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!