Positive signals and a peek into the Sailors’ talent pipeline: Risto revolution off to a winning start 

A new-look Lion City Sailors kicked off their 2023 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season with three points and a bagful of positives, overcoming a sprightly Tanjong Pagar United 3-1 on Friday (24 February) night.

Back in the familiar comforts of Bishan Stadium after a two-year absence, the Sailors scored through Hafiz Nor and new signing Kodai Tanaka – who netted a brace in his debut for the club – all via a hat-trick of assists from Maxime Lestienne’s magical left foot. Sailors’ Head Coach Risto Vidaković topped off the evening by presenting top-tier debuts to two fledgling apprentices from the club’s Academy: 16-year-olds Jonan Tan and Idzham Eszuan Shah. 

But this was hardly a walk in the park for Sailors.

The comfortable scoreline belied the amount of hard work and effort the Sailors needed to prevent Tanjong Pagar from getting anything out of the game, with Hasrin Jailani’s side giving the home team as good as they got over the 100-odd minutes of football.

Indeed, while the Sailors were dominant in the first-half, the visitors were arguably the better team after the break, and could have gone on to earn themselves at least a point, but for a combination of heroic defending and wayward finishing.

Risto, however, was not unduly worried about the drop-off in intensity in the Sailors’ second-half. The Serbian explained: “There are many new components in the team, so to put them together is not easy. We need a bit more time to get what we want from the team.

“There are those who are still coming back from injury, or joined us late for pre-season, and they aren’t 100% yet, and we also have many young players. So overall, I’m very happy today because we still managed to get a result, and that’s the most important.”

While the Sailors Class of 2023 started the game with four new signings in Zharfan Rohaizad, Lionel Tan, Christopher van Huizen and Kodai, it was a familiar combination from last year that was responsible for the 11th-minute opening goal.

Diego Lopes and Maxime Lestienne combined well down the left to set the latter free, who sent in a peach of a cross into the box for the onrushing Hafiz to lash home a clinical strike from close range.

Tanjong Pagar had a golden opportunity in the 65th minute to draw level when they were awarded a penalty, but midfielder Mirko Šugić sent the resulting spot-kick wide.

That miss was subsequently punished by Kodai in the 89th minute, with the Sailors springing a devastating counter-attack that ended with the Japanese striker sliding home yet another Maxime cross for his first competitive goal in Sailors colours  – making it 2-0 to the home side. 

The Jaguars did eventually reduce the deficit in the second minute of added time through Shahrin Saberin’s header, but the Sailors restored their two-goal advantage just two minutes later, with Maxime once again laying the ball on a plate for Kodai to score again and seal an opening victory. 

The brace was no less than what Kodai deserved for the solid shift he put in up front. This was underlined by Risto’s post-game revelation: the 23-year-old was one of those who was still far from achieving his optimum levels.

“Kodai was playing at only about 50% of his ability,“ said Risto. “He had just trained for about two weeks with the team after returning from injury, and he will need more time to get to his best. But we didn’t have a lot of options so I let him play today.

“Strikers need goals to get confidence, and fortunately for us, he scored two today, and that’s a great start for him.”

Unsurprisingly, Kodai credited Maxime for his critical role in the win, saying: “Today they were easy goals and I have to thank Maxime for the assists. I only joined training sessions two weeks ago and I am not feeling totally fine yet. Perhaps in a week or so, I will be at 100%.

Perhaps the cherry on top of the season-opening win for the 1,300 fans at Bishan, was witnessing history being made as the Sailors threw on Jonan and Idzham in the second half.

At just 16 years and 10 days old, defender Idzham became the third-youngest debutant in Singapore league history – behind the Young Lions duo of Khairin Nadim and Raoul Suhaimi. 

Jonan is just a tad older, at 16 years, 7 months and 28 days. And the pair are the youngest to ever pull on the Sailors’ white and blue in the SPL. 

While the Sailors are not averse to giving opportunities to talented teenagers – Glenn Ong (17 years, 8 months and 29 days) and Aniq Raushan (17 years, 5 months and 18 days) made their SPL debuts in 2021 – both Idzham and Jonan are the first Scholars from the Sailors’ Elite Development Programme launched in 2020 to come through the system. 

“These young players trained very well during the pre-season with the first team, so I thought they deserved to get some minutes and feel important,” said Risto, explaining his decision to hand these two academy players their SPL debuts. 

“It’s good for them to feel how it’s like playing at the top level, as it will help them grow as players.”


