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!