Sailors to play MSL champions JDT in friendly double-header on 4 and 8 April

The Lion City Sailors will play Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in two friendly matches in April, as the club ramps up their preparations for the upcoming 2024/25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season. 

The Sailors will host the Southern Tigers at the Bishan Stadium in Singapore on Thursday, 4 April at 8.30pm, before making the trip across the Causeway to face the 10-time Malaysia Super League (MSL) winners at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium the following Monday, 8 April at 10pm.

The two matches also serve to reinforce the relationship between both clubs, with cooperation already ongoing at the youth level through regular friendly matches. 

Boosted by new signings like Bart Ramselaar, Toni Datković and Song Uiyoung, the 2023 Singapore Cup champions will be eager to test themselves against a formidable JDT side. 

Amongst their ranks are former Udinese star Fernando Forestieri and ex-Swansea City player Jordi Amat, as well as rising Malaysian stars Arif Aiman Hanapi and Romel Morales.

Sailors captain Hariss Harun believes the two matches will stand them in good stead ahead of a gruelling 2024/25 campaign. 

“Everyone in the region knows about JDT’s quality, but we’re building up something at the Sailors as well, so we want to test ourselves and see how we can compete against them,” said the 33-year-old, who won six MSL titles with JDT between 2014 to 2020. 

“This is also a good opportunity for some of the young players who’re embedded in the first team this season, and we want to give a good account of ourselves in these two matches.”

Ticketing details for both matches will be released shortly. 


Sailors Women secure thrilling victory against title rivals Albirex

There was an eerie calmness about the atmosphere at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday (24 March) night as both the Lion City Sailors and Albirex Niigata (S) warmed up for their crunch Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) fixture.

Though only the second WPL match of the season for both teams, the encounter carried immense weight and anticipation. This was, after all, a showdown between the reigning champions and their determined contenders – the winner of which would gain an early advantage in the title race.

But that calmness dissipated the moment the first whistle blew, as both teams went at each other with a ferocity and intensity befitting of the high-stakes of the match.

Ultimately, though, it was a young Sailors outfit that emerged victorious – and kept their unbeaten record intact – as they secured a 2-1 win over the White Swans.

It was Sailors forward Raeka Ee who stole the headlines, as she continued her impressive start to life in the WPL by scoring both her team’s goals to propel Daniel Ong’s charges to the top of the WPL table.

The Sailors no. 9 now leads the WPL scoring charts with four goals in her first two outings for the club, and Head Coach Daniel had nothing but compliments for the young striker. 

Raeka is a player who is willing to learn. Most importantly, she always applies what she’s learned in training,” said Daniel. “When her teammates give her feedback, she listens and always gives her very best for every training session. She is truly an asset to the team.”

Spurred on by a boisterous crowd, both teams started the game at a frenetic pace, but it was the Sailors who struck the first blow in the 29th minute, as Nur Syazwani Ruzi’s free-kick was spilled by Albirex custodian Nurul Haziqah Haszman, and Raeka reacted quickest to stab the ball home and give the Sailors a 1-0 lead.

Amidst the jubilant celebrations among the Sailors, however, there was also an unmistakable hint of relief on their faces at having taken the lead against a formidable Albirex side which boasted the likes of former Sailors duo Ernie Sulastri Sontaril and Lila Tan.

Two minutes into the second half, 20-year-old Raeka doubled the Sailors’ lead in similar fashion. This time, it was Dorcas Chu – making her first WPL start since recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in September 2022 – whose attempt on goal was blocked by an onrushing Dhaniyah Qasimah, but Raeka was on hand once again to drive the rebound into the back of the net.

While both her goals were borne out of Albirex’s defensive lapses, Raeka believes her positioning and instinct as a striker was key to her being in the right place at the right time.

“As a striker, you want every chance you can get,” Raeka mused. “But when these chances fall into your hands, you have to seize them, so it’s important to always predict where the ball will end up.

“I feel very happy to be able to get the team the result we worked hard for.”

Albirex did have a golden opportunity to halve the deficit soon after, but experienced Sailors custodian Beatrice Tan and young defender Tia Foong combined well to hoof the ball off the line after a goalmouth scramble.

Unfortunately, Beatrice sustained an injury during the clearance, and shortly after, she had to be substituted off after yet another accidental collision.

This led to a WPL debut for 16-year-old goalkeeper Nur Izairida Shakira, who became the sixth teenager to feature for the Sailors in the women’s top flight in 2024 after being promoted from the club’s Girls Academy in the off-season. Shakira follows in the footsteps of Tyan Foong, Yuvika Suresh, Seri Nurinsyirah, Nadia Nuraffendi and Liyana Rickit.

“It was a thrilling experience especially with the intensity of today’s matchup with Albirex,” shared 16-year-old Shakira. “It was initially a shock (to be called upon). I wasn’t expecting to play, but when Beatrice collided with the post, I knew that I had to come on. I was so nervous but I just prayed for the best.

