Singapore’s football fraternity urges transparency, action and good leadership
The local football fraternity was left reeling from yet another disappointing SEA Games outing as the Young Lions crashed out of the group stage with a 7-0 thumping by Malaysia at the Games in Phnom Penh, which ended a week ago.
And the sombre post-Games mood was reflected in Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua’s opening address at the Unleash The Roar! (UTR) Football Conversation, a dialogue with stakeholders at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday.
The chairman of the UTR executive committee called for support from the community and said: “We have heard much of it. I too, feel the pain, and the heartache. Not just the 7-0 defeat, but the entirety of our Lions’ SEA Games campaign.
“It is a bitter pill to swallow, and we need to work towards not letting it happen again.
“This SEA Games campaign is difficult to accept – but it is the reality of the situation we face in local football today.”
The Football Conversation event saw over 150 attendees, ranging from coaches and educators to parents, come together to discuss ways to improve Singapore football.
Announced in 2021, UTR was launched to raise the standards of Singapore football with various long-term initiatives.
Among them is the establishment of 12 School Football Academies (SFAs) as a pipeline to produce young players with sound technical ability, of which two have dedicated programmes for girls.
Mr Chua had said in an interview with The Straits Times in March that an overseas scholarship, the return of the Lion City Cup youth tournament and the setting up of two development pathways would be key projects for UTR in 2023.
While some of Thursday’s participants expressed faith in UTR, they highlighted that several factors such as collaboration, transparency and good leadership were vital for its success.
Given UTR’s emphasis on youth development, ex-Lions captain Aide Iskandar stressed the need for good leadership across all levels. He said: “Sometimes we like to be critical, it’s good for us to reflect and it’s good we go back to basics.
“What is lacking here is strong leadership, which starts not with the top but with the coaches, captains and players because we must have strong leaders with the right principles, values and ethics.”
Aidilreza Aziz, whose daughter Nahwah is a national Under-16 player, believes UTR is headed in the right direction, but also noted the need for various community stakeholders to be involved to help aspiring players develop.
The 49-year-old, who works in the IT industry, said: “To improve, they need a proper development path. The idea is there but there needs to be more engagement with the private academies.”
Ex-Singapore international Noh Alam Shah, who is now Tanjong Pagar United’s team manager, said it was important to have dialogues like the one on Thursday, but urged for action to be taken.
He said: “It’s a very good initiative to address what can be done... but we need to question whether we can go forward with it.
“I’m being blunt for the sake of Singapore football because actions speak louder than words, so hopefully this moves on to more.”
Former Singapore international Rafi Ali, who won the 1998 Tiger Cup, said: “Looking at the crowd today, people care about Singapore football, we should be worried if we have a dialogue and nobody comes.
“While people still care, we have to do something about it.”
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