Ong: S.League will benefit from LionsXII decision

Former LionsXII defender Emmeric Ong believes that returning national team players might give the S.League a much-needed shot in the arm.

The Singapore representative squad was last night informed by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) that it would not be competing in the Malaysia Super League next season, leaving up to 27 players looking for new clubs.

Warriors FC defender/midfielder Emmeric Ong, a former LionsXII player, spoke to FourFourTwo about potential repercussions from the shock decision.

"If you think about it, this might not be a bad thing for Singapore football," he said.

"Even though the players might miss the exposure they have currently by playing against Malaysian clubs, if the plan is for a large number of quality players to return to Singapore, that will only help the S.League."

I think what the LionsXII players will miss is the experience of travelling abroad to play in front of big crowds

- Emmeric Ong

Ong was with the LionsXII last season, a regular sight on the bench before making a single Malaysia Cup appearance under coach Fandi Ahmad.

"I wouldn't say the quality [in the MSL] is very far from S.League," he said. "The foreigners are better like Dickson (Nwakaeme) at Pahang and (Luciano) Figueroa at Johor Darul Ta'zim but who knows, we might now get better imports in next season.

"I think what the LionsXII players will miss is the experience of travelling abroad to play in front of big crowds, which we lack in the S.League.

Emmeric Ong (left) has flourished at Warriors FC this season. Photo: FAS

"You can compare playing in front of a crowd and an almost-empty stadium and then consider what it means in preparing for when the national team travels overseas to play international matches, where there are hostile capacity crowds."

High LionsXII salaries might prove a stumbling block when it comes to players potentially returning to Singapore to play in the S.League, but Ong thinks most of the squad will prove value for money.

"Of course if you put all the players into one club, I don't think they'll be able to afford it," he said. "But if you spread the players out, there's no reason why it won't work.

"Most of them are national players so if any club wants them, they'd be willing to pay a bit more. I don't think it'll be a problem unless the pay is really extravagant."

Ong has impressed since securing a return to the S.League with Warriors FC this season, missing only two league matches and playing in both the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.

While his future remains uncertain as the off-season approaches, he is confident that an influx of returning talent can only be a good thing.

"Contract-wise, I personally don't think it'll affect me, but maybe competition for places might be more fierce than at the moment," he said. "It's competition I'll welcome though if it happens.

"I've played with most of them before and they're good players, so if we're fighting for the same spots, I'll learn and improve from the experience once again."