The support from my teammates really helped to calm my nerves. I also have Coach Daniel to credit; though he’s strict in training, he also motivates me and reminds me to enjoy the game. Making my debut against a powerhouse like Albirex, I made sure to be more commanding in goal and not let the pressure get to me.”

Daniel, a former Sailors Goalkeeping Coach, added, “I am definitely very proud of her (Shakira’s) progression after seeing her nearly everyday for four years. To see her out there today was heartwarming despite the goal. She’s definitely one for the future.”

Unfortunately, Shakira could not mark her WPL debut with a clean sheet, as she was beaten by Mulan Ayliffe’s powerful shot in the 87th minute – the first WPL goal that the Sailors have conceded since August 2023.

The goal gave Kana Kitahara’s side renewed drive in the closing moments of the game, but the Sailors were able to withstand the Albirex onslaught to secure the precious three points.

Shakira credits the Sailors’ fan support for helping the team get over the finish line. She said, “I was nervous because we had already conceded a goal and if we had let another one in, all our hard work would have gone to waste. But the fans and our family in the stands were so loud, it helped all of us to maintain composure and take the three points.”

While acknowledging the strength of this Albirex side, Daniel revealed that he had told his charges before the game to simply focus on playing the way they had been in training.

“Winning against a strong team like Albirex will definitely boost their confidence, and there’s a lot of take away from today’s game,” Daniel explained. “I was especially pleased with how we played out from midfield quicker.

“As a young team, every training session and every game is a learning opportunity for our players and myself. It’s a long process but I have confidence in everyone in the team including the coaching and backroom staff.”

With two wins in two, the Sailors currently lead the WPL standings ahead of Hougang United on goal difference. Both the Sailors and Hougang will face off next on Sunday, 14 April, at Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Matchday 3.


Focus and tenacity key for Sailors Women ahead of Albirex clash

The Lion City Sailors Women’s Team may only be playing their second match of the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season this Sunday (24 March) night, but the significance of that fixture cannot be overstated.

After all, they will face arguably the sternest test to their proud, two-year unbeaten record, when they take on title rivals Albirex Niigata (S) at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Albirex have made no secret of their desire to dethrone the Sailors as WPL champions this season. This ambition has been backed up by their off-season transfers, which saw them bring in the likes of 2022 WPL Player of the Year Manami Fukuzawa, Singapore national skipper Siti Rosnani Azman and former Sailors Lila Tan, Ernie Sulastri Sontaril, and Nur Izzati Rosni.

But while Albirex – who are led by player-coach Kana Kitahara, a former Japan international – will undoubtedly be keen to make a statement and lay down a title marker with a win on Sunday, Sailors defender Sara Hayduchok urged her teammates to stay calm and focus on their football instead of the magnitude of the game.

She said, “Challenges, fears, and mistakes are all part of the game. This weekend’s match will be no exception. Each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and our teammates to maintain focus, tenacity, and encourage each other in every situation.

“In this season, no one can afford to get comfortable at any point. There’s ample time for future match results and unforeseen factors to influence the season’s final outcome.”

Sara also revealed that the Sailors have prepared in detail for their match against Albirex, as the 28-year-old elaborated, “With more high-profile players on Albirex’s team, we have a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses compared to last year. As a result, our preparations have also become more specific. 

“Nonetheless, the objective has always been to excel in our team’s playing style, and that remains the same from match to match.”

Having won their opening games, the Sailors and Albirex currently sit second and third in the WPL table respectively, with Hougang United setting the early-season pace at the top with two wins in two.

Like Albirex, the Sailors also underwent a revamp of their playing personnel during the off-season, with the team now comprising a slew of teenagers promoted from the Sailors’ Girls Academy.

While this new-look Sailors squad might not be as experienced as the previous two iterations, Sara is confident that the team’s young guns will be able to handle the pressure of playing against a title rival.

After all, most of the Sailors’ newly-promoted players played for Mattar Sailors in the Women’s National League (WNL) last year. During that campaign, they reached the final, facing a Royal Arion team that included four former Thai National team players with World Cup experience.

“This is not the first team our younger players have played for impressive crowds under immense pressure. I have seen their growth even in the last few months and feel confident that they will carry out their responsibilities this weekend,” Sara declared.

One of the Sailors’ newly promoted players is Tyan Foong, who joins her sister Tia in the senior squad. Having made her WPL debut in the Sailors’ 5-0 win over Tiong Bahru earlier this month, Tyan is looking forward to testing herself against Albirex.

The centre-back credits Sailors Women’s Head Coach Daniel Ong for helping her prepare for the game with intensive training sessions, as she said, “Playing against Albirex will definitely be a test for me. In training, the new players put in our best effort to reach the WPL seniors’ standards so as not to fall behind.

“We’re doing sprinting sets at almost every training session, so I think that itself is a mental game that we have to play.”

The younger Foong sister also revealed that she uses visualisation methods to prepare herself mentally for the game.

