Football: FAS head coach of youth teams Tardy slams displays of NFA U-16s and U-15s

Singapore Under-16's Saifullah Akbar (in green boots) celebrating with team-mate Elliot Ng after scoring the penalty that won the match against the Singapore U-15 team in the Lion City Cup third-place play-off. Both teams' performances came under cri
Singapore Under-16's Saifullah Akbar (in green boots) celebrating with team-mate Elliot Ng after scoring the penalty that won the match against the Singapore U-15 team in the Lion City Cup third-place play-off. Both teams' performances came under criticism from their head coach.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Coach says U-16, U-15 sides lack technique and are weak in physical, mental attributes

After watching the congratulations, high-fives and brotherly handshakes between both sets of players, Richard Tardy felt the need to deliver some hard truths.

This, after the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-16s had defeated their U-15 counterparts 3-2 in yesterday's Lion City Cup third-place play-off.

The Frenchman, the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) new head coach of national youth teams, tore into the displays of both sides, calling the performances "not good enough".

He listed three key weaknesses that they need to work on.

"Technique," the 64-year-old began. "If they don't have good technique, they cannot play at a high level. Some miss easy balls to control, some play long passes but do not know why."

Yesterday evening, both teams started brightly, playing attractive, passing football. But sapped of energy after half-time, long balls were deployed.

A case in point in the U-15s: Pocket-sized forward Joel Chew.

He is small, with his short-sleeved jersey at his elbows, but the Singapore Sports School student's array of flicks and killer passes were lost in the midst of the aerial bombardment.

"Physical," Tardy intoned on his second observation. "They need more speed. There were some problems with endurance.

"Many players had cramps, which was very odd."

During yesterday's game, the U-15s took the lead through defender Syed Akmal in the 25th minute before U-16 midfielder Idraki Adnan burst through to drill the ball into the bottom corner a minute before half-time.

In the 72nd minute, U-15 striker Glenn Kwey's persistence paid off when he finished off a counter-attack at his second attempt.

However, his team collapsed dramatically when they were close to the finishing line.

First, U-16 defender Nazhiim Harman thundered home a header off a corner with four minutes left to tie the game at 2-2. And three minutes into stoppage time, Syed handled a bouncing ball in the box and up stepped U-16 captain Saifullah Akbar to score the penalty.

U-15 coach V. Selvaraj said of his team: "They managed to win most of their individual battles, they played compact and trusted each other. They converted the chances they created.

"But there are many areas to work on. They need to keep their concentration high and not concede easy goals."

U-16 coach Robin Chitrakar said: "The boys never gave up, they have the desire to win. They showed great character."

But Tardy disagreed and brought up his third point: Mentality.

The Frenchman, who successfully steered Rwanda to the Under-17 World Cup in 2011, said: "Some players are in their comfort zones during training.

"They get surprised when they play Liverpool or Tottenham.

"I was very angry when they (U-15s) lost 0-3 (to Spurs).

"Many people are happy we drew 3-3 with Liverpool but the boys didn't play serious, that's why they didn't play in the final.

"When you play for the colours of your country, you must give 120 per cent from the beginning to the end of the game."

While the U-16s only have the Prime League to look forward to for the rest of this year, the U-15s will play in the Asian Football Confederation U-16 Championship qualifiers next month.

Singapore will host Group H of the qualifiers.

They will entertain Cambodia, North Korea and Thailand.

While Tardy acknowledges it will be hard to get the U-15s to measure up to his standards in one month, he does call it "a very exciting job".

But he insists that he will not sugarcoat his observations, even if it means stepping on some toes along the way.

"It is very important to give the truth. They must know they are not good enough."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'Not good enough: Tardy'. Print Edition | Subscribe