The foreigners who could have played for Singapore

It has been nine years since any player has been naturalised to play for Singapore, but there were several options during this time. These are some players who could have made a difference for the Lions...

Sherif El Masri

Why this particular player never turned out for Singapore will be a huge puzzle to most fans, as he was one of two players recruited to the Young Lions a few years ago in order to be naturalised.

Signed by Home United as a youth player in 2009, Sherif El-Masri soon caught the eye with his technical ability and pace.

It was not too long before he was given a chance in the first team and the 19-year-old showed that he was clearly a special talent who could deliver in the S.League.

The Canadian was soon called up by his birth nation and turned out for Canada’s under-23 team in 2010.

No further chances came at the senior level and El-Masri would later be signed by the Young Lions in 2012, with plans to naturalise him under the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS).

During this time, El-Masri continued to impress and German side Eintracht Frankfurt coach Alexander Schur once praised him for his performance in a friendly match in 2013.

Despite eventually fulfilling football world governing body FIFA’s five-year residency rule in order to play for the Lions, El-Masri never managed to receive his Singapore passport.

He left the S.League at the tailend of the 2015 season and not much has been heard from him since.

It is unclear whether El-Masri is still playing professionally but he was called up last year to Guyana’s provisional squad for the Scotia Bank 2016 CFU Caribbean Men’s Cup Championship, before being axed from the final list.

Paul Cunningham

This New Zealander joined Balestier Khalsa in 2010 and quickly cemented his status as one of the league’s best defenders with his bravery and well-timed tackles.

He was given the captain’s armband the following season and even attracted attention from A-League side Perth Glory, but turned down the offer due to his loyalty to the Tigers.

Cunningham would eventually play a vital role in Balestier's creditable fourth-place finish in the league in 2013,. He also helped the Tigers claim the League Cup and finish as runner-ups in the Singapore Cup.

Although the defender lost out on the Player of the Year award that year despite being one of five players shortlisted, many had no doubts Cunningham could offer something to the Singapore national team.

The New Zealander definitely felt so too, as he applied for Permanent Residency and soon declared his ambitions to play for Singapore.

However, things turned sour for him at the tailend of the 2014 season over a contract dispute with his club. While Balestier won the 2014 Singapore Cup, Cunningham played no part in the triumph and decided to leave the country.

Cunningham would return to New Zealand and sign for Team Taranaki, where he is still part of the team till this date.