“Sometimes, I can get a little overwhelmed (before the game), so I’ve learned how to keep myself calm. I’ve trained hard ever since I stepped foot into the team, so hopefully it will pay off,” said Tyan.

“This weekend will be an exciting game and I am definitely nervous, but I am just going to give my best. I think a personal goal for me is not to panic during the game itself, to be able or play like my normal self from start to finish, passing every ball with intention and receiving every ball knowing what to do next.”


Sailors Women get 2024 WPL title defence off to a winning start

A youthful Lion City Sailors Women’s Team got their Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) title defence off to a perfect start, as they emphatically trounced last season’s bottom side Tiong Bahru 5-0 at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium on Saturday (9 March) evening.

Led by new Head Coach Daniel Ong, the Sailors Women raced into a three-goal lead within the first half-hour, before adding another two in the second half to seal a comfortable win.

Debutants Raeka Ee (two) and Seri Nurinsyirah were amongst the goals, while Syazwani Ruzi and Canadian midfielder Madison Telmer also opened their accounts for the season.

While happy to get a first WPL victory under his charge, Daniel has urged his side to put up a better display ahead of tougher hurdles ahead.

“It was not a bad outing for us – we had six players making their WPL debuts today and it’s important for them to get a first taste of action at this level,” said the 35-year-old, who took over the reins from two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan in the off-season.

“In terms of the overall performance, I felt we could have done better in certain periods of the game, and we’ll need to work on consistently producing our attacking style of football over 90 minutes. These girls have the ability, and I know we can improve further as a team.”

Amongst the six WPL debutants were five teenagers from the Sailors’ Girls Academy. Winger Yuvika Suresh and defender Tyan Foong – both born in 2009 – started the game and acquitted themselves well, while Seri, Nadia Nuraffendi and Liyana Rickit came on as second-half substitutes.

It took only eight minutes for the new-look Sailors Women side to open the scoring. Having impressed while playing for Mattar Sailors in the Women’s National League last season, Raeka showed her predatory striking instincts as she reacted quickest to prod home Yuvika’s cross-shot from a yard out for her first goal for the club.

The lead was doubled just three minutes later through Madison, who hit a crisp low drive from range into the bottom corner.

Syazwani – who donned the armband in the absence of the injured Umairah Hamdan – then produced a moment of brilliance, as she fired a stunning shot from the edge of the area that looped over Tiong Bahru keeper Vanessa Tan to make it 3-0 after just 23 minutes.

Clearly delighted with her goal, the Sailors Women vice-captain said, “Many people say that’s my signature (move), where I score by lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper.”

The 23-year-old added, “At that moment, I was outside the box and I knew I had to take that shot. I took the chance and I’m glad it went in.”

Raeka – who made her debut for the Singapore Women’s National Team in December – would net her second of the night shortly after the hour mark with a calm finish, after fellow debutant Qarissa Putri Ramandhani teed her up with an inch-perfect through pass.

The rout was completed with four minutes to go. A cross from substitute and new signing Laura Gänser was deflected into the path of Seri, and the 15-year-old kept her cool to poke the loose ball past the goalkeeper.

The result puts the Sailors Women top of the WPL after Matchday One, ahead of Hougang United, who beat BG Tampines Rovers 4-1 in the other match played on Saturday.

Up next for the Sailors Women is a tantalising clash against title challengers Albirex Niigata (S) on March 24 at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, and Syazwani acknowledged the reigning WPL champions still have work to do ahead of the big game.

“Our execution of the game and finishing could be better. Our communication with each other is also an aspect that needs to be improved as well,” said the 22-year-old.

“We’ll continue to work on these areas in training and I’m confident that this will translate into improved performances in time to come.”


Unity and desire drives young Sailors squad into 2024 WPL Season

The start of the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season is set to signal a new era for the Lion City Sailors Women’s team.

The squad has seen a big shift in players and leadership during the off-season – with a change in head coach and a revamp of its playing squad – but its core value remains the same.


The Sailors will face Tiong Bahru in the WPL opener on Saturday (9 March) at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, and with only four fit players over the age of 22, the team’s young guns will be taking center stage. Most of these players were promoted from the Sailors’ Girls Academy, and played in the second-tier Women’s National League (WNL) last season with Mattar Sailors.

One of the more experienced players in the team is vice-captain Ho Hui Xin. The 31-year-old, with more than a decade of playing experience under her belt, has played a crucial role in galvanising the squad during their preparations for the new season.

“We may be categorised as seniors and juniors because of our age and experience. But in reality, we are one big family working together towards the same goal – to retain our WPL title,” said Hui Xin.

“During pre-season, we made sure there was open communication on the field so that everyone understood the importance of their role. We all pulled our weight so that we can move forward together.”

Newly-appointed Head Coach Daniel Ong echoed Hui Xin’s sentiments, highlighting the strong connection within the squad.

“The bond within the team has been very strong. Our commitment to training, the positive mindset that the girls take into every training session, and the trust we have for one another shows that we are ready to defend the title together,” shared the 35-year-old, who took over two-time WPL Coach of the Year Yeong Sheau Shyan in the off-season.

