With the 25th season of Singapore's only professional football league about to start, we take a look at 10 youngsters who are set to light up the stage in 2020…
There has been a sense of reinvigoration to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) since youth-oriented rules were introduced in 2018.
Each club was required to recruit at least six Under-23 players for their squad, with at least three needed to feature in the starting line-up.
That has resulted in a number of budding football talents rising to the fore, staking their claims of becoming a future national team stalwart.
Youth.SG takes a look at the young footballers likely to impress in 2020…
1. Daniel Goh (Albirex Niigata)
This effervescent 20-year-old winger caught the eye in 2019 thanks to several energetic displays down the wing for Balestier Khalsa. Daniel is a pacey, tricky player who excels at creating chances for teammates by outwitting opponents in one-on-one situations.
A move to Albirex this season will allow him to learn from his more accomplished Japanese teammates and thrive as he secures his spot in the Singapore Under-22 setup.
2. Ilhan Fandi (Young Lions)
His surname should immediately catapult him into the spotlight. But 17-year-old Ilhan, the third son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad, has already made quite an impression since making his professional debut late last year by becoming the youngest-ever player to score in two straight games in the SPL.
Described by former national forward Noh Alam Shah as “a footballer with three brains”, the attacking midfielder will certainly be one to watch out for this year.
3. Marc Ryan Tan (Young Lions)
Another player looking to carry on his father’s legacy is Marc, son of Malaysia Cup legend Steven Tan. The 18-year-old is a speedy winger who is nippy on the ball, similar to his dad.
Having created waves at 12 when he scored 17 goals at the Gothia Cup – also known as the World Youth Cup – in 2014, the time has come for him to shine on the big stage as an integral part of the Young Lions setup under head coach Nazri Nasir’s tutelage.
4. Vasileios Zikos Chua (Geylang International)
It has been long lamented that Singapore has a dearth of natural goalscoring forwards, but in Zikos – the country may have found the answer for the future.
Only 17, he is already a regular fixture in the Geylang team and wasted little time in making his mark by becoming the youngest player to reach the five-goal mark in SPL history last year. Still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, he is expected to be back by June to bolster Geylang’s striking options.
5. Shah Shahiran (Tampines Rovers)
An attacking midfielder with silky passing skills, the 20-year-old was an ever-present for Tampines as they finished second in the SPL and clinched the Singapore Cup.
With Shahdan Sulaiman’s departure to the Lion City Sailors (previously named Home United), Shah is expected to fill the void and pull the strings from midfield for his club involved in four competitions this season, including the new ASEAN Club Championship.
6. Jacob Mahler (Young Lions)
Some footballers play with such maturity and calmness on the pitch that you almost forget their actual age, and 19-year-old Jacob is certainly one of them.
A player who’s not afraid to make himself heard, the midfield workhouse is regularly trusted with the armband for both his school Temasek Polytechnic or professional club Young Lions. It may still be early into his football career, but he certainly looks like a potential future Singapore captain.
7. Joel Chew (Tampines Rovers)
Tampines have actively blooded youngsters under coach Gavin Lee and the promising Joel has benefitted from it.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder makes up for his diminutive size with quick thinking, technical skills and agility that makes him a tricky opponent to handle. He is also capable of scoring the spectacular – just check out his stunning strike in last year’s Singapore Cup final. With the Stags likely to be involved in more than 40 games in all competitions this season, the 2017 Dollah Kassim Award winner should get more chances to shine.
8. Hami Syahin (Lion City Sailors)
It feels like he has already been around for ages, but Hami is still only 21. Since making his professional bow in 2016, he has established himself as an accomplished, classy midfielder who has the vision to produce defense-splitting passes to his forwards.
Hami has to juggle football with National Service commitments this year, but there is no reason to think that he won’t be able to maintain the excellent standards he has shown whenever he’s on the pitch.
9. Saifullah Akbar (Lion City Sailors)
Singapore may not have to worry about the midfield department in the future, with Saifullah showing signs of fulfilling his potential. The 21-year-old shone for the Young Lions last season, scoring thrice and assisting another three in 15 starts.
Moving to the ambitious Sailors this season will allow the technically-gifted player to hone his craft alongside veterans like Izzdin Shafiq and Shahdan and continue improving. And if he does so, an overseas move next year will not be out of the question.
10. Farhan Zulkifli (Hougang United)
Debuts are never easy, but Farhan made it seem like it on his in June 2019 when he scored a remarkable long-range strike to become the second-youngest scorer in the SPL – at just 16 years and 231 days old.
He built on that by forcing himself into the first team, and was even handed a call-up to the Singapore national team in October. While he is still awaiting for his first cap, there is no doubt that the winger – still only a teen – is a star in the making.
Catch these youngsters in action as the 2020 SPL season kicks off on 29 Feb!
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