Singapore skipper Shahril hopes to continue proving doubters wrong
It’s a marked improvement from 2016, where they ended a terribly disappointing campaign third from bottom.
My good form is because I want to contribute more to the national team. To impress the selectors, I have to keep playing well
And key to their good form has been the resurgence of Lions captain Shahril Ishak, who has enjoyed an Indian summer since joining the Rhinos.
With four goals to his name, the 33-year-old is currently equal-second among the top local scorers in the league and has been rolling back the years with his virtuoso performances.
“It’s a blessing to be back in the S.League after seven years abroad playing in Malaysia and Indonesia,” Shahril told FourFourTwo after a typically gruelling training session with Warriors.
“I feel that the reason for my good form is because I really want to contribute more to the national team. To impress the national selectors, I have to keep training hard and playing well at club level.
“Being more settled here in Singapore is also a factor as I have more time to spend with my family and friends.”
Experiencing some Indonesian fanaticism
Since leaving Home United in 2010, Shahril plied his trade with a number of foreign clubs and counts his time with Indonesian giants Persib Bandung as one of his best moments as a footballer.
“Playing with Persib Bandung was my first time playing abroad so the fans and the footballing culture there was something new to me. Football is their number one sport over there and it was really crazy,” recalled the silky playmaker.
“Before every home game, we have to travel from our training ground to the stadium and so many fans will escort our team bus with their motorbikes and flags.
Even though the distance is so short, we ended up having to leave an hour earlier because of this craziness.
“The fans will also be singing throughout the game and it really motivates us as players. It’s a dream for all footballers and at least we see this fanaticism happening in Indonesia.”
Despite an illustrious career with the Lions, which included winning three AFF Suzuki Cups, Shahril has found himself playing a bit-part role in recent years.
With critics claiming he was past his prime and attributing his drop in playing standards to his three-year stint in the Malaysian second division with Johor Darul Ta'zim II, Shahril was made to watch in agony from the bench as Singapore crashed out at the group stages of the biennial AFF tournament last year.
“It has been frustrating for me, especially at last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup. As a team captain, having to watch from the bench when my team were down and losing was really tough.
"Every player wants to be in the first 11 but it all depends on the coach and the team strategy,” added Shahril, who has 132 caps for Singapore.