Emmeric Ong, Ignatius Ang and Syafiq Zainal are aiming to improve their chances at club level by impressing for the Singapore Under-21s at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei.
It has not been the best of seasons for the trio as they have barely featured for the LionsXII under national legend Fandi Ahmad.
Given the lack of playing minutes, it was no surprise they jumped at the opportunity to get a decent run of games with the Singapore U21s.
Ong, Ang and Syafiq are three of the four overaged players named in Richard Bok’s Under-21s side which will represent the nation at one of the much-respected Southeast Asian youth tournaments, the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).
The three of them were unanimous in agreeing what their targets for this month were when FourFourTwo spoke to them in their final training session in Singapore before flying off for Brunei — getting more playing time, showing their true worth and possibly forcing themselves into contention for first-teams slots with the LionsXII in the remaining Malaysia Cup group fixtures.
“I think it’s a good chance for me to get some much-needed playing time and match fitness since I never played a single minute this season,” said Ong, who has not played in a competitive game since sustaining a horrific ACL injury last April while playing for the Courts Young Lions.
“Of course it’s a good chance for me, Iggy and Syafiq to make sure we’re worth our places here.
“We’re not guaranteed starting spots, but if we do start, we have to ensure that we show and guide the younger players throughout this tournament.
“Honestly I’m not sure if I’ve the chance to play for the LionsXII so this is a good chance for me to have some games this year,” said Ang who has not featured competitively for Fandi’s side despite being named on the bench on a number of occasions.
“I’m really realistic of my chances because I’m a new player; I cannot expect myself to walk straight into the team.
“I’m hoping that I can do something at the tournament and get noticed, so that at least when I get back, I can play a few games for the LionsXII since there’ll still be about three group games left.”
While Emmeric Ong and Ignatius Ang are relatively new in the LionsXII setup, the same cannot be said for Syafiq Zainal.
Despite having a decent debut season in 2013, he only managed to start two games and make one substitute appearance this term.
“This year wasn’t what I exactly planned it to be,” said the 23-year-old, a late call-up to replace club teammate Samuel Benjamin who had to drop out due to National Service commitments.
“But in football, it cannot always be an up like last season where I was involved more.
“I was surprised at first (to be called up), but I thought to myself ‘why not just come to the tournament and find my form?’
“You never know, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise and I can still come back to play the last few group games in the Malaysia Cup.”
While targeting a regular slot at club level is the ultimate aim, one among the trio has his sights set on bigger things – Ignatius Ang is still eligible to play for the SEA Games squad next June.
“Actually I’m a bit sad that I’ve not been getting these few opportunities to travel with the Under-23s,” said the 21-year-old who was last called up by Aide Iskandar almost a year ago.
“Probably it’s because I’m not playing so they cannot assess me. I’m still hoping to make it to the SEA Games.”
The Singapore Under-21s have already landed in Brunei and will play their first HBT fixture on Saturday against Vietnam.