When this blog broke the news that 4 of Etoile FC's players were selected in the S-League All-Stars for the game against Albirex Niigata (S) Selection Side, there is a sense of anticipation among the Ultras, that the 4 talented Stars would be joined up with equally talented players in the team. However, when the name list came out, it was like a slap in the face. Let's look at the team-list:
Goalkeepers: Shahril Jantan, Izwan Mahbud
Defenders: Paul Cunningham, Afiq Yunos, Sirina Camara, Obadin Aikhena, Walid Lounis, Jeremey Chiang, Emmeric Ong, Shaiful Esah
Midfielders: Armanizam Dolah, K Vikraman, Hariss Harun, Hicham Bouchemlal, Maxime Belouet, Carlos Alberto Delgado, Fazli Jaffar, Jordan Webb, Mustaqim Mansur
Forwards: Vitor Borges De Souza, Jonathan Toto, Fazrul Nawaz
Hardly An All Star Team
With the exception of the goalkeeping components, it seemed that the All-Star team is a testimony to the notion that "S-League lacks talents and players". Shaiful Esah may had been an "All-Star" before he broke his leg, but if you were to see his performance in the last 5 games, he seemed finding breaking into the SAFFC first XI hard, much less into an All-Star team. What happen to players like Noh Rahman, Daniel Hammond or Bah Mamadou, who is way much better than him? I am sure fans would like to see a defensive partnership of Bah and Obadin at the back, as opposed to Walid and Obadin. Walid's inclusion also make one wonder if Nakata's leg is in danger on match day? Emmeric Ong's inclusion is certainly a shock for this author as he wonders what was the selection criteria that Richard Bok used.
In midfield, Mustaqim's inclusion seemed to be questionable with his form being very erratic. The selection of 3 forwards is also another question that only Richard Bok could answer. How his top striker, Miroslav Karoglan did not find himself into the squad is a mystery. It seemed that with the selection, Richard Bok had also demonstrated how he is not willing to sacrifice his players for this charitable cause. I am very sure Miroslav would be more than happy to don the jersey on Saturday. Maybe even Ivan Jerkovic.
Considering the 'talents' that are in the squad, it would not had, thus, killed the 3 times Mikasa Coach of the Year by selecting a player each from Geylang United, Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington right? I mean from a host of players like Shah Hirul, Kim Jae Hong and Hafiz Rahim to the height of Leonardo Da Costa or the defence in Graham Tatters or the much raved Munier Raychouni, or what about Kim Seong Kyu and Israel Tan, or the much touted Yasir Hanapi?
Tampines Rovers and Home United Players not Included
The reason that was given is simple: The players from 2 teams are not included as they are playing on Friday night. However, when one look at the Albirex Niigata Selection team, you can find Akihiro Nakamura and Seiji Kaneko of Tampines Rovers and Kenji Arai of Home United in the list. Now, why the double standards between players? Aint it not the truth that with the inclusion of 'beep test', the players are supposed to have better stamina to last. Asking them to play just 15 - 25 minutes isn't asking for too much right? We are talking about missing players like Frederic Mendy, Alex Duric, Benoit Croissant, Lionel Lewis, Hassan Sunny, and a host of others. What difference would the game had been, would the readers not agree?
On a whole, this game should simply be labelled as "We Care: S-League Selection vs Albirex Niigata (S) All Stars" and not vice versa. With such a squad, I struggle to imagine how the players could cope with a half-fit Hidetoshi Nakata, an ageing Maezono and even a fatigue Akihiro Nakamura, not forgetting the trickery of Taisuke Akiyoshi and the rock defence of Kenji Arai and Seiji Kaneko.
Perhaps, the All-Stars in this game may just get a respite since Richard Bok had already chosen the best in Etoile FC to include in the squad. A great set-piece taker (Maxime), a great left back who can do over-laps (Sirina), a great midfield anchor who can chip in with a goal (Hicham) and a striker proven even in Europe (Jonathan Toto), so maybe, omitting some key players would still get the result for the S-League All Stars.