Europe (ESPN)

Ambitious Singapore Premier League club Lion City Sailors on Wednesday announced a $1 million scholarship to develop local talent for the first team and for potentially playing abroad.

The Sailors took over Home United in 2020, a club that was previously one of Singapore football’s more prestigious teams with two league titles and six Singapore Cups to their names.

Read more

Lion City Sailors launch $1m programme to nurture young football talents (Yahoo)

Lion City Sailors (LCS), Singapore’s first privatised football club, have launched a $1 million scholarship programme to nurture the country’s young football talents.

The four-year Elite Development Programme will be the centrepiece initiative of the club’s revamped youth development centre, the LCS Football Academy.

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Lion City Sailors umum tawaran biasiswa $1j untuk tingkat ekosistem bola sepak negara (Berita Harian)

KELAB bola sepak setempat, Lion City Sailors Football Club (LCSFC), hari ini mengumumkan langkah terbaharu dalam iltizamnya untuk meningkatkan ekosistem bola sepak Singapura, dengan pelancaran program biasiswa $1 juta.

Program biasiswa ini bertujuan memupuk kerjaya pemain bola sepak muda berbakat di negara ini.

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新加坡互联网巨臂Sea入主本地足球队 (Fortune Times)

新加坡线上游戏与电子商务公司Sea公司(Sea Ltd) 上周五(14日)宣布,入主新加坡职业球队内政联足球俱乐部(Home United Football Club) ,并将之易名为狮城水手足球俱乐部(Lion City Sailors FC;狮城水手队)。

配合上述宣布,Sea公司也为狮城水手足球俱乐部推介了全新的标志、装备和全新阵容,以期开启新加坡足球发展史的全新时代。然后,在来临即将于2月29日掀开序幕的 新加坡超级足球联赛(Singapore Premier League;简称新超联赛) 全新赛季中,狮城水手队将在碧山体育场(Bishan Stadium)对垒新超联赛新科冠军文莱的DPMM球队。

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The Launch of $1 Million EDP Scholarship by Lion City Sailors (Bolasepako)

Lion City Sailors Football Club (LCSFC) has announced the latest step in its commitment to enhancing Singapore’s football ecosystem, with the launch of a S$1 million scholarship programme – Elite Development Programme (EDP), designed to nurture the careers of the country’s most talented young footballers in a media statement issued by the only privately-owned club of the Singapore Premier League (SGPL).

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Lion City Sailors FC announces S$1 million scholarship programme at its revamped in-house academy to nurture Singapore’s best young football talent

Lion City Sailors Football Club (LCSFC) has announced the latest step in its commitment to enhancing Singapore’s football ecosystem, with the launch of a S$1 million scholarship programme designed to nurture the careers of the country’s most talented young footballers. The four-year pilot Elite Development Programme will be the centrepiece initiative of the club’s revamped in-house youth development centre, the LCS Football Academy.

Elite Development Programme designed to support the growth of Singapore’s most promising young talent

The Elite Development Programme is a key facet of the club’s vision to become an elite football development hub for Singapore, and will kick start with a 25-strong intake of 12-year-old aspirants who were born in 2008.

Complemented by specialist teams including nutritionists, sports psychologists, video analysts and sports doctors, the programme is modelled after the academies of leading professional European football clubs. It is aimed at creating an environment to instil on-field and off-field attributes that will provide a sturdy platform from which to launch professional careers beyond Singapore and into major leagues in Asia and Europe. The experience gained by Singaporeans playing in the top leagues internationally, with the subsequent sharing of knowledge and expertise among the national team set-up, will create a virtuous cycle that builds a positive environment for football development in Singapore.

The Elite Development Programme is built around the Singapore school curriculum to ensure that scholars continue to excel in academics while also receiving the best football education. This will feature weekly local matches, quarterly overseas training camps, an annual major overseas tournament, as well as training stints with top foreign clubs. The programme will also include a Professional Adaptation Programme to ease scholars back into the competitive professional football environment after completion of National Service, with a view to signing with an overseas club.

