Mixed responses to reported changes in S.League

The 2018 S.League season is slated to see wholesale changes, including a quota on the number of under-23 players as well as a reduction in the number of registered foreign players among others. FourFourTwo spoke to players and coaches to see what they think..

Under-23 players are set to play a bigger role in the league, with each squad consisting of a minimum of six of these youngsters, with three of the U-23 players to start each game.

These young players will only improve with proper coaching and guidance from senior players

- Noor Ali

According to Geylang International coach Noor Ali, giving the young footballers more playing time could be a step in the right direction when it comes to improving local footballing standards.

"I think it's a good idea to give exposure to the U23 players," Noor Ali told FourFourTwo. "I believe that there is a lot of potential (among) young players in Singapore, it is about giving them the chance to play at the highest level.

"These young players will only improve with proper coaching and guidance from senior players."

One of these youngsters who is hoping to make the step up to represent Singapore is Young Lions defender Shahrin Saberin.

"As a whole, it is good for the young players, as there is better chance to break into the first team," said Shahrin. 

Defender Shahrin Saberin is hoping to make the most of the changes

"But, the progress of these young players still depends on those around them who support, motivate and encourage them - the players, coaches and team management." 

The 22-year-old also warned his fellow young professionals against letting complacency seep in.

If I'm a young player - I now know that I don't need to work very hard now and my job is guaranteed

"For example if there are four under-23 players and one gets injured, the three will have to play no matter what the circumstance. I hope that this will not lead to the players becoming complacent," said Shahrin.

This concern was raised by a senior player, who declined to be named, describing the ruling as a "very strange" decision.

"I know that it is a good cause for young players to step up and such, but if I'm a young player - I now know that I don't need to work very hard now and my job is guaranteed," said the player.

"Clubs in Singapore are limited and some of the players really depend on this for their career. If they were asked to leave based on performance, we understand.

"But to leave the game on such a ruling is hard to swallow."

Justin Hui will be a young player to watch next season

Speaking at a press conference at the 35th FAS Congress, Football Association of Singapore president Lim Kia Tong said that a broad base of youth talent - the goal of FAS' youth development strategies - will eliminate complacency among youngsters.

"We provide the under-23s with the opportunity and the platform, if they want to be lulled into complacency, then another set of under-23s will take over their place," said Lim.

If they are not on their toes, another maybe six uU23s will fill in the gap. It all boils down to the attitude and character of a particular player

- Lim Kia Tong

"If we have a big base, if they are not on their toes, another maybe six under-23s will fill in the gap. It all boils down to the attitude and character of a particular player."

While Hougang United youngster Justin Hui was pleased to hear about the changes, he noted that an influx of youngsters could mean a dip in the league's standard and have adverse consequences for the senior players.

“I think it will go both ways," said the 19-year-old. "Obviously, the quality of league will drop but I think at the current moment younger players don’t get the chances they need, so this move will be more beneficial.

"It benefits the young players, but it puts the older players at risk not only at football but their livelihood as well. If they don’t have a team, that will be problem for them.”

[NEXT: What's next for foreign players?]