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Singapore’s Young Lions withdraw from Asian Games, FAS cite congested schedule

The Republic’s men’s Under-22 football team will not participate in the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Tuesday.

The decision was supported by Sport Singapore and faced no objections from the Singapore National Olympic Council, the statement added. The national women’s team will continue to participate in the tournament.

According to FAS, the decision “is in line with one of the recommendations” from the review announced last Friday of May’s SEA Games performance.

Among the 10 key areas it would work on, the governing body pledged to prioritise the SEA Games and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. Other tournaments will be regarded as developmental opportunities. The FAS had already withdrawn the team from the Aug 17-26 Asean Football Federation U-23 Championship in Thailand.

FAS acting president Bernard Tan said: “The past few weeks, the FAS has gone through a period of introspection, and we are right now in the midst of implementing the recommendations from the recent SEA Games review.”

The Young Lions did not feature at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Their last outing was at the 2014 edition in South Korea where the team finished third in their group and did not advance to the knockout rounds.

FAS general secretary, Yazeen Buhari, added: “Learning from the review, we also considered the preparation time required to get the team ready for each tournament, vis-a-vis the players’ commitments to their clubs, schools, and national service.

“Given that the Asian Games comes off the back of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers, this makes participation particularly challenging.”

Other factors considered by the FAS include the U-22 team’s recent performances and scheduling conflicts. The Young Lions had a disastrous SEA Games campaign, finishing last in their group as well as suffering a 7-0 defeat to fierce rivals Malaysia.

The Sept 23-Oct 8 Asiad takes place soon after the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. Singapore are in Group C alongside Yemen, Guam and Vietnam and have three games between Sept 6-12.