The imports Singapore called upon under the Foreign Talent Scheme

Recently, Singapore head coach V. Sundramoorthy raised the possibility of naturalising a few talented individuals for the national team. In determining if they would be worth it, FFT took a look back at previous players who took up Singapore citizenship and how they performed for the Lions...

Name: Mirko Grabovac

Nationality: Croatian

Year he became Singaporean: 2002

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Grabovac was one of the first to be naturalised. Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

Singapore adopted the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) in 2000 in the hope of boosting the national team, but it was not until 2002 that a few selected individuals were naturalised.

Mirko Grabovac was among them, after making his name as a fearsome striker in the S.League.

Leading the front for SAFFC (now known as Warriors FC) and Tampines Rovers, Grabovac won four S.League titles, three Singapore Cups and one ASEAN Club Championship.

His personal tally of 244 goals makes him the second-highest goalscorer in league history, scooping a bucket-load of personal accolades along the way. Hence, it was easy to see why Singapore sought his services.

Sadly, for all his feats at club level, Grabovac was unable to translate his form to the international stage.

Facing stiff competition during that era, with the likes of Indra Shadan, Ahmad Latiff and Noh Alam Shah all coming through the ranks, it was understandable Grabovac did not play in as many games as he would have liked.

But in his 12 appearances, the former striker failed to find the back of the net in any competitive fixtures.

Grabovac subsequently renounced his citizenship in 2008 and has since returned to Croatia.

Name: Egmar Goncalves

Nationality: Brazilian

Year he became Singaporean: 2002

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Gonclaves was a fearsome striker in his heyday. Photo: Kenneth Tan

Along with Grabovac, Egmar Goncalves was also recruited by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) back in 2002.

Just like the Croatian, the Brazilian striker was sought after due to his scoring prowess.

Playing for Home United, Goncalves managed an impressive tally of 239 S.League goals. He was also the first player to reach the 100-goal mark in the S.League in 2001.

So in 2002, Goncalves donned the national jersey for the Lions. However, he only fared slightly better than Grabovac. In 15 caps, the Brazilian cold only manage four goals, although one of them did come against strong opponents Iraq in a 4-2 defeat.

When his contract with Home expired in 2007, Goncalves chose to give up his citizenship and returned to Brazil to seek other opportunities.

Name: Daniel Bennett

Nationality: English

Year he became Singaporean: 2002

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Bennett is a long-serving steward of the national team

The last person to be naturalised in 2002 was Daniel Bennett and what a coup it would turn out to be, as the defender put in many commendable performances over the years.

Born in England but raised in Singapore, Bennett was shortlisted for naturalisation in 2000.

Bennett is still in the national team and has not shown any signs that he is ready to quit just yet

This after he put in sterling displays in defence and was part of the Singapore selection side that played Manchester United and Liverpool.

He became one of the few Singaporeans to play in Europe when he turned out for Wrexham from 2001 to 2003. The club was playing in what is now known as League Two.

Bennett was a saving grace for the FAS, especially after Goncalves and Grabovac both failed to deliver. He has been a standout in the Lions’ defence over the years and has won three AFF Suzuki Cup titles.

His international career appeared to be finished when Bernd Stange took over the national team and left him out in the cold, but an excellent season with Geylang International in 2016 prompted a recall by the German’s successor, V.Sundramoorthy.

Bennett is still in the national team and has not shown any signs that he is ready to quit just yet.