Ay Caramba! Bart’s here to deliver his best years in Singapore for the Sailors

Bart Ramselaar was at the Lion City Sailors Training Centre taking photos and doing video interviews, when someone off-camera suddenly made a reference to his famous namesake, Bart Simpson.

That cheeky comment drew a chuckle from the Dutchman, who remarked, “I get that a lot wherever I go!”

While many are familiar with Bart Simpson as a mischievous character from the popular American animated television series, The Simpsons, the Sailors’ second signing of the 2024/25 campaign is anything but. Unlike his fictional counterpart, known for his disruptive behaviour and disregard for rules, the 27-year-old prides himself on being a consummate professional.

After establishing himself as one of the most promising talents from the FC Utrecht youth system in the Netherlands and accumulating nearly a decade of experience in the Dutch Eredivisie, Bart reached a critical moment of self-reflection last year: “I’m becoming too comfortable here, and this stagnation won’t benefit my career.”

Thus, when the offer to join the Sailors in Singapore came calling, it did not take long for him to decide his next career move – one that would take him more than 10,000km to make a new mark in his football journey. 

While it was not an easy decision to make, Bart is adamant that it is the right one, as he aims to begin a new chapter in his football journey.

“After almost 10 years in my country, I think it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new,” said Bart, who made a total of 192 Eredivisie appearances since 2015, with 130 of those coming for Utrecht. 

“It was hard because I played so many games for the Utrecht first team and we’re located close to my hometown (Amersfoort) where my family lives, but I knew I had to go.”

And what was Bart’s first impression of Singapore? “It’s a really clean and safe country. I noticed it was raining very heavily when I just arrived – in Holland, it rains like a full day but not as heavily as here.”

Bart has already achieved many milestones in his career  – he won the league title with PSV Eindhoven in 2018, and has made three appearances for the Dutch national team between 2017 and 2018. This included a start in their 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Luxembourg in November 2016, where he played alongside the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Wesley Sneijder, Georginio Wijnaldum and Arjen Robben.

Despite his impressive résumé, Bart comes across as a genuine character who has the absolute respect for his new club and league that he will play in. 

“I know there are high standards set at the Lion City Sailors – we want to win league titles, and there are ambitions to become one of the top clubs in the region, so that’s why I’m very excited to be here,” he said with steely blue-eyed determination.  

The Aleksandar Ranković connection was the most obvious pull in luring Bart to Southeast Asia, with the pair working together at Utrecht in the 2022/23 season, when the Sailors Head Coach was still assistant at the club. 

But that is not the only connection Bart has with the Sailors – he has also played with Sailors forward Richairo Živković for Holland at the Under-21 level. One of the more memorable games they played in was a 3-0 UEFA Euro U21 Championship qualifying win over Ukraine in October 2018, in which Bart captained the side while Richi scored a brace. Bart also revealed that he knows Maxime Lestienne through mutual friends. 

“I spoke with him (Richi) last week. He spoke very positively about everything, but I’ve already made the decision to sign anyway!” he joked. “I didn’t play with Max – I only joined PSV the season after he left – but he has a lot of friends there who are also friends with me.” 

However, one of the biggest pull factors for Bart is the Sailors’ playing philosophy and robust youth development program, which ensures a pipeline from the club’s Elite Academy to the first team. 

“I know this club places great emphasis on nurturing youth talent, which is evident in their investment in the development process and the construction of an impressive Training Centre – reminiscent of football culture in the Netherlands. I made the step up from the Utrecht youth team to the first team, so it’s nice to see youth players developing like this as well,” said Bart, who made his Eredivisie debut as a 17-year old in Utrecht’s 0-0 draw with Feyenoord in March 2015. 

“Utrecht was a club that gave youth players a chance, and that was so important for me. I was only turning 18 when I joined the first team, and was one of the youngest players there. It was really beneficial for me to train and play with the more experienced players, to see how my level compared to them, and that helped me a lot in my career.” 

Turning 28 this June, Bart still has his best footballing years ahead of him. And he is determined to give everything to push the Sailors a step closer to the club’s aspiration of being amongst Asia’s elite.  

“People always say 27 to 28 is the age where you’re at your best, and I hope to prove that. I’m a creative player who can create chances for other players and also score,” said Bart, who has recorded 31 goals and 18 assists in the Eredivisie.

“I want to show my qualities here and help to attract more people to the stadium. I’m here to win trophies with the team, and I want to help the team do well in the AFC Champions League 2.”


