| SINGAPORE (17 June 2010) – Six players with the Beijing Guoan Talents are set to make premature exits from their participation in the S-League – including top scorer Tan Tiancheng.
The striker heads a list of five Beijing players called up by China Under-19 coach Su Maozhen for a training camp in Shandong, in preparation for the AFC Under-19 Championship to be held in October.
Also leaving Singapore this week are centrebacks Yu Yang and Lei Tenglong, leftback Ma Chongchong and midfielder Zou Yucheng.
All except Yu, who was born in 1989, are linking up with Su’s squad for the camp.
Former Chinese Olympic squad member Yu’s reason for returning to China is unknown.
Additionally, Beijing coach Zheng Xiaotian indicated that playmaker Zhang Xizhe will not be returning to his squad.
Zhang has been away from the club since the start of April, when he was selected to represent China in a global talent search competition held in Spain that also features 49 other up-and-coming starlets from all across the world.
The winner of the competition will earn the privilege of an attachment with a top Spanish club, identified by Chinese media as Atletico Madrid, throughout the length of the club’s pre-season training for the coming Primera Liga season.
Zhang’s progress in the competition remains unknown, but even if the 19-year-old drops out, he will be heading to Shandong to report to Su as an integral member of China’s Under-19 squad, known to the country as ‘Guoqing’.
“I think Xizhe will probably not be able to come back,” said Zheng in an interview with sleague.com.
“I don’t know where he is now, whether he’s still in Spain or back in China already. He reports to the club management, not to me, regarding his time in Spain.
“Even if he is back in China now, he will have to report for centralised training with the Guoqing squad. The Guoqing players have a mission at hand, as they are preparing for the AFC Under-19 Championships.”
The former has made a huge impact on the team since his arrival in early March, scoring six of the Talents’ 16 goals in the league.
Zhang played in all five of Beijing’s fixtures in March, and had a prominent role in his team’s much-feted victories over Geylang United and Home United, both at Jalan Besar.
Lei, Ma and Yu have also played significant roles, though none has been an ever-present. Only Zou has been a bit-part player in Beijing’s season so far, with one start to his name.
Zheng was nonetheless confident in the strength of his squad, noting that there are alternative players who can fill several of the vacancies created by the departure of players like Zhang, Yu and Lei.
“At present, Zhang Ye and Li Tixiang have been playing well in their roles as supporting forwards,” he pointed out.
“Tixiang has also been doing well in midfield, so he alone can cover two positions depending on what we need. Of course he has not been as familiar with Tiancheng as Xizhe was, but then Tiancheng and Xizhe have been teammates since they were little.
“As for our centreback positions, I have been rotating between Yu Yang, Lei Tenglong, Zhang Xiaolong and Xu Huaiji. I feel the four of them have similar standards, there is no clear distinction between them, and so all four have been able to get playing time.
“There will be a bit of a shortage in some specific positions, of course. But generally the squad should still be big enough to manage.”
Zheng will nonetheless be welcoming at least four new players from China, who are flying into Singapore on 18 June.
With the Talents’ next league fixture coming on 23 June against reigning S.League champions SAFFC, the newcomers are expected to have enough time to prepare for the mandatory fitness test, known as the Beep Test, before completing their registrations.
But after observing how his initial squad had early issues dealing with Singapore’s hot and humid climate, with many suffering from cramp in the team’s first games, Zheng admitted that he will expect similar problems with the reinforcements.
“I think the same things will happen in terms of their physical condition,” he said.
“They’ll just have to slowly get used to it. They will start by being substitutes, before I decide if they are reading to move into the starting eleven.
“In the meantime, I think the team can continue to maintain a relatively high level of performance. Only Yu Yang and Tiancheng started in our last game against Gombak (United), so the others are getting used to playing without the ones who are leaving.”