“We’ve a strong leadership group, with our new captain Nur Umairah (Hamdan) being capably assisted by vice-captains Syazwani (Ruzi) and Hui Xin. Their character and know-how of the game is crucial to our team this season.”

The youthful Sailors Women squad has already kicked off 2024 on the right note with a 4-2 victory against WNL champions Royal Arion earlier in January at the Café Football Charity Cup, with new signings Qarissa Putri Ramandhani and Nur Sarah Zu’risqha getting on the scoresheet that evening.

However, the groundwork to integrate the younger players in the team was already laid prior to that game, as the majority of them formed a Sailors Women Selection side that travelled to Selangor for a series of friendly matches against several Malaysian sides last December.

“When the 2023 season ended, we were already getting ready for the young players to be promoted. That was the case after the 2022 season as well. We already knew the players because we trained quite often with them,” shared Hui Xin.

“That trip to Selangor was a good outing because it was the first time that most of us played together in a game. We also had moments for team bonding during the trip, and that really helped the team to be more closely-knitted.”

Despite the seismic shift in playing and backroom personnel, all eyes will still be on the Sailors to defend the WPL title for a third year running. Daniel admits there will inevitably be pressure after two undefeated campaigns from the Sailors Class of 2022 and 2023. However, he insists he has faith in the squad he has.

Natasha Kaur, 14, is the latest addition to the side, bringing the total number of promoted Sailors Girls Academy graduates to seven. She joins the likes of Tyan Foong, Izairida Shakira, Seri Nurinsyirah, Nadia Nuraffendi, Liyana Rickit and Yuvika Suresh in the senior side for 2024.

“The hunger to improve and succeed in these young players is something that really impresses me,” Daniel said. “I’ve the confidence that we’ll continue to display good football and teamwork for the fans to watch. We want to play a modern style of attacking football, and I want them to be even fitter and better as the season progresses.”

Both Daniel and Hui Xin were in agreement that team fitness has been key in their preparations for Saturday’s clash against Tiong Bahru.

“I’m glad the season is starting because pre-season was quite tough,” chuckled Hui Xin.

“If you ask the team, they’ll say fitness and strength (has been the focus). We’ve also been working on passing, finishing, team and individual movement off the ball,” Daniel elaborated.

Having worked hard over the past few weeks to build up a solid backline and a clinical strikeforce, Hui Xin is looking forward to another memorable season with the Sailors.

“The players, coaching and backroom staff may change, but the desire to put up a good performance for our families and the fans has always been the same. We promise you no less than 100 percent commitment, and we’ll fight hard to keep our title.”



Meet the women driving the Sailors’ professionalism at the Sailors Elite Academy

In the spirit of International Women’s Day (IWD), which is celebrated annually across the globe on 8 March, we delve into the lives and experiences of our Sailors Women to better understand their struggles, challenges and inspirations as they strive to make their mark in a traditionally male-dominated sport. 

In this special feature, we turn the spotlight on Amanda Cheong and Denise van Ewijk – sports trainer and performance nutritionist at the Lion City Sailors Elite Academy. 


It is a bustling day at the Lion City Sailors Training Centre, with the Sailors’ Elite Academy teams going through their various training sessions. It is a typically male-dominated football environment but amid all the thorns stand two roses, steadfastly carrying out their respective duties.

In the gym, sports trainer Amanda Cheong is running through a series of exercises for the Under-12 boys while in one of the meeting rooms, performance nutritionist Denise van Ewijk is going through a nutrition program with one of the boys. 

These two women play an integral role in driving the Academy’s professionalism day in and day out, and the Sailors are proud to have them in our ranks. 

Taking the road less travelled

Not many have taken the path that they chose, but the duo was very much determined that it was the right one. 

While Amanda was pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sports Science at Edith Cowan University, the ratio of males to females was much higher – about one female to every four males. And while most of her female counterparts went on to work in personal trainer roles, she was determined to carve out a unique journey in football.

A four-month internship with the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) in her final year only served to harden her resolve as she was involved in the launch of the national Unleash the Roar! project, working on performance evaluation for metrics such as 40-meter sprints, vertical jumps, Yoyo intermittent recovery, anthropometrics, and GPS tracking among top youth football athletes in Singapore. 

Undeterred after an unsuccessful first application to join the Sailors Academy, Amanda, now 25, dabbled in personal training and worked in the golf industry as a strength & conditioning coach for eight months, before succeeding at her second bite of the cherry and came onboard in July 2023. 

“The sports and exercise sciences industry is still quite niche in Singapore and my parents weren’t that supportive of me pursuing this dream initially, but I’m here to prove them wrong,” she stated. 

As for Denise, her motivation stemmed from witnessing nutrition being an ‘underappreciated’ part of professional sports and wanting to change that. 