Sailors signal ambitions with signing of former Dutch Eredivisie star Bart Ramselaar

The Lion City Sailors have unveiled Dutch midfielder Bart Ramselaar as the club’s second signing for the 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. This exciting addition comes as the club looks to launch a serious assault for their second-ever SPL title, while excelling on the regional front in Asia’s second-tier club competition, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2).

Joining from Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for an undisclosed fee, the 27-year-old comes onboard the Sailors on a contract that runs until the end of the 2025/26 campaign and will provide the attacking zest to complement the defensive solidarity brought to the side by Toni Datković, the club’s first signing of the off-season.

Bart promises to bring a new dimension to the team’s attacking third as he looks to form a dynamic partnership with fellow PSV Eindhoven alumni Maxime Lestienne.

It was with PSV where Bart rose to prominence as a technically supreme midfield playmaker. Winning the 2017/18 Eredivisie title with the Dutch giants, he also progressed through the national youth age-groups, before making three international appearances for the Holland senior side. 

Bart then returned to Utrecht – the club where he made his professional debut in 2015 – and enjoyed his most productive season in the 2021/22 campaign with nine goals. He made 11 appearances in the ongoing 23/24 Eredivisie season and scored in a 2-0 victory over Go Ahead Eagles in December 2023, before making the move to Singapore. 

Photo courtesy of FC Utrecht

“Bart is a fantastic addition to the team with his speed and intelligent link-up play in the final third. I’m already looking forward to seeing how he can complement the likes of Maxime, Shawal Anuar and Richairo Živković to give us an even better attacking threat,” said Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković, who worked with Bart in the 2022/23 season when he was still Utrecht’s assistant coach. 

Singing from the same hymn book, Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “Bart is a top talent in Holland, so we’re understandably excited as a club to attain his services. At the age of 27, he still has many good years ahead of him, and we hope that this will be the start of a long and fruitful stint with the Sailors. 

“We want to continue challenging for all honours and take concrete steps forward in our aspirations to become one of Asia’s top clubs in the future, and I’m confident his signing will help accelerate this process.”

Bart – who brings UEFA Champions League experience from his time with PSV – joins a squad brimming with European pedigree, alongside Richi, Maxime, Toni and Rui Pires. And he is already champing at the bit to start his new adventure in the Lion City.

“I’ve played my whole career in Holland, so it was always one of my targets to prove myself in a foreign league one day. I’m really intrigued by this new challenge in Singapore with the Sailors. The club is building a great project here with a clear direction from the Academy up to the First Team. This is something that I very much want to be part of,” he emphasised. 

“I’m here to help the team with my experience and hopefully play some nice football that can get more fans into the stadium. The goal is clear – I want to be a SPL champion here and help the team qualify for the knockout stages of the ACL2.”


New-look Sailors to kick off WPL title defence on 9 March

They showed their potential in a thrilling 4-2 Café Football Charity Cup victory over 2023 Women’s National League champions Royal Arion earlier in January. 

Now, the Lion City Sailors Women’s Team – with a new coach at the helm and a refreshed playing roster – will be looking to attack the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season with the same vigour. 

Daniel Ong’s charges will kickstart their campaign with a clash against last season’s bottom-placed side Tiong Bahru on Saturday, 9 March, at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, before facing off against fellow title challengers Albirex Niigata (S) on Sunday, 24 March in what promises to be a tasty second fixture. 

Games against Hougang United and Tanjong Pagar United – who make up last season’s top four – on 14 and 20 April respectively round off an interesting opening four fixtures for the Sailors Women, as they seek to win the title for a third consecutive season.

Following the withdrawal of Police SA, the WPL is now a nine-team league. As such, each side will play 16 matches in a double round-robin format this season.

The Sailors Women will wrap up their 2024 WPL campaign on Sunday, 8 September against Geylang International at Choa Chu Kang. 

Having put together a young and hungry squad filled with several promising youngsters, Daniel is looking forward to his first season in charge, as he looks to build on the solid foundation laid by two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan. 

“It won’t be easy (to defend the title) as many of the other teams have strengthened their squads. For us, we’re largely focusing on ourselves and how we want to improve as a team,” said the 35-year-old.

“We’ve promoted some really talented youngsters from our Girls Academy, and this is the chance for them to show that they can be national team stalwarts in the future. I have full trust in them, and I’m personally excited to see what they can produce this coming season.”

The Sailors Women’s full fixtures list for the 2024 WPL season can be accessed here.


Toni ‘El Sicario’ Datković: The hardman with a tender side

Sporting the archetype of a battle-hardened Eastern European, Toni Datković’s body is a canvas of tattoos and blemishes – each mark telling a story of battles fought. 

