Webb and El-Masri yearning for Singapore opportunity

There have not been any new naturalised footballers in the Singapore national team since Qiu Li, but that could all be about to change as Young Lions pair Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri await the results of their passport applications.

The Canadian duo have been lined up under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme (FST), with a view to representing the Singapore national team in the near future.

El-Masri arrived on local shores in 2009 as a youth player with Home United, while Webb made his mark a year later with Hougang United.

That means both players have already fulfilled football world governing body FIFA’s five-year residency rule in order to play for the Lions.

However both players are still waiting to receive their Singapore passports due to an apparent delay over paperwork issues.

“Well, [the wait] has been frustrating to be honest,” the 25-year-old El-Masri told FourFourTwo.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to play for Singapore. It has been in my plans to do so since coming to Young Lions in 2012.

“It’s been four years and we got a lot of promises, but we keep hearing that it’s (the application is) in the process and nothing really happens.

“Some days it’s really hard to get motivated but I’m just doing my best to put in good performances.”

“I would love to play for Singapore, but it’s not within my control on how fast I get citizenship,” echoed 27-year-old Webb.

“I’m grateful to Singapore because I’ve spent my whole professional career here. I’ve learnt a lot from both the locals and foreigners.

“Now I want to pay back by teaching the younger boys what I’ve learned over these years and also possibly help the country win a Suzuki Cup.”

Both players have proved their worth since re-joining the Young Lions in June following the team's failed quest to attain a SEA Games gold medal.

Webb has notched six goals and seven assists so far, while El-Masri has also contributed a goal and two assists as the under-23 outfit collected 22 points out of the 54 on offer under interim coach Juergen Raab.

El-Masri believes he has much to offer the Singapore national team if handed a call-up in the future.

“I’ve gained a lot of experience over the years,” said the left-footed winger. “I’ve played for the Canadian under-23s previously in their Olympics qualifying campaign, so I know how the national level is.

“Also I’ve good speed, can cut in and most importantly I’m able to combine with the players from the national team.

“I’ve trained with the LionsXII for a while and I’m able to connect well with players like Safuwan (Baharudin) and Shahdan (Sulaiman).”

El-Masri, who spent four months back in Canada earlier this year, is desperate to play football at a higher level.

“To be honest, I’m not sure about what will happen next year,” he admitted. “I was planning to go Europe and play for a third-division club until Young Lions came calling back then.

“After so many years, I want something more to look forward to than just playing for the Young Lions.”

Both El-Masri and Webb were selected to join Fandi Ahmad's Sultan of Selangor's Cup squad in October and although the game ultimately did not go ahead, the LionsXII coach seemed interested in seeing how they would do in the team.

"We're still waiting for their Singapore passports so hopefully it's an opportunity to see what they can do," he had told FFT.