After graduating with a Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from The Hague University of Applied Science in the Netherlands, she started her own sports nutrition company before flying to Singapore with her husband Mike Kerklaan – the Sailors’ current Head of Rehabilitation – when he joined the Sailors Academy in October 2021. 

As fate would have it, the club was looking for a nutritionist as well. Denise fitted the bill, and has stayed on in the Lion City since. 

Her current role entails overseeing and planning the pre and post-match meals for the U13 team all the way up to the First Team, studying how the players’ nutritional habits and patterns affect their on-field performance, as well as conducting individual education talks with the Academy’s players and their parents to ensure they are eating right – huge responsibilities indeed. 

“Nutrition and having a proper meal plan is a big part of an athlete’s foundation, that’s the message I wanted to get out there,” said the 29-year-old, who also conducts nutritional workshops and presentations for an overall improvement of nutritional knowledge within the Academy. 

“Being attentive to food can help in a lot of aspects; it can make you faster, less tired and recover more quickly. There is the misconception that people should only come to me if they have a high body fat percentage and need to lose weight, but there’s so much more to it.”

Amanda’s sports trainer role is varied, stretching across both the medical and performance aspects of the Academy’s work – she leads the U12 and U13 teams in strength & conditioning training and corrective exercises, while also supporting the Under-21 medical team for match-related and rehabilitation duties. 

Her scope of work means that she is regularly in close contact with the males, leading her to be very mindful of the boundaries that should not be crossed. 

“Sometimes when there are injuries near the groin, I’ll remind them that I’ll be checking the area so that they are mentally prepared. It’s important to make sure there’s communication and to get their permission,” she emphasised. 

“I’ll put myself in their shoes – I’d feel intruded if someone didn’t communicate that to me properly, so I always try to bring my point across very clearly.”

In the right environment to succeed

Working in a male-dominated environment could be intimidating and challenging for some, but Amanda and Denise are two strong-willed women who can stand their ground and put across their beliefs. 

And at the Sailors, the club has the robust structure and support system to help them succeed in their roles. 

“I can’t do this alone – at the end of the day, I’m there to help the players – and the coaches – by making sure the team is as fit as possible,” explained Denise, who has previous experience working with players from Ajax Amsterdam and ADO Den Haag back home in the Netherlands. 

“Fortunately, all the coaches are onboard here and there’s a lot of communication. For example, if there’s a player with an injury and the medical department feels nutrition can be helpful to him, they’ll send this player to me. If, say, this player has been very slow lately and often getting tired, then I’ll look at the case – sometimes it’s the case that he is just gaining a bit of weight which is not beneficial for his performance.” 

Indeed, instead of feeling overlooked as a minority in the workplace, both Amanda and Denise feel comfortable and are embracing the plus points that comes with being female – such as simply looking more approachable and having a softer side. 

“I think mindsets are changing so people are not so curious any more when there’s a female sports trainer around. Parents are often very receptive to me, and are quite open with sharing their experiences with their kids,” shared Amanda. 

“I can see they’re very relaxed and accepting of things I explained to them, such as what to do when their kid suffers a concussion, where else they can do to help, etc. That’s very heartwarming for me.” 

Denise agrees wholeheartedly that having a softer side is an advantage, and perhaps the strongest reason for having greater diversity in the workplace. 

“I think the world is already hard enough, especially for these boys. We demand a lot from them at our Academy and I’m definitely strict in the moments that I have to be, but I think it’s important to provide a listening ear and be someone they can come to when they’re facing issues,” she added. 

Pushing ahead

Denise is proud of the progress she has made since joining the Sailors Academy – from taking one year to assimilate into the local culture and understanding Singaporeans’ eating habits, to now building up a proper system and approach to sports nutrition. 

All the boys in the various Elite Academy age-group teams now have their post-training meals – focused on providing them more protein – at the Sailors Training Centre, which gives her more control over the players’ dietary habits. Denise is determined to keep changing mindsets and perceptions, even though there have already been significant improvements. 

“It’s not easy in the hustle and bustle of Singapore life, where there is a huge culture of having takeaway food and the food habits are focused on efficiency. There’s also a stigma that healthy foods are not tasty, but that’s totally not true,” she emphasised. 

“I would say that overall, the players’ curiosity has improved. They now take the initiative to come up to me, wanting to know more about their own bodies and what they can do to improve their nutrition – and I hope to see more of that.”

Both Denise and Amanda are determined to forge ahead in their journeys – with the latter hoping to make the step up to support the club’s First Team one day – and hope their stories can inspire greater inclusivity, which is the theme of International Women’s Day 2024. 

“I want to set a good example to other females who aspire to work in the sports industry. Probably if there’s more females in and around this environment, they will not feel so intimidated. For me, just come in and do it!” said Amanda. 

Echoing these sentiments, Denise is proud of the women in the Sailors ranks – lauding the courage and growth of Amanda as well as Nur Ain Salleh, the first female scholar of the Sailors Elite Academy. 

