SINGAPORE - After more than two hours of talks with wantaway LionsXII players Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan last night, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is standing firm.
The two Singapore stars are wanted by Thai Premier League (TPL) club Bangkok Glass and requested to be released from their one-year contracts with V Sundramoorthy's LionsXII side last week.
FAS general secretary Winston Lee held separate meetings with the two LionsXII stars at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday as soon as the duo returned from a friendly match in Pahang.
Lee spoke to Shahril first, for almost 11/2 hours, before meeting Bai for about 45 minutes.
When both players emerged from their respective meetings, they looked disappointedand declined to speak to the media.
But sources told The New Paper Shahril and Bai have been told to stick with the LionsXII.
Shahril's agent, Abdul Halim of Offside Sports Management, said: "We remain hopeful that the LionsXII coach and management of the FAS will reconsider their decision.
"For a foreign club to show interest in our players is a rare honour and would be a stepping stone in their careers."
But it is believed that the FAS will stick to its guns.
It released a statement on Wednesday saying it could not release the stars because it would hinder the LionsXII from meeting their objectives in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) next season.
Lions captain Shahril and leading defender Bai have been angling for a move to Thailand since it was reported last week that a number of TPL clubs were keen on their services, following sterling performances for Singapore during their AFF Suzuki Cup winning campaign last month.
Shahril, who was voted the Suzuki Cup's Most Valuable Player, is being courted by Bangkok Glass.
They are also hoping to sign Bai.
The central defender is also being wooed by BEC Tero Sasana, Chiangrai United and Bangkok United.
The two players signed contracts with the LionsXII before the Suzuki Cup kicked off on Nov24.
After helping the Lions win a record fourth Asean crown, the two 28-year-olds were approached by the Thai teams.
They held talks on Monday with former LionsXII team manager Eugene Loo, who resigned on Thursday, but were rebuffed.
Shahril then sent a text message to Lee and FAS president Zainudin Nordin on Wednesday night, appealing the decision.
This led to last night's meetings.
Two former internationals, who TNP spoke to, had contrasting views on the subject.
Former Lions goalkeeper Shahri Rahim felt that the FAS should release the two stars and focus on developing the Under-23 players in the LionsXII for the coming season.
Shahril and Bai are two of five over-aged players allowed in the squad.
"The LionsXII shouldn't be just about winning," said Shahri.
"Of course every coach wants to win, but it's also about giving the younger players the chance to expose themselves to a higher level of competition and, hopefully, they'll make the next stepup to the national team."
But, he added: "If they stay, then they have to be professional and be fully committed. There are no two ways about it."
However, former Singapore captain Razali Saad said the two players should honour the contract with the LionsXII, even if they were rushed into a decision to sign because the MSL registration deadline fell on Dec 6.
"They have committed themselves to the team by signing the contract, so they should honour it," said the former midfielder.
"Things could have been easier if they had looked through their options, but the MSL transfer deadline complicated things. But I still think the FAS is right not to let both players go."
Razali, though, felt that forcing the two players to stay could have an adverse effect on the LionsXII in the long run.
He said: "Having players who don't want to be there would be very bad for the team, they would be carrying baggage.
"If things go well for the team then fine. But, if not, they will have to carry more weight and more responsibility as the leaders of the team."
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