SEA Games: Give FAS ‘space to review and take stock’, says sports institute chief
PHNOM PENH – Singapore football fans are baying for blood after the Young Lions’ dismal campaign at the Cambodia SEA Games and while Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) chief Su Chun Wei noted that their performance was “far below stellar”, he also urged for patience on Wednesday.
The national under-22 side exited the competition at the group stage for a fifth consecutive time after finishing rock bottom of Group B with no wins from four matches. Their worst outing was against Causeway rivals Malaysia, who last Thursday handed Singapore their worst defeat at the Games since 1971 with a 7-0 thumping.
Speaking at a press conference held at a Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet in Phnom Penh to wrap up Team Singapore’s campaign, Dr Su said that “there are sports that have underperformed” and the national sports associations (NSAs) and athletes “will have a lot to reflect on”.
The SSI is responsible for the development of Singapore’s high performance sports and nurturing of elite athletes.
When asked about the men’s football team, Su urged patience and added: “It is obvious for me to just say that the performance of our (Young) Lions in this campaign is not ideal and is far below stellar.”
“The FAS (Football Association of Singapore) have acknowledged it and said that they will do an internal review. We must give FAS this window and space to review and take stock..it is a fact that now that we know where our performances lie...FAS will need to consider what they need to do concretely and decisively.
“We want to see an improvement in performances. It won’t come overnight but I just encourage all of us to give FAS space at this moment and give our team the space to reflect and to learn.”
Su explained that the FAS had requested for two weeks to review their plans, referring to its president Bernard Tan’s social media post last Friday, when he said that “tough questions” will be asked over the next two weeks. Tan had also apologised in the same post after his personal challenge to a social media commenter on the SEA Games went viral.
“If FAS requests for that, let’s give them that,” added Su.
In the aftermath of the Young Lions’ poor display in Phnom Penh, fans have also asked on social media why the footballers are allowed to compete at the Games.
For each major Games, athletes have to meet the qualifying mark in order to be selected for the event. The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selection criteria for the 2023 Games stated that for team sports, the team should be ranked third among the SEA Games countries. Singapore is the sixth best football team in the region according to Fifa rankings.
Addressing the topic of the men’s football team, Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary-general Chris Chan explained that with a national project like the Unleash the Roar! (UTR) aiming for football to excel at a higher level, it would not be fair for the sport to be robbed of an “entry-level” platform to excel at.
He said: “Our selection criteria is no secret. We have to acknowledge also that if any sport or NSA has put in an effort or programme that projects them to excel at high level, then it is difficult for us to deprive them to at least take part in a SEA Games which is entry level for major Games. With UTR, you can see the effort they are putting in.
“If I don’t send the team here, how do you gauge where are they? It applies for other sports too. If they really have some programme and make an unusual effort, we have to acknowledge that and let them compete at an entry level of major Games which is the SEA Games.”
The Young Lions will next compete at the 2024 Asian Football Confederation U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers from Sept 4 to 12 before the Hangzhou Asian Games from Sept 23 to Oct 8.
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