It therefore comes as little surprise that Toni has been affectionately nicknamed El Sicario – a Spanish term that translates to “The Hitman” in English.

However, beneath Toni’s hard-as-nails exterior lies a soft core – a facet of his personality he would like to emphasise.

“When people first hear the term ‘Sicario’, they often think I’m a dangerous guy,” Toni elaborated “But after getting to know me, everybody says I should have nothing to do with the nickname. 

“I’m a family-oriented guy. After training, I’ll just go home and play with my kids. I’m also someone who likes relaxing at the beach and going fishing. One day, when I’m done with football, I’ll go back to the island (Pag Island) where I was born, buy a boat, and enjoy a calm life there!”

So how did the El Sicario nickname come about?

According to Toni, it originated in 2019 when he joined LaLiga 2 side SD Huesca on loan from NK Lokomotiva Zagreb – his first big move out of Eastern Europe. 

He explained: “When you arrive in Spain and you say that you come from Croatia, everyone’s first thought is that of war. And when I take my clothes off, I have a few scars on my body, so I look a bit like someone who’s always fighting. That’s why my teammates started calling me ‘Sicario’.

“The nickname stuck wherever I went and soon nobody was calling me by my actual name anymore. But I liked the nickname from the first moment, so I was perfectly fine with it.”

As further proof of Toni’s sentimentality, he revealed that each tattoo holds its own meaning. On his right arm is a picture of Pope John Paul II – who he calls his guardian angel – as well as his 5-year-old daughter, Luce. Across his right chest is the shape of Pag Island, as well as selected lyrics from a Croatian song that depicts a love of home.

What’s currently missing? A tattoo of his 2-year-old son, Roko.

“I need to do one for him soon, so maybe I’ll do it here (in Singapore)!” he exclaimed.

Throughout the interview, Toni made several references to Pag Island, clearly demonstrating his pride in how far he has come from his humble beginnings to carve out a successful football career.

It is a career that has seen him don the Croatian national team colours, win the LaLiga 2 title, as well as make a century of appearances in the second tier of Spanish football. Along the way, he has even crossed swords with internationally acclaimed stars like former Manchester United star Javier Hernández (Chicharito) and Chelsea forward Nicolas Jackson.

Toni’s football adventure has taken him to Slovenia, Greece and USA. But it was in Spain where his experiences moulded him into the El Sicario who endeared himself to the fans with his heart-on-sleeve attitude and warm personality off the pitch.

Indeed, 75 of his LaLiga 2 appearances came at FC Cartagena, where he cemented his reputation as a reliable and steady defensive presence on the pitch, while building up synergy with the fans. This led to him winning the Fans’ Player of the Year award for the 2022/23 season.

Toni left at the end of that campaign due to matters out of his control, but he remained popular with the fans. Chants of “Sicario, Sicario” from the Cartagena faithful echoed around the Estadio Municipal Cartagonova when he came on as a late substitute for Albacete Balompié in a 1-1 draw against them last November – just a couple of months after his switch of club.

That moment led to the emotional scene of the hard man tearing up at the final whistle as he went over to acknowledge his former fans.

“Cartagena is the most special club in my life; the way the people there loved me and still love me after everything is just amazing,” said Toni, who also has a FC Cartagena-related tattoo on his right leg. “The love they gave really fired me up and provided me with the energy to fight for them on the pitch, so that was huge for me.”

Unfortunately for Toni, his move to Albacete did not work out the way he envisaged it would, leading him to seek new opportunities. 

That was when the Sailors came calling – a call that he had no hesitation answering.

“When my agent told me there was interest from Singapore, I started to do some research and speak to some Croatian guys who used to play here – one of them is Mirko Šugić (formerly from Tanjong Pagar United), who I played with a while in the youth academy of Rijeka,” he recounted.

“The club shared with me a really good vision of what they want to do in the future. I see a lot of potential, a really big will in what they want to achieve, so it fired me up, and I didn’t think much in agreeing to this deal.”

It might seem like a brave move to take the road less travelled. But it is nothing new for Toni, who left his home in Pag Island to go to the city of Rijeka at the age of 13 to pursue his footballing dream.

“It’s a big thing to leave a small village and move to a big city at that age – living alone, learning to cook and taking care of yourself,” said Toni. “But I did everything for football from the first day, so taking risks – this is how I’ve always lived my life.”

Toni envisions going back to relax in Pag after his career, but for now, he is keen to write a new chapter with the Sailors – and to strike up synergy with the club’s faithful fans, The Crew.

“I want to contribute a lot of energy on the pitch – energy that will move fans and help my team win matches. I’ve heard about the tremendous support from the Sailors fans, and I want to witness that for myself,” he stated.

