Congratulations, Team Singapore! Well done! Fantastic achievement! Thanks for making us proud by winning the ASEAN Cup for the third time! Now, Asia, here we come!
Accolades after accolades kept pouring in since the Lions beat Thailand 3-2 on aggregate in the football final. It’s no wonder. This is about the only tournament we have experienced reaching the top so far. I’m happy for the team. I’m happy for the coach. I’m happy for Khairul Amri. And I’m happy for Noh Alam Shah. I think the Lions have been playing what I would call ‘effective football’. Not pretty, but effective. Loads of soaking…varying degrees of high balls…good knock-ons…striking the killer blows at the right time.
However, I call for a reality check. The matter of fact is Singapore football team lacks the qualities and finesse needed to succeed at a higher level. And such elements must only be honed at a young age. Knowing how our system works, it is extremely challenging for Singapore football to be treated seriously at schools level. Education is still the utmost important part of the children’s lives (whether they like it or not). This means that no kid is able to train football full-time, unlike in other countries. The lack of full-time training speaks volume of the kind of players we have locally. Yes, we can compete. Yes, we can conquer South-East Asia. But that’s the furthest we can go, I reckon.
We don’t have to look far to prove my point. Look at the title-winning squad now. Precious, Itimi, Jiayi, Daniel and Mustafic are all foreign-imports. And all are first-team players. If we are not going to depend on our younger kids to carry the torch because they need to concentrate in a sound education, then we have to look abroad to bring in talents. The truth is painful, but must be mentioned. Our kids do not have the time and energy to be trained full-time to be our future heroes in the world of football.
As we looked back at how Singapore had won their third crown, thus sharing the same honour with Thailand for winning it thrice, one must say that they didn’t really win it convincingly. Barring the 11-0 annihilation of the pitiful Laos, Singapore drew almost all their matches against the top sides. 0-0 with Vietnam, 2-2 with Indonesia, 1-1 twice with Malaysia and 1-1 with Thailand in the final. It’s not exaggerating to say that Singapore did not really dominate their opponents in these matches. Even that 2-1 win against Thailand at the National Stadium would not have been made possible if not for the referee’s blunder. In the second leg tie in Bangkok, Singapore were struggling against a rampant Thai side. Somehow I can’t help but feel that Lady Luck was really working her wonders for Singapore in that match. In fact, I think she was smiling all the way for Singapore from the moment the first ball was kicked to the lifting of the trophy by the Singapore skipper. I think she’s still smiling. Thanks, Lady Luck!
However, I don’t want to take the credit off the Singapore players. Though some players were disappointing, most of them really worked their socks off for each other in the team. Noh Alam Shah has come of age by claiming two individual awards. He has really been THE ONE for Singapore. Mustafic’s job in midfield has been highly potent. Jiayi’s physical presence and play bear some resemblance to a certain Xabi Alonso. Khairul Amri’s speed and work rate have contributed much to the team’s success. Ridhuan’s never-say-die attitude gives his team-mates confidence. And coach Raddy must be applauded for moulding a team of fighters. Team Singapore, well done!
But this team of fighters need more than a willing spirit to go further, unless, of course, she chooses to continue to smile with them.