Sailors focused on the long game as 2023 campaign begins against Jaguars

He stood, eyes transfixed on the flurry of activity in front of him. It was Thursday, 23 February and the Lion City Sailors were just 24 hours away from their 2023 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season opener against Tanjong Pagar United at the Bishan Stadium. 

Head Coach Risto Vidaković watched as his charges went through the paces at the Lion City Sailors Training Centre, but his almost stoic stillness was starkly contrasted with the palpable excitement at Mattar Road.

With the team gradually adapting to his philosophy of possession-based attacking football and showing promising signs in friendly matches since he took charge in early January, the 54-year-old Serbian is optimistic that his Sailors will put up a good show to set the tone for the season ahead. 

“The team is growing each time we come together and there’s a lot of positivity amongst the boys – it’s like a family and everyone is enjoying their time with one another. We’re aware the true test comes when the season gets underway, but I’ve seen enough from them that I know they’re going to fight for everything on the pitch to get our first three points of the year,” he said, with conviction. 

With Tanjong Pagar retaining the bulk of a squad that punched above their weight to finish sixth last season, Risto acknowledged this could be a tricky opening match, but backed his players to show grit and gumption to come through. 

“I think everyone here knows that, especially those who were at the club for the past few seasons – every team is going to play very hard against us and give more than 100 percent because they’re motivated to beat us. I believe our players are experienced enough to know what to do and how to cope with this,” said Risto. 

He is acutely aware of the importance of getting his reign off to a good start, but he has his eyes fixed on the long game for the big prize: the league title. 

“The first game is always important – not just because of the three points, but also it gives you confidence for future games and the season. But the league is a long-term journey – you cannot win the league after a few games for sure. 

“We need to turn it on throughout the year and keep at what we’ve been building on – to play an attractive style of football. And we have to carefully manage individual players’ condition so that we’re well prepared for all three rounds,” said the former Ceres-Negros tactician. 

In Hariss Harun, Risto has an ideal leader with the ability to take command of a dressing room which is now brimming with young talent, and the experience to pull through difficult periods that every team will inevitably encounter. 

The skipper is at the heart of the Risto revolution and is keen to lead the Sailors Class of 2023 into a new era for the club.

“Obviously this pre-season is starkly different from the past few, because of the new players and a new coach. Amongst the new players, there are several with plenty of potential and I’m excited to see how they improve and help the club in the next few years. This is a great opportunity for them to write a new story with this club. 

“Along with players like Hafiz (Nor), Maxime (Lestienne) and Diego (Lopes), there are experienced heads in the dressing room to help me manage these boys and I’m truly excited to be in a position to help them grow here,” said the 32-year-old. 

Despite the changes, Hariss acknowledged the fact Sailors are still expected to be amongst the frontrunners for the title and are relishing the opportunity to ‘right the wrongs’ of last season. 

“It is at the lowest when you learn the most. The way we ended last season was poor and the fans deserve to see a better showing from the team for this year – they deserved so much more for the support that they have given us. 

“It will be a tougher fight for the title this season, but it is a challenge that keeps us on our toes and will spur us on. Together our team will continue to strive and show the way forward in Singapore football on and off the pitch because that is what we stand for,” said the Singapore national team captain. 

For now, Hariss just cannot wait to get onto the Bishan pitch to usher in the new season.

“We’re delighted to be back at our rightful home in Bishan. We just cannot wait to play some entertaining football and get the three points for our fans on Friday night,” he said. 


5 reasons to kickstart the 2023 domestic football season with the Sailors

The 2023 Singapore Premier League season (SPL) kicks off on Friday for the Lion City Sailors as they host Tanjong Pagar United on Friday (24 February) night. 

A new year brings with it renewed aspirations and a fresh new energy,  and ahead of the 2023 season, the traditional positivity appears to have blended perfectly with the same old Sailors’ drive to aim for the very top. 

These are five reasons why you should be especially pumped up ahead of the fourth year since the club’s 2020 inception:

1. A renewed spirit

The Sailors Class of 2023 sports a refreshing new look with a total of eight new arrivals – who bring with them an outlook that has reinvigorated the Sailors dressing room.

The 23-year-old Kodai Tanaka may be the standout name among the new recruits as he looks to replicate the form that landed him the 2022 SPL Player of the Year gong, but he isn’t the only one looking to reinforce a reputation. 

There are five other young and hungry boys who have shown promise and are looking to launch their careers to become stalwarts for the Sailors and the Singapore national team in the future. 

Zharfan Rohaizad is one of Singapore football’s rising custodians who will be a strong contender for the spot in between the sticks for the Sailors, while Lionel Tan and Rusyaidi Salime add that bit of stability and steel to key areas. 