“We have strong girls here raising the bar each day and that’s an inspiration to the other females. It does not take that much for women to break the barrier – the key is having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a  vision of what you set out to become. 

“As long as your dreams and the organisation’s objectives are aligned, I don’t think it matters if you’re a male or a female.”


8 Sailors named in Tsutomu Ogura’s first Lions squad

Eight Lion City Sailors players have been named in Tsutomu Ogura’s 26-strong Singapore National Team squad that will face China in back-to-back matches at the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Round 2 qualifiers in March. 

Returning Sailor Song Uiyoung gets the nod, while Lions captain Hariss Harun along with six others – Lionel Tan, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, M. Anumanthan, Hafiz Nor, Shawal Anuar, as well as custodian Zharfan Rohaizad – have kept their places after being called up for last November’s matches against South Korea and Thailand, which the Lions lost 5-0 and 3-1 respectively. 

Should Hariss play in both games, he will hit 130 caps for the national team, as he edges closer to surpassing Khairul Amri (132), who is ranked fourth in Singapore’s all-time record appearance makers behind Daniel Bennett, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan. 

Meanwhile, Anu will also hit the 40-cap mark with one more Lions appearance. 

The Lions will be looking to get their qualifying campaign back on track as they host China at the National Stadium on Thursday, 21 March, before facing off again away at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium five days later. 

The two matches will be Ogura’s first matches in charge of the Lions since being appointed head coach of the Lions on 1 February, as they target a first competitive win over China since 1983.


Older and wiser – battle-hardened Song is ready to set sail again with the Sailors

As Song Uiyoung stepped into the Lion City Sailors Training Centre ahead of his official unveiling as the club’s latest signing, his eyes lit up at the sight of the familiar crest adorning the entrance.

“Wow, I’ve missed this (place),” he exclaimed with a grin on his face.

The wide smile on Song’s face said it all as he greeted the Sailors’ first team, Academy, and corporate staff on his way in.

He was home. The Sailors’ favourite son had returned.

“I’ve been here for many years; I’m very familiar with the staff and management here and we created many good memories together – winning the SPL (Singapore Premier League), competing in the ACL (Asian Football Confederation Champions League) – so there are no doubt or hesitation in my mind about coming back here,” said Song.

“I really feel like I’m back home and back to the family now, so I’m very happy.” 

When Song left for Nongbua Pitchaya in January 2023, he mentioned in his farewell interview with the Sailors that he hoped to get the opportunity to play for the club again one day. By his own admission, however, his return to the club just 14 months on had come slightly earlier than expected. 

“Honestly, I thought I’m going to be overseas for at least two or three years before coming back to Singapore. But this is the life of a footballer, you know? Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future,” he mused.

“But I’ve no regrets. I’m very happy to be back. I’m ready to work and fight together with my teammates here.”

Song’s journey post-Sailors saw him play in two of the most football-crazy Southeast Asian nations Thailand and Indonesia last year.

Song scored on his Nongbua debut against Bangkok United, and played a total of eight games in Thai League 1. But the club’s relegation to the second-tier meant he was allowed to leave on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.    

The Singapore international went to Indonesia in mid-2023 to join Persebaya Surabaya. His signing proved to be popular with the Persebaya fans, such that security had to escort him out of the venue following his unveiling at a club sponsor event. The shop was reportedly filled with over 200 fans, with more clamouring to squeeze in.

In the Liga 1, Song scored one stunning long-range match-winning goal against PSM Makassar and made a total of 17 appearances. The majority of his appearances saw him play in a deep defensive midfield role, and he was even deployed at centre-back for one game.

“It was a great experience for me – I had the opportunity to learn from players and coaches from a totally different culture as compared to Singapore,” Song recalled.

“I had to learn and adapt to play in different team formations and tactical shapes. It gave me a better and broader perspective of football. I also felt I matured and became a better person outside the pitch as well. So, I have to say it was a good choice for me (to venture out of Singapore).”

Song had previously spoken about getting out of his comfort zone as the motivation to leave Singapore – a place he has called home for the past 11 years. 

“Obviously I needed some time to adapt and I did struggle a bit in Thailand and Indonesian football,” Song admitted. “I felt insecure, but at the same time, I really tried my best to learn as much as I coulds and give my best every day.

“Looking back now, I feel these challenges have made me a better person and a better player. I wouldn’t say I succeeded there, but I also wouldn’t say I failed. For me, it was a great learning experience, and I’ve no regrets.”

Having played for the Sailors since its inception, Song has remained a fan of the club throughout, even when he was away. He revealed that he watched most of the Sailors’ games via live stream, and was delighted to witness the team make history at the tail-end of 2023 with their first-ever Singapore Cup triumph.  

Even so, Song admitted to being pleasantly surprised at how much the club has changed over the past year or so.

For one, the Sailors Training Centre is now up and running, with the first team training mainly on the hybrid pitch. The team is now also taking shape under the tutelage of former FC Utrecht assistant coach Aleksandar Ranković, and boasts the addition of several players with European pedigree such as Bart Ramselaar, Toni Datković and Rui Pires.

