I DID not make any attempt to write about Singapore’s prospects in the AFF Suzuki Cup before and during the tournament in the Philippines.
The Lions were never going to get past the group stage, not with the current crop of players. With few exceptions, especially Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin, Khairul Amri and Hassan Sunny, most are products of the Football Association of Singapore’s failed youth programme.
That coach V Sundramoothy had to recall veterans Daniel Bennett, 38, and 35-year-old to Fahrudin Mustafić to beef up the squad reinforces the point there is a dearth of local talent capable of playing at the international level.
Which makes the semi-final target the FAS set for Sundram in the Suzuki Cup when he was handed the caretaker coach’s post in May unrealistic.
It was just pure fantasy.
The Dazzler should have brought the association’s bigwigs down to earth. It was a good time as any to use that well-beaten, lame reply athletes often give when ask if they could perform: I’ll do my best.
It’s a dense answer, but appropriate when what he was expected to deliver was equally dense. Not even the best coach the FAS could hire would have been able to take this team anywhere, let alone into the last four of the Suzuki Cup.
I watched Singapore play only because they are our team. I was hoping against hope that maybe with some luck they would get somewhere. This is what loyal fans do, even when they know their side are outsiders, which in the present squad’s case did not even come close to it.
When Indonesia Stefano Lilipaly snuffed out that hope in the dying minutes of play last night, I was not dismayed. He confirmed my expectations of the team. That’s that. Life goes on.
But Sundram seemed to have lost it when a reporter enquired about his future after the Lions’ 2-1 defeat. He retorted: “How long have you been in your job? After six months, did people judge your future?”
Of course, the Dazzler was frustrated. He was given a shot in Singapore football’s hottest seat and maybe felt his future in it went up in smoke.
One thing is certain: The Lions are not ready for a local coach yet. Their software is not up to date at this point in time.
The football syllabus FAS technical director Michel Sablon is writing — and if everyone in the game implements diligently — will only bear fruit in about eight years. That is when perhaps Sundram, who has the makings of a talented coach, will be able to make a successful second coming.
Until then what Singapore football needs is expertise from eco-systems where the game is played at a far higher level.
In the meantime, the FAS must send local coaches the likes of Sundram on long-term overseas stints with reputable clubs in Europe, or at least in the J-League, to polish them up.
It boggles the mind why the association has not done this yet when La Liga’s Valencia owner Peter Lim lives only minutes away from Jalan Besar Stadium.
This, sadly, is the football world Singapore lives in at this point in time — so much inertia in the FAS.
Hopefully, this will change next year.