10 Lion City Sailors players have been named in Takayuki Nishigaya’s 28-strong Singapore National Team’s squad which will take on Tajikistan and Chinese Taipei in the September FIFA international window.
Lions captain Hariss Harun along with seven others – Lionel Tan, M. Anumanthan, Hafiz Nor, Hami Syahin, Adam Swandi, Shawal Anuar, as well as custodian Zharfan Rohaizad – kept their places in the squad after being called up for June’s friendlies against Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile there are also deserved recalls for defenders Christopher van Huizen and Zulqarnaen Suzliman after recent strong displays for the Sailors.
Chris was one of Singapore’s best performers in the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup, but failed to get the nod for the March and June international windows while losing his first-team spot after an enterprising start to his Sailors career.
But the 30-year-old buckled down and produced an accomplished performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the Tiger Cup to impress Head Coach Aleksandar Ranković. He has since started the last three Singapore Premier League matches, with sparkling displays and scored his first goal in Sailors colours in the 8-2 drubbing of Hougang United.
Now back into the national fold, Chris wants to add to his tally of 13 caps and cement his spot in the setup.
“It was disappointing not to get called up in June because every call-up counts. Playing for the country is something that means the world to me and I want to keep this as a consistent thing in my career,” said the full-back.
“I was feeling really down back then, but that didn’t stop me from working hard and pushing even harder in training. I was so pleased when Coach Ranko gave me the chance to start against Spurs and I didn’t look back from there. Being in the starting 11 for the last few games is obviously a great feeling and I’m just so stoked to get back into the national team.
“My focus now is to do well for the Lions and also for the club in the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League.”
After missing much of the 2022 campaign through injury, Zulqarnaen has enjoyed a strong 2023 season, making a total of 17 appearances, earning him his first call-up since being named in the pandemic-delayed edition of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup that was played in 2021.
“I’m so happy and proud to be back and putting on national colours. I’m getting more confident with more playing time, although I came off the bench quite a few times. There’s a saying that I truly believe in – ‘keep going no matter how short the minutes you get, because every second counts’,” said the 25-year-old, whose last and 21st cap came in the Lions’ 4-2 defeat to Indonesia in December 2021.
“Given our squad depth at the Sailors, you have to fight for your spot and I’ve been trying my best to do so. I hope to play as many minutes as I can in these two upcoming international friendlies and I’m going to do what I do best – making runs down my flank and putting in crucial tackles to help the team.”
The Lions will take on Tajikistan on Friday, 8 Sep before entertaining Chinese Taipei four days later on Tuesday, 12 Sep.
Both matches will be played at Bishan Stadium.