With aspirations of representing the nation at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and Asian Games this year, the duo of Danish Qayyum and Abdul Rasaq Akeem are also determined to kick on from promising displays at Young Lions in 2022. 

Collectively, they have lit a fire in the belly of a Sailors side looking to 2023 and the future with a renewed vigour. 

2. Experienced heads 

There are several new faces in the Sailors Class of 2023 – mostly young ones among those – but the Sailors retain a trusted core of players with know-how and bags of experience. The new duo of Shawal Anuar and Christopher van Huizen are hitting their prime and were standout performers for the Lions in the recent AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup.

Among the incumbents, Hariss Harun continues to lead the pack with his assured leadership and is ably supported by Hafiz Nor who is now into his fourth season with the club and showing no signs of slowing down.

Anumanthan is also growing to become an influential figure in the team, while Nur Adam Abdullah continues to take it upon himself to show the new young boys the ropes, this belying the fact that he is only turning 22 this April.

3. Prospects waiting in the wings

This may just be the year where the young prospects at the club get proper game time, mature and truly blossom – and there are several of them. 

A raw diamond who returned to the club at the end of 2022, Arshad Shamim is one exciting wing option who is determined to kick on after a strong pre-season. Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Haiqal Pashia are another two electric and sizzling talents who provide great width and they will be keen to push themselves into the first-team reckoning much more as they work their way back from injuries. 

Bill Mamadou has showed signs of developing into a fine and robust defender towards of the end of last season, while Hami Syahin will relish the opportunity to be the fulcrum of the Sailors’ midfield and no one needs any reminder of his abilities to pull the strings and play the killer pass to the forwards. 

4. Plethora of attacking options 

The signings of Kodai and Shawal add a new dimension to the Sailors attack, with the pair looking to form a fearsome triumvirate with Maxime Lestienne who starred last year with a league-high 23 assists. With a combined total of 69 goals throughout 2022, it is clear that the goalscoring responsibilities will be shared – and well-shouldered – between the three, all of whom have the ability to play anywhere across the attack. 

With the capable Rasaq waiting in the wings and several good crossers the likes of Hafiz, Chris and Arshad, Risto’s Sailors are poised to dish out some entertaining football this term.  

5. Magic of the Sailors’ rightful Bishan home

It was lovely to have Jalan Besar Stadium as a temporary residence for the past two years, perhaps especially because it was there that history was made when the club won its first-ever SPL title in 2021. 

But there is palpable delight in returning to the Bishan Stadium. The natural pitch at Bishan now looks impeccable, with both players and staff looking forward to putting on a display of slick passing football on its lush surface.  

Off the pitch, the Sailors are working their socks off to put a quality matchday experience together for fans, and there is welcome support from club partners in the vicinity – Halal restaurant, GoodBites, and Prime Auto Care for all your vehicular needs, are based just a stone’s throw from the stadium – who are poised to serve all fans. 

It will be brilliant, and we can’t wait to open our doors to Singapore football fans!


#WHITEBLUEANDBOLD: Sailors raring to go for 2023

Hariss Harun and the Lion City Sailors may be sporting a fresh new look alongside a rejuvenated squad with an influx of young players. But make no mistake, the Sailors Class of 2023 are poised to charge into the new season with the same old desire to succeed – perhaps even more boldly so. 

With an sharp injection of the fearless vigour of youth, and driven by the Singapore Premier League trophy-shaped hole left last year, the Sailors will draw on inspiration provided by their 2022 experience. 

“We remember the feeling very clearly, and there’s little doubt in our heads that we are capable of so much more. It’s been a fantastic pre-season with the spirit that the new players bring to the dressing room, and we’ve been able to blend this buzzy vibe with the lessons we carry with us from last season,” said the Sailors’ skipper. 

“I’m personally feeling very positive about what we can achieve for our fans this year.” 

The Sailors are about more than just the 11 on the pitch, more than just the 12th man, and indeed, representative of the community the club lives and works in – and its aspirations – that was the spirit with which the club was conceived. 

“Walking across the Esplanade Bridge and taking in the experience of being surrounded by these buildings that represent the scale of what Singapore has achieved in such a short time was truly inspiring – especially when you think about the similarities to what the Sailors are aspiring to,” said Sailors’ Women’s defender, Umairah Hamdan.

“When we step out onto the pitch this year, we will be wearing more than just the club crest on our shirts, we will carry the shapes that represent our fans, our community, and the extended Sailors’ family. 

“If it wasn’t clear before, it’s now very obvious – and I imagine that all of us will knowingly carry that inspiration with us every time we pull on the shirt,” she added. 

