Lion City Sailors’ Song Ui-young relishing new roles on and off the field

SINGAPORE – Back with the Lion City Sailors since the start of the season, Song Ui-young has revelled in a new midfield role, with the same unstinting support to his teammates.

What has changed is his status off the pitch, with the national player tying the knot with his girlfriend in South Korea in May.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the club’s Mattar Road headquarters, Song looked blissful with his new roles in life.

“I’m very happy with my wife, life is more stable now and we’re planning our future together,” said the 30-year-old.

While he declined to give details about his spouse, he added: “She’s very supportive of me, when I’m tired she will prepare a good meal and let me rest to recover well. She helps me a lot.”

He is also grateful to Sailors coach Aleksandar Rankovic, who converted him to a box-to-box midfielder. The 45-year-old Serb was appointed in June 2023, months after Song ended his first stint with the Sailors.

He spent about a year plying his trade with Thailand’s Nongbua Pitchaya and Indonesia’s Persebaya before returning to the Sailors for his second stint in March 2024.

While his earlier role with the Bishan-based club was to “score and assist goals”, now it is more about helping teammates like Belgian winger Maxime Lestienne, Dutch midfielder Bart Ramselaar and latest acquisition Lennart Thy up front.

Song, who racked up 13 goals and four assists in the 2022 Singapore Premier League (SPL) campaign, enjoys wreaking havoc in the opponents’ backline, but is also revelling in his new responsibilities.

“To be honest, I’m enjoying my current role as well,” he said. “I’m more involved in the build-up… it’s about being the bridge for the attack and how we move forward from the middle of the pitch.”

Rankovic, who previously named Song a priority signing, described him as an “all-around player”.

He added: “We still haven’t seen everything (from him), but he’s done exactly what I expected. He’s strong on the ball, playing box-to-box, and has a great mentality.”

Song hopes to repay Rankovic’s trust, saying: “He taught me how to play this role and position, and now I’m comfortable and following his tactics. I have felt his strong trust and belief in me… he gives me good motivation.

“Realistically, I’m not a young player any more, so the coaches are giving me ideas on how to play football in a more efficient way.”

lion city sailors’ song ui-young relishing new roles on and off the field

Song Ui-young (right) is now tasked with creating opportunities for his teammates such as Maxime Lestienne (left). PHOTO: LION CITY SAILORS

While Song is still managing a minor injury sustained during international duty with the Lions, he is looking forward to the team’s SPL clash against Brunei DPMM at the Jalan Besar Stadium on June 18.

Both sides have won both of their matches this season, with the Sailors in third and DPMM one place behind.

Rankovic added: “It’s going to be a challenging game. We’re not approaching this any differently than other games, of course we’re aware of their qualities and they’re also aware of ours.”

Hougang v Balestier (June 21, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar)

The eighth-placed Cheetahs are winless in four matches. Balestier, meanwhile, scored an average of three goals per game and will want to exploit Hougang’s defensive vulnerabilities.

Young Lions v Tanjong Pagar (June 22, 6pm, Jalan Besar)

The home side recently claimed their first win, and will take on the bottom-placed Jaguars, who have scored only once in three games.

DPMM v Geylang (June 22, 8.15pm, Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium)

DPMM will play in Brunei for the first time since 2019, and must try to stop the Eagles, who have netted an impressive 19 goals in four matches.

Sailors v Albirex (June 23, 6pm, Bishan Stadium)

Last season’s top teams face off, though Albirex have been a pale shadow of themselves, sitting sixth with only one win so far.

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