Unfair to point fingers at Sundram for AFF debacle

The Lions bowed out of the AFF Suzuki Cup tournament after their 1-2 loss to Indonesia's Garudas last Friday ("2 slips and they're out"; Nov 26).

Naturally, the knives came out for national caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy. But it is not fair to hold the 51-year-old coach solely responsible for the team's poor showing. The players should shoulder part of the blame.

Sundram did fairly well with the talent available at his disposal. His "soak and strike" strategy nearly worked wonders.

The Lions played well against the much-vaunted Thais in their second match and the result could have been different if only Juma'at Jantan had made full use of the opportunity he had ("Best-laid plans go awry"; Nov 23).

I would not blame Sundram for adopting an ultra-defensive stance as he was under tremendous pressure to deliver results within a short span of time.

The sad reality is that today's best Singapore footballers are just not good enough, compared with the much-talented players we had in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

They lack the basic skills and are not comfortable with the ball. That is the price we are paying for years of neglect of grassroots players.

To add further to our woes, the current players lack discipline to train on their own and improve on the technical aspects of the game.

I remember that when Fandi Ahmad was a rookie national player, he would stay back after training sessions to work on his strengths and weaknesses.

He would also embark on early morning runs on the beach with tins of sand strapped to his ankles, to build his stamina and endurance.

We do not see such disciplined attitude in today's players.

It all comes down to a poor youth development programme.

Hopefully, Mr Michel Sablon, the Football Association of Singapore's technical director, can lift the current gloomy situation within the next few years.

A. Thiyaga Raju

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Unfair to point fingers at Sundram for AFF debacle'. Print Edition | Subscribe