The scholarship covers all costs incurred during the course of training, insurance and apparel, with overseas camps and tournaments subsidised at 50 percent. On top of this, selected scholars will receive an additional cash allowance. These amount to S$250,000 invested in the programme per annum, totalling S$1 million over four years.

Interested applicants can visit the academy’s website for more details on the scholarship and submit their applications. Due to restrictions in place to battle the coronavirus outbreak, open selections for the scholarship will be announced at a later date.

Revamped programme builds upon foundations laid by LFA Protectors

The Elite Development Programme is the centrepiece initiative of the LCS Football Academy, the club’s revamped in-house talent development hub, formerly known as the LFA Protectors.

The LFA Protectors has demonstrated success in local competitive settings, driven by structured training programmes that emphasise technical development. The LCS Football Academy will now build on that and aim for the next level – to be competitive with the top youth teams in the region. This will be facilitated via a new all-rounded curriculum that includes sports science, fitness, nutrition and psychology related programmes, enhanced usage of modern technology that includes video analysis and player biodata tracking in training, and bringing in a Technical Director with European experience.

The LCS Football Academy will be helmed by Luka Lalic, who was Feyenoord Rotterdam’s Head of Methodology, International Development Coach before signing with the Sailors. He brings with him working expertise geared towards moulding young players into professional footballers. He will oversee the implementation of the Elite Development Programme that will start with the Under-13 squad all the way through to the U17s.

The LCS Football Academy also features paid programmes for children between six and 12 that will feature both boys’ and girls’ teams in all age groups.

The girls’ programme is based on the Football Know How methodology, with the Dutch pair of Hesterine de Reus, the former head coach of Australia’s Women’s national team, and former Dutch FA coach, Sandra Awondatu, as consultants.

The priority for the LCS Football Academy is to provide a pathway to professional careers in Singapore and globally for the country’s most talented boys and girls. That starts with a local development pathway, that for boys leads into the Sailors first team that plies its trade in the Singapore Premier League; and for girls, into the Lion City Sailors women’s team that competes in the Football Association of Singapore Women’s Premier League.

All squads in the LCS Football Academy will receive support from specialist teams that include sports doctors, nutritionists and sports psychologists.

Vision for the LCS Football Academy

“The LCS Football Academy underlines our commitment to Singapore football. Firstly, through the Elite Development Programme that will support the growth of the most promising players who have the talent not just to represent our club, but also our Lions. Secondly, our goal is to develop the greater ecosystem of Singapore football, from players to coaches through to specialist areas like nutrition and psychology,” said LCSFC Chairman, Forrest Li.

“Our vision is not just to make the Sailors one of the best football clubs in the region, but for the club to bring Singapore football as a whole to the next level.”

It is a vision that Lalic reveals was a critical factor behind his decision to put pen to paper.

“I have seen from my time in Singapore that there is football talent in the country. With the Elite Development Programme, these talents will now have an opportunity to develop into professionals in a top-level football environment. When you add to that the overall vision and commitment that Forrest and the club have towards football, it was an easy decision for me to make,” he said.

“I’m excited to get started with implementing a new technical programme based on the same parameters as the top academies in Europe. I look forward to seeing how far Singapore football will go, now that it’s given the right structure, tools and people,” added Luka.

Tan Li Yu, general manager of LCS Football Academy, formerly known as LFA Protectors, was equally excited about what lies ahead.

“In my nine years running football academies in Singapore, we’ve seen that young Singaporean footballers up to the age of 12 can compete with their counterparts from Europe and the rest of the world in global competitions like the Gothia Cup.

“Now with the added professionalisation of a holistic programme that includes consistent high-level competition, off-the-field tools to deal with the competitive nature of football, and a clear pathway into a professional career, I can’t wait to see what our players can achieve.