The infusion of youth talent – with players like Nur Muhammad Asis and Nathan Mao making the step up from the Sailors’ Elite Academy to the first team – also means Song will be tasked to take these youngsters under his wing.  

“I can see a very good picture for the future of what we want to build as a team here. This is the proper process – developing young players from the academy to be a big part of the professional team one day,” Song reflected.

“Being one of the senior players, I want to help these young players explore and achieve their maximum potential. But at the same time, I feel I can also be positively influenced by them as well. I’m looking forward to working together with them, while having healthy competition with them for a spot in the first eleven.”

With Song turning 31 in November, he is looking forward to winding down his career with the Sailors and helping the club achieve more in the coming years.   

“If I retire with the Sailors, I’ll be a happy man. But for now, I’m ready to put my best efforts for the club – this coming season, we want to win all three domestic trophies and do well in the ACL2. We want to be one of the top clubs in the region and I’ll do everything in my power to help us get there,” he emphasised.

And Song is already champing at the bit to walk out at Bishan Stadium again in the Sailors’ signature white and blue colours.

“I’m looking forward to that moment already – it’s like a child waiting for a picnic, you know?” he joked. “I’ve been so blessed with the big support from the fans – when I’m playing abroad, I’ve received many messages from them (on Instagram) telling me to come back and play for the Sailors in the SPL.

“Now I’m back, I’m really looking forward to seeing these familiar faces at the stadium and I promise that I’m going to try very hard on the field to make them happy.”


He’s back! Song Uiyoung returns home to the Sailors

The Lion City Sailors are delighted to announce the return of fan favourite Song Uiyoung on an initial two-year deal, as the club intensifies their efforts to put together a title-winning side for the upcoming 2024-25 campaign.  

The Sailors’ third signing of the off-season after Toni Datković and Bart Ramselaar, Song rejoins the club following stints in Thailand and Indonesia with Nongbua Pitchaya and Persebaya Surabaya respectively. The 30-year-old attacker will bolster a squad that aims to not only reclaim top honours domestically in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), but also qualify for the knockout stages of the newly-formed Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2 (ACL2). 

Having played the majority of his career in Singapore, South-Korean born Song has established himself as a firm favourite among the country’s football fans, due to his superb technical abilities and unwavering commitment on the pitch. 

Song played an integral role in the Sailors’ initial rise between 2020 to 2022, as he carved out a reputation for scoring in critical matches. Some of his most notable goals include the opener in a 4-1 win over Balestier Khalsa that secured the club’s first-ever SPL title in 2021, as well as the strike that inspired the Sailors to a historic 3-0 win over Daegu FC in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) – the first time a Singaporean club had beaten a K-League outfit. 

His record of 32 goals in 58 appearances puts him second in the Sailors’ all-time scoring charts behind Maxime Lestienne (42).

“Song’s a great asset to have in any team. He’s versatile across the attacking third, he can bring others into play and score goals as well, so I’m definitely delighted to have someone of his calibre in the team,” said Sailors Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković. “He’s familiar with the club’s setup and will need no time to bed into this team.” 

Sailors Sporting Director Badri Ghent added, “Song’s pedigree is there for all to see, so when the opportunity to bring him back presented itself, we knew we had to make a move. Apart from his on-field attributes, his professionalism and dedication off it will make him a great example to the younger players who are embedded in our first team this season.” 

Sealing a move back to familiar surroundings, an older and much wiser Song – who has scored four goals in 22 appearances for the Lions after obtaining Singaporean citizenship in August 2021 – is raring to go, as he looks to bring further success to the Sailors in his second spell with the club. 

“I’ve learnt so much from playing in Thailand and Indonesia, and I want to make use of this experience to help the team. Everyone knows how much I love the club – I’ve mentioned before that I want to come back and play for the Sailors fans again, so here I am,” he declared. 

“There are many familiar faces still around, and also some exciting additions to the team. This club is going in the right direction, and I’m going to give my all to help achieve our vision of becoming one of the best clubs in the region.”

Song is currently undergoing rehabilitation with the Sailors for a minor injury sustained earlier in January, in view of getting him ready for Singapore’s upcoming FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Round 2 qualifiers. 


I can see the diamond now, the pain is behind me: Dorcas Chu

Throughout the time Dorcas Chu spoke about her injury nightmare, her smile remained unwavering – a far cry from when she first went down with a complete tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), as well as second-degree tears to the Posterior Cruciate and Lateral Collateral ligaments, in her left knee.

Recalling the night of the incident, the Lion City Sailors Women’s forward had no idea at the time that her outlook on not only the sport, but also her life, was about to change.

“While icing my knee after coming off injured, I had time to myself when everyone went back to focusing on the game. I prayed for my knee but the next morning, they told me I had torn my ACL. I felt angry and asked God why he could heal others but not me. I kept thinking ‘why did it have to happen to me?’” she recounted.

