Ismadi: I thought national team call-up was a prank!

Tampines Rovers midfielder Ismadi Mukhtar thought he was a victim of a wind-up after receiving a maiden call up to the Singapore squad for the upcoming friendlies against Hong Kong and Macau.

Singapore National Team head coach Bernd Stange had contacted Ismadi a week ago to notify him of the news, leaving the 30-year-old bewildered initially.

“I had a few missed calls while I was at Friday prayers,” he told FourFourTwo.

“It was followed by a message which said ‘Call me back - national team coach’. I thought it was a prank from someone!

“But after that, I checked with my contacts to see if they knew who the number belonged to and it was really him. Of course I was shocked when I realised that.”

Ismadi, who turns 31 in December, will be the oldest in the Singapore squad and also the only uncapped player.

However the Stags midfielder believes he will able to settle into the squad in due time and fight for a place in the AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

“I’m surprised to get called up at this stage of my career,” he admitted.

“It does feels awkward to be uncapped and the oldest in the team, but I know a few players like Shaiful (Esah) and Shahdan (Sulaiman) who are my club team-mates.

“They should make me feel welcome and there should be any problem settling down.

“I just have to prove my worth right now. The chance is there for me to grab hold of and I will definitely fight my way up to the starting eleven.”

Ismadi hoped that this unexpected call up would set a precedent for more older players being called up.

“Maybe this can open up the opportunity for those experienced players in the S.League to have a chance to play for the national team,” he said.

Meanwhile there are no other major surprises in the 21-strong squad, which consists of 11 LionsXII players and three from the Courts Young Lions.

Captain Shahril Ishak and striker Khairul Amri have been handed recalls after recovering from a hamstring and a cheekbone injury respectively, while 18-year-old Amirul Adli is retained after impressing for the Under-23s at the recently-concluded Asian Games.

The Lions will take on Hong Kong and Macau on October 10 and 14 respectively in preparations for the upcoming Suzuki Cup.

They will depart for Hong Kong on next Wednesday, October 8.

Singapore Squad to take on Hong Kong & Macau

Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (30, Warriors FC), Izwan Mahbud (24, LionsXII)

Defenders: Safuwan Baharudin (23, LionsXII), Afiq Yunos (24, LionsXII), Baihakki Khaizan (30, LionsXII), Hafiz Sujad (24, LionsXII), Amirul Adli (18, Courts Young Lions), Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman (22, Courts Young Lions), Shaiful Esah (28, Tampines Rovers)

Midfielders: Ismadi Mukhtar (31, Tampines Rovers), Shahdan Sulaiman (26, Tampines Rovers), Gabriel Quak (24, LionsXII), Zulfahmi Arifin (23, LionsXII), Faris Ramli (22, LionsXII), Hariss Harun (24, JDT), Shahril Ishak (30, JDT II) 

Forwards: Fazrul Nawaz (30, Home United), Shahfiq Ghani (22, LionsXII), Khairul Amri (29, LionsXII), Khairul Nizam (23, LionsXII), Sahil Suhaimi (22, Courts Young Lions)

Photo: Football Association of Singapore