Five players from the Lion City Sailors are in line to represent the Singapore Under-22s at the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup 2024 Qualifiers, scheduled to take place in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi between 6 and 12 September 2023.
Sailors first-teamers Nur Adam Abdullah, Bill Mamadou and Abdul Rasaq Akeem retain their places in the squad, while two trainees from the Sailors Academy – Nur Muhammad Asis Ijilrali and Kieran Aryan – are handed their first call-ups at the U22 level.
The quintet are part of Nazri Nasir’s 26-man provisional squad that was confirmed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Saturday (19 August) afternoon.
The Singapore U22s will first embark on a centralised training camp in Bangkok, Thailand, from 23 August to 2 September, before the squad will be trimmed to 23 for the qualifying campaign proper.
Nazri’s side will take on Yemen on 6 Sept and face Guam three days later, before ending their Group C campaign against group hosts Vietnam on 12 Sept.
The eleven group winners and the four best runners-up qualify for the final tournament, to be held next year between 15 April and 3 May in Qatar.
Asis and Kieran have been impressive for the Sailors Under-21 side that is currently third in the FAS Centre of Excellence (COE) U21 league after 12 matches. The pair have also started to make inroads into the Sailors first-team.
Asis came off the bench to make his Singapore Premier League (SPL) debut in a 7-1 win over Tanjong Pagar at the start of July and has made a total of three substitute appearances under Aleksandar Ranković so far.
The 19-year-old attacking midfielder admitted the call came as a surprise, but is determined to make the most of this opportunity to play at the U22 level.
“I’m most excited about the prospect of coming up against higher-level opponents, this can only help my football development at the age of 19,” said Asis, who last represented Singapore at the U19 level in last year’s ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U19 Championship and AFC U20 Qualifiers.
“I’m happy that Kieran and I got called up, and I hope this can inspire our other U21 teammates to perform well and also be called up in the near future. I hope to do well in the upcoming training camp in Thailand and secure a spot in the final 23,” he added.
While Kieran has yet to make his SPL bow, he has been included in the first team’s matchday squad three times thus far, and the 20-year-old full-back is looking to make a good impression.
“Obviously it’s a huge honour to be called up to play for the country. Thanks to all my coaches that have believed in and trusted me, I’ve been playing regularly for our U21s this season and I feel I’ve improved a lot in terms of maturity and decision-making,” said Kieran, who rose through the Sailors ranks like Asis did and has been with the Academy since 2020.
“Getting the call-up is just the first step, I need to keep giving my best in training and matches to ensure I get picked for the final squad and also get more call-ups in the future.”