Coach Aide Iskandar resigns as Young Lions crash out

Hosts fall 0-1 to Indonesia and will have no part to play in semi-finals

Singapore 0

Indonesia 1

NATIONAL Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar delivered the biggest shock of the SEA Games football competition when he resigned immediately after the Young Lions' 0-1 loss to Indonesia at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.

The defeat ended Singapore's involvement in the SEA Games football tournament in the group stages, an outcome which would have been described as a big surprise coming into the tournament.

But no one could have predicted the bombshell the embattled coach dropped just minutes after his side crashed out, becoming the first Singapore side not to make the last four at a Games on home soil.

In a brief address where he took no questions, he said: "Starting two years ago, I tried to build a team for this SEA Games. I faced a lot of challenges as coach.

"Tonight, Irfan Fandi and Faris Ramli weren't fully fit so I could not start them. I'm very proud of my boys, they pushed for the equaliser even when we were one man down."

Then, fighting back tears, the former national skipper said: "I thank you all for your support. I want to go back to my family now. They have been waiting for me for a long time."

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin said the FAS would speak to Aide and ask him to reconsider.

He said: "I can understand why Aide has made this decision at this point of time...

"Regardless of how we have fared at the SEA Games, Aide is a good coach and has a long and bright future ahead of him."

Aide's decision to leave may have something to do with how a certain section of fans turned against him, his team and even his family.

After unimpressive performances at the Games - Aide's men beat the Philippines 1-0, lost 1-2 to Myanmar and beat Cambodia 3-1 before the Indonesia loss - a section of fans had called for his head.

His players, especially Sahil Suhaimi, and even his children had been subjected to verbal abuse.

Midfielder Anumanthan Kumar said the feeling in the dressing room was one of collective disbelief when the players were told of Aide's decision.

He said: "We broke down. We don't know what would happen next."

It is understood that Aide was also frustrated after run-ins within the FAS. Sources told The Straits Times that Aide did not have a say on the selection of some of his coaching staff. Goalkeeper coach John Burridge, who had worked with the SEA Games team in the build-up to the tournament, was also strangely missing from the team during the Games.

Yet, Singapore's destiny was in their hands yesterday. Had they beaten Indonesia, they would have made the last four.

After a goalless first half, Aide introduced Irfan and Faris after the break. The dynamic duo were each carrying knocks, but were forced on as half-time substitutes after their side failed to muster a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Under heavy rain and heavier expectations, the stage was all set. And it promptly collapsed.

Within a minute of the restart, Evan Dimas silenced the 7,000-odd crowd with an exquisite curler from just inside the box. It would signal the end of the road for the Young Lions, who also had Ho Wai Loon sent off for two bookable offences.

But no one expected it would also mean the end of the road for coach Aide.

nsanjay@sph.com.sg

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