“But my faith was what got me through. I realised that to purify a diamond, it has to go through fire. For me, the injury, the loneliness and the hopelessness was my fire. If not for my faith, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Dorcas recounted the incident, which happened in a training match against the Sailors’ Girls Academy squad, with great clarity, as if the moment had been forever etched in her memory.

“I got injured on 29th September 2022. I remember the date because it was my mum’s birthday,” she laughed.

“When I got the ball, it was just me and their goalkeeper. I had so much time to think ‘okay, I’m going to shoot this into the right corner. I’ll definitely score this because it’s one on one.’ But the moment I was about to shoot, a defender came in from behind really quickly. My left knee hyperextended and I felt it snap.”

Able to walk off the pitch on her own, neither Dorcas nor her teammates would find out about the severity of her injury until the following morning. It was National Team physiotherapist, Nurhafizah Abu Sujad – or Fizah as she is more commonly known — who guided her through the excruciating day.

Dorcas’ hopes of a mere sprain were dashed in the instant Fizah took one glance at the struggling forward.

“She hadn’t even touched my knee when she said ‘oh dear, that’s not good,’” Dorcas recalled.

Following an examination, the physiotherapist brought Dorcas to the doctor. As the medical professionals looked more closely into Dorcas’ injury, she quickly realised that she was facing a potentially career-altering injury.

And any glimmer of hope she was desperately holding on to was ripped away later that day.

“I was at home when I got a call from Kak-Fizah. The moment I heard that she had bad news, I knew what it was. After she told me I’d torn my ACL, all I heard was the ringing in my ears. I couldn’t hear anything else she said after,” she recounted, still smiling albeit with a hint of sadness in her eyes.

“When the call ended, I went into my room and cried. I poured it all out. It was very painful to accept.”


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Getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis was only the first step. What came after was a long, arduous journey of internal conflict marked by blood, sweat and a river’s worth of tears.

And it all started on 1st November 2022: Surgery Day.

Without her mother — who had to tend to Dorcas’ ill grandmother in Thailand – everything felt harder than it already was. For the first time since she began retelling the ordeal, Dorcas’ voice trembled ever so slightly.

“I only had my dad who I’m very thankful for because he really showed up for me. My sister also meal-prepped for me and everything,” she shared.

“I also have to give credit to my teammates who were there for me. They came to my house, watched TV with me and brought me food. Beatrice (Tan) and (Ho) Hui Xin often encouraged me when I looked upset.”

Going from the highs of a historic SEA Games campaign with the Singapore national women’s football team to rock-bottom was jarring for Dorcas, then 20. It made it even worse that she was forced to miss the Asian Games.

These were all moments, though, that brought Dorcas closer to the one thing she felt – at her core – mattered most.

“It was very lonely. I would have lost my hope and motivation to continue with football because my own willpower was not enough. I had to accept that I couldn’t even run and was so broken. So in these moments, I went to God and I felt He was here for me,” she shared.

It was in July 2023 that it all came to light for her. While attending a church service, a thought —one she never imagined she would have — crossed her mind and changed her life.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t care if I ever get to play football again because all I want is You.’ I was shocked because I had been so heartbroken about not being able to play football,” she recalled.

“Everyone asked what the highlight of my career is, and it was the game against Laos at the 2022 SEA Games. The bonus was that I was the MVP, so I hold that memory very dear to my heart. Then not long after, everything was stripped away. So when I told God that I didn’t care if I could play again, he was teaching me that he didn’t care about my achievements, all he wanted was my heart. I felt so loved despite feeling like I had nothing at the time. It was the healing I needed.”

Dorcas made her return to football last season when she competed in the Women’s National League (WNL) with Mattar Sailors. Having learnt to walk again, the now 22-year-old sees the game in a whole new light.

“When I was on the way to my first WNL game, I was just thinking about my entire recovery journey from the moment that I tore my ACL, to my surgery, to my first steps and finally to kicking a ball. All these memories just came to my mind. It made the moment so much sweeter, thinking about everything I’ve been through,” she recounted.

“It was not for nothing. I felt so grateful to be able to play again.”

The rehabilitation process is widely known to be just as painful, if not more so, than the surgery itself. It was no different for Dorcas, who counted on her little victories and used them to propel her towards a full recovery.

“Little victories are so important because if you don’t focus on them, you will always feel discouraged. You can’t just look at the amount of stairs you need to take. It’s one step at a time and eventually you’ll get there without even realising it,” she said.

“For me, the biggest victory every day was showing up to rehab.”

Dorcas is finally poised for her long-awaited comeback to the top flight this season as the Sailors gear up to face Tiong Bahru in their 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League opener this Saturday (9 March). While the title defense and favorable results remain paramount, Dorcas is focused on her pure love for a game that she can no longer take for granted.

“Today when I play football, I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Now that I know what it’s like to not be able to walk and play, I cherish every single training session,” she shared.

“I can see the diamond and how beautiful it is. I see the clarity now and the pain is behind me. I did it.”