While the Sailors women will drive to match a 2022 they finished as Invincibles in a memorable debut Deloitte Women’s Premier League campaign, their male counterparts are gunning to reclaim the SPL title and a return to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) Group Stages for a second shot at battling against the best on the continent. 

And Christopher van Huizen is optimistic of what the future holds. 

“We’ve worked our socks off in pre-season, and we’re ready,” said the 30-year-old, who joined the Sailors from Tampines Rovers in the off-season. 

“We’ve taken lessons on board, we’re inspired and we’re ready to turn 2023 White, Blue and Bold.”


Looking forward, surging ahead: Badri Ghent

As the Sailors celebrate the third anniversary of the club, Sporting Director Badri Ghent looks with optimism to the new domestic football season ahead. 


Today the Lion City Sailors celebrate the third anniversary of the founding of our club and I am personally proud of how far the club has come since we were first formed on 14 February, 2020. 

It brings me great pride to see our Lion City Sailors Training Centre on Mattar Road now bustling with activities, eight months on after our official opening in July 2022. This first-of-its-kind facility in Singapore has provided us with the perfect platform for our first team, Women’s team and youth development pathways to take root and grow. 

The Training Centre is now equipped with the capability for our players to undergo focused individualised training programmes – that include technical sessions, strength and conditioning and even injury prevention and recovery – based on the needs of each player, this over and above tactical sessions with their respective teams.

A glance in the rear view 

Our Women’s Team did incredibly well in their inaugural Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season last year, winning the league in a memorable unbeaten campaign under the tutelage of Yeong Sheau Shyan.  

The First Team won our first-ever Community Shield and made a decent impression in the Asian Football Confederation (ACL)

There were of course disappointments across the season as well.  

The way we ended the 2022 domestic football season hurt, for sure. We hold ourselves to high standards and we have to acknowledge that the past campaign was just not good enough for what the club wants to achieve. 

We have taken a long hard look in the mirror and it is clear that building a culture of winning requires more than just having the best players and staff. We need to have a group of people who are hungry – and on the same page of achieving things together.

In football, there are always lessons to be taken from every season and we are now going into a new season shaped by those experiences. We have analysed and identified the areas which we were lacking in last year to improve for this year. 

One thing is for sure: we are learning, adapting and improving as we go into our fourth year. 

Eyes fixed on the horizon

It is important we now look ahead, and there are plenty of reasons to be positive. We have brought in Risto Vidaković, an experienced coach with a proven regional track record, and his teams have always displayed his philosophy of possession-based attacking football. 

I am an admirer of his football philosophy and I have enjoyed insightful football conversations with him when our teams – Home United, the previous iteration of the Sailors, and Ceres-Negros – met in the 2017 and 2018 AFC Cup zonal finals. It was clear to me then that he had made Ceres one of the most competitive sides in the Southeast Asia. 

I am confident he will rally the troops and we will have a successful season together in 2023.

The Sailors Class of 2023 is a rather young one – a team that has hunger and raw talent, and I’m confident we will excite our fans. 

Zharfan Rohaizad is one of Singapore’s rising custodians and is bound to feature strongly for the Lions, and the likes of Christopher van Huizen, Lionel Tan and Shawal Anuar have proved their pedigree in the league for the past few campaigns. 

The fans are understandably excited about the arrival of Kodai Tanaka and I am equally excited too – obviously we are happy to have him wearing our white and blue. 

With his presence and under Risto’s tutelage, we will see dynamic attacking play at the Bishan Stadium – especially when you consider the fact that we have Maxime Lestienne and Diego Lopes providing ammunition – and you guys deserve to see that, for all the support you have given us. 

And yes, we’re returning to our rightful Bishan home and the team behind the team is working their socks off to deliver a quality matchday experience for you. Our hope is that you continue to support us like you did in droves at Jalan Besar. 

An infusion of youthful vigour

Our academy trainees are starting to come through our system at Mattar and there is starting to be an infusion of youthful vigour in the first team. The club is more than just about our professional team, we want our youth footballers to grow and I think it will soon be clear that for them to be embedded in this world class facility is the way to go, even as we do our part to help Singapore football as a whole to improve. 

The training centre is now a solid base where auxiliary industries – sports science, nutrition, data analytics – all come together, with Kodai even mentioning that in his opinion, it is better than the standards seen in the Japanese second-tier. 

It is important that our players work hard, deepening the professional mindset and improving the way we train. 

We have two functional artificial pitches, with the hybrid pitch set to be operational later this year, and we cannot wait to train on that. 