“If we play good football and do well in competitions like the AFC Champions League 2 (ACL2), more fans will come to the stadium. I want to promise the fans that they’ll get everything from me and I’ll try to pass on this energy to the other players. Together as a team, I’m sure we’ll make this a really good season.”



Sailors charge up for 2024/25 campaign with signing of former LaLiga 2 defender Toni Datković

The Lion City Sailors are delighted to announce Croatian defender Toni Datković as the club’s first signing for the 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. The 30-year-old adds to the spine of a side that is determined to reclaim top honours domestically and make a splash regionally in the newly-formed Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2).

Toni joins the Sailors on a season-long contract after recently leaving LaLiga 2 outfit Albacete Balompié, for whom he made eight appearances in the ongoing 2023/24 season. A left-footed centre-back who is strong aerially and comfortable playing the ball out of defence, Toni bolsters a strong Sailors backline that already boasts former Australia World Cup player Bailey Wright, as well as Singapore internationals such as Hariss Harun and Lionel Tan.

Toni brings significant experience from the Spanish second-tier, having amassed a century of appearances in LaLiga 2. The majority of these came in FC Cartagena colours, while he was also part of SD Huesca’s 2019/20 title-winning side that earned promotion to LaLiga the following season.

In a storied playing career to date, Toni has also played in top-tier competitions such as USA’s Major League Soccer with Real Salt Lake and the UEFA Europa League with Greek club Aris Thessaloniki, in addition to being capped once at the international level with Croatia.

“Toni has some great touches and the ability to drive into space with the ball – these are qualities that will help the team grow in our all-round play. Above all, he’s a fierce competitor who demands the absolute best from the teammates around him and has the ability to guide the younger defenders at the club,” Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković said of his 1.84m new signing.

“I’m already excited at the level of competitiveness that he will bring and that’ll only help us drive higher standards at this club.”

Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “It’s no secret that a left-footed centre-back gives the team the balance and a different dimension in terms of building up play from the back, so we’re delighted to have secured Toni’s services.

“His strong mentality and wealth of experience in major leagues will be an asset for us, especially in the ACL2.”

Toni is equally excited to get started and is already looking forward to a fruitful voyage with the Sailors.

“It’s a very ambitious project that the Sailors are trying to build in Singapore and that got me really excited at the prospect of coming here. It’s a very competitive team that wants to challenge for every honour and I want to help the team to become league champions again,” he declared. 

“I think I can help the team with my experience, but at the same time I’m aware that there are already quality foreigners and local players who have played many games for the Singapore national team. I’m here to fight together with the team and hopefully we can achieve history for the club.”


Happy 4th Birthday Sailors, the best is yet to come: Badri Ghent

As the Sailors celebrate the fourth anniversary of the club’s founding, Sporting Director Badri Ghent reflects on a memorable 2023 campaign while looking ahead with optimism to the new 2024/25 season. 


Today, as the Lion City Sailors celebrate the fourth anniversary of our club’s founding, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what a fruitful year 2023 was for us, and look ahead to the exciting changes that the 2024/25 season will bring. 

Last year ended with silverware for both our First Team and the Women’s Team. 

A glance in the rear view

Despite a challenging season that saw the squad depleted by injuries and players leaving to pursue studies abroad or overseas scholarships, our Women overcame the odds to clinch a second straight Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) title

I am especially proud of the seven girls – Ardhra Arul Ganeswaran, Chloe Koh, Natasha Naszri, Josephine Ang, Cara Chang, Tia Foong and Madelin Lock – who made the step up from the club’s Girls Academy to help the team retain their crown.

The First Team also wrapped up the year by beating Hougang United 3-1 for our first-ever Singapore Cup triumph. It was just reward for the boys who worked hard all season for the team’s cause. 

We also continued to take steps forward on the regional front, producing several resilient and encouraging displays in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) under Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković

While we were unable to surpass our 2022 tally of seven points from the ACL group stage, we did fly the Singapore flag high, defeating Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC in our first ACL game in opposition territory. And who will forget that night at Jalan Besar when we stunned nine-time K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0

Of course, not being able to reclaim the Singapore Premier League trophy was a disappointment but it is one that has only served to fuel our determination to reclaim our place at the pinnacle of Singapore football in the coming campaign. 

Recalibrating for further success 

But it is not enough to simply have an insatiable thirst for success. We also need to constantly reinvigorate the team to ensure it stays motivated and well-equipped to challenge for honours.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Diego Lopes, Pedro Henrique, Súper (Manuel Herrera López), Kodai Tanaka, Rusyaidi Salime and Rudy Khairullah for their commitment to the Sailors’ cause. They have left the club in a better place than when they first arrived, and we’ll want to build on that foundation. 

