Singapore head coach Bernd Stange has called for top teams in the S.League to reduce the average age of their squads so that he can have more players to select for the National Team.
The 66-year-old was speaking at the Changi Airport ahead of the Singapore National Team’s flight to Salzburg, Austria for a three-week training tour, where they will play three European sides.
An advocate of using younger players for the National Team, Stange has dropped the likes of Fahrudin Mustafic, Shi Jiayi, Aleksandar Duric, Qiu Li since he took over the Lions in May 2013. The latest Singapore team boasts an average age of just 24.8, with 14 players under the age of 25.
However, among the squad of 21, only one-third of the players hail from S.League clubs, with three plying their trade with the Courts Young Lions. This decision to seemingly ignore players from Singapore’s only professional league has not gone down well with a number of fans on social media.
“First of all, everybody knows I’m attending all S.League matches,” the former Belarus manager told FourFourTwo in response to the criticism.
“I’m watching S.League matches every day looking for players for the national team. And what is the result?
“Last week I watched Home United, one of our leading teams, and the average age was 31 in this cup match (against Loyola Meralco Sparks). Five foreigners, with an average team age of 31, how can I find players?
“We have to do something. The average age of our top teams must be younger.
“Tampines Rovers - 30 years old, Home United - 31 years. With five foreigners, it’s very difficult for me to find [eligible players]. I will be very happy if Tampines, Home, and Balestier deliver national team [calibre] players for the future.
“I have been heavily criticized for not calling up players like Daniel Bennett, Fahrudin Mustafic. The World Cup now gives confirmation. They believe that players like Xavi, Gerrard and Lampard are too old.
“They fail because coaches analyse that they have not enough power, speed in the teams. We are asking for 34 or 35 year old players supporting the team. I don’t go this way. We go definitely another way (sic). This is the future of Singapore football.”
Stange, who had previously led Belarus to their highest ever FIFA ranking of 36th back in February 2011, also mentioned that potential candidates like Ismail Yunos and Juma’at Jantan had not been playing much with Home United for the past couple of months.
Another, Yasir Hanapi, was on his radar for 3 to 4 months before a shift to a right wing-back position at club level led to a loss in form.
The coach also revealed that the bulk of the AFF Suzuki Cup would come from the 41 players called up for both the Senior and U-23 national teams for this training tour, where the main aim is to allow the national teams to bond and train together.
“I think we will choose from these 41 players with regards to the team for the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year unless there’s a player who is shining in the S.League," he said.
“Please give me the chance for two weeks to bring the National Team together. Not only the LionsXII, we now have the National Team to represent the country and now it is time to take the National Team to train together.
“We have priorities, we are preparing for the Suzuki Cup, and it’s quite clear.”