The long-term target is to become one of Asia’s top clubs and we have never lost sight of that, even with the challenges we have faced. We want to continue to forge a new path that is beneficial to Singapore football and inspire the future.

We are looking forward to kick off our 2023 adventure, and we hope you will be alongside us in the stands at Bishan Stadium.

Happy birthday, Sailors!





Blue and Bold: 2023 Lion City Sailors Away Kit Unveiled

New season, new threads. 

The Lion City Sailors will be decked in a bold blue kit designed by PUMA when they go on the road this season. 

With intricate trapeziums, triangles and chevrons set against a vivid blue sky, the design elements on the front of the 2023 Lion City Sailors Away Jersey represent the shapes of us – of our team, our fans, our community – that shape the future of our club. 

“This was a new experience for me, modelling a jersey – and that in the middle of town as well, but it was really quite funny when we started being uncomfortable, before settling into a groove,” said Abdul Rasaq Akeem, who modelled the kit alongside fellow new recruit Christopher van Huizen as well as WPL counterparts the likes of Beatrice Tan and Umairah Hamdan. 

“The final product was slick, with our club kit and colours against the Singapore skyline: our shapes set against the shapes of our country – that was very cool.”  

The shoot took place in downtown Singapore, around the Esplanade Bridge and Helix Bridge with the Sailors soaking in the feeling of being surrounded by the shapes – our distinct skyline – that are deeply intertwined with the success of our country. 

The 2023 Lion City Sailors Away Jersey will go on sale soon!

Stay tuned to our social media platforms for more information.



Ladies and gentlemen of The Crew, 

We’re absolutely delighted that you’ve put your name down to come on board for the Sailors’ 2023 adventure, and we can’t wait for you to get involved in the exciting activities we’ve got in the pipeline!

You would have received your Membership Number in your inbox and an email with the link to apply for the Season Pass – applications will close on Tues, 14 Feb at 6pm, or when passes are no longer available.  

Only members of The Crew can apply for the Season Pass, so if you haven’t already done so – click here to join The Crew!


Click here to join us today!

Membership to The Crew opens doors to everything you’ll need for a front row seat to back your Sailors in the 2023 Season.

From discounted Home match tickets to attractive deals at partner establishments, vouchers for the Lion City Sailors Football Club Official Store on Shopee and exclusive invites to unique experiences that will bring you closer to the players and club that you love.

Come onboard The Crew for just $48 (incl GST) and make bold new memories on your journey with the Sailors!

Memberships come with these exciting benefits:

  • A Crew Pack comprising a Membership Card to The Crew, Scarf, Stickers and a Sailors Lanyard
  • 20% off all HOME match tickets (subject to availability on a first-come-first-served basis)
  • 5 x Shopee vouchers for use on the Official Lion City Sailors Shopee store
  • Eligibility to apply to purchase a 2023 Season Pass (subject to availability on a first-come-first-served basis)


Click here to join us today!


White and Bold: 2023 Lion City Sailors Home Kit Revealed

The Lion City Sailors are back and raring to get going in the 2023 domestic football campaign. 

The Sailors’ First Team and Women’s Team are gunning for top honours in the upcoming season, and on their hunt for trophies, they will be decked in the bold white Sailors Home Kit designed by PUMA. 

With a swathe of warm grey triangles and rectangles on a sea of white, the design elements of the Home jersey represents the shapes of us – of our team, our fans, and our community – that shape the future of the club.

The Sailors men will battle for the Singapore Premier League crown they last won in 2021, while the women are looking to build on a memorable title-winning campaign in 2022, going through the entire Deloitte Women’s Premier League season unbeaten in what was the WPL debut of the Sailors’ Women’s Team.

Sailors’ Women’s Team Captain Ernie Sontaril is confident the style and comfort of the kit sets her team up for further success in 2023. 

“I simply love the trendy retro style of the jersey with the V-neck collar,” she said.

“The material feels light and the fabric is of excellent quality in the sense that it’s extremely cooling. The jersey won’t stick to our bodies even if we sweat a lot and we will be much more comfortable when we’re battling out on the pitch,” added the 33-year-old, who modelled the kit alongside teammate Nur Izzati Rosni and her male counterparts the likes of Hariss Harun and Maxime Lestienne. 

“The unique retro design and cooling fabric is perfect for those who wear jerseys as a fashion statement and very suitable for our humid climate – I’m sure our fans will be very comfortable wearing this in stadiums.”

The 2023 Lion City Sailors Home Jersey will go on sale soon!

Stay tuned to our social media platforms for more information.