While it has been a quiet off-season for the club thus far, I can assure you that we have been working hard behind the scenes scouring the region and beyond for exciting talent who can take the Sailors to the next level. 

We’re currently in the midst of finalising our new signings for the 2024/25 season and will be able to share these in due course. 

While we wait for the announcement of new arrivals, it is good to remember that we have kept a very strong local core in the squad. The likes of Zharfan Rohaizad, Lionel Tan, Hami Syahin and Zulqarnaen Suzliman are all maturing and entering the peak of their careers, and I am really looking forward to seeing their progress continue this coming season. 

With a combination of exciting new signings and local talent both experienced and up-and-coming, we are building a squad for the new campaign that you can be excited about – one that can make a splash regionally in the new ACL2 competition. 

This season also marks Coach Ranko’s first proper pre-season with the team, which will give him the opportunity and time to bring his football ideologies and philosophy across to the boys. Having already seen the positive impact he had after taking over midway through the 2023 season, I am confident that the team will continue to evolve and produce the attractive brand of football that he aspires to. 

A key facet that is driving the Sailors revolution is the launch of our hybrid pitch – with natural lawn grass reinforced by synthetic fibres – to complement the two artificial pitches at our Training Centre in the second half of 2023. It has given our first-team players the best possible platform to train and prepare for matches, and no doubt contributed to the improved levels of performance towards the end of last year. 

A continual push in youth development 

As a club, we’ve been investing a lot in our youth talents and preparing them for the eventual step up to professional football. Nathan Mao was a starter in last year’s Singapore Cup final at 15 years and 258 days old and gave a great account of himself – he is just one of four Academy graduates who made the step up to the first team last season, alongside Nur Muhammad Asis, Idzham Eszuan Shah and Jonan Tan. 

To support our youth development efforts, we have established a robust Elite Development Program to groom future football stars at Mattar Road, with these youth players benefitting from being embedded in a professional environment with elements of sport science, analytics and nutrition to bring their game to the next level. 

The Academy trainees have the opportunity to train under a combination of accomplished European coaches and experienced local coaches like Firdaus Kassim (pictured below), Tengku Mushadad, Hamqamaal Shah and Shahril Jantan. 

At the Sailors, we understand the key role we play in building Singapore’s football ecosystem and are committed to nurturing the stars of tomorrow who can become national stalwarts that wear the Singapore badge with pride.  

After a rigorous 2023 season which saw 36 games at club level as well as a number of high-level international matches for many in the team, the boys are getting a well-deserved break but will be returning for 2024 pre-season training very shortly. 

It’s been an unusually long and extended off-season, and I – like all of you – cannot wait for the start of the 2024/25 campaign that will take us to the club’s fifth anniversary.

 With that significant milestone on the horizon, we look forward to continuing our journey with you as we strive to become one of Asia’s elite clubs.

Happy birthday, Sailors!




Sailors alumnus Venetia Lim earns move to Australia second-tier

(All photos supplied by Trebol Sports International)

A member of the 2022 and 2023 Deloitte Women’s Premier League title-winning sides with the Lion City Sailors, Venetia Lim will bring her undeniable footballing talent to Australia as she recently joined Boroondara-Carey Eagles FC for the 2024 National Premier League Women’s Victoria (NPLW) season. 

The NPLW Victoria is one tier below the A-League Women’s and is considered one of the best state leagues for women in Australia.

In what is her first venture overseas, Venetia is looking to further her career in one of Australia’s football hotbeds while juggling academics – she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (Finance & Marketing) at the University of Melbourne.

“Although part of me still feels like giving in to the familiar, chose to challenge myself further by stepping out of my comfort zone. The prospect of playing in a new environment and a league with higher intensity will fuel my growth significantly and allow me to become a better version of myself both as a footballer and a person,” said the 20-year-old midfielder, who is already well established in the Singapore women’s national team setup.

Having linked up with the NPLW Victoria’s runner-ups for about a month already, Venetia is gradually settling into life in Down Under and is determined to fly the Singapore flag high with astute performances in the coming season.

“My target this season is to be able to fit into the higher-intensity game here and contribute back to the team. The physicality and pace is something I particularly look forward to upscale my own game,” said Venetia, who is known for her excellent work rate and superb technical abilities. 

“I have to admit that I harbour ambitions to be the first Singapore woman to play in the A-League Women’s but currently, I am just focused on doing my best for the Eagles this season.”