Football: Most of Golden Generation gone

Dhukilan Jeevamani in training. National youth teams head coach Richard Tardy says rejuvenation and renewal of teams across age groups is the norm in football.
Dhukilan Jeevamani in training. National youth teams head coach Richard Tardy says rejuvenation and renewal of teams across age groups is the norm in football.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
The Singapore boys’ team won the bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
The Singapore boys’ team won the bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. ST FILE PHOTO

Only 3 from acclaimed YOG squad among the 20 in U-21 event but coach is unconcerned

Besides victory today against Hong Kong in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) U-21 International Challenge Cup at Bishan Stadium, the Singapore footballers will also have another aim in mind.

The likes of Adam Swandi, Dhukilan Jeevamani and Zharfan Rohaizad will be keen to prove their mettle in the inaugural tournament, in order to break into the 2017 SEA Games squad.

The side selected by national youth teams head coach Richard Tardy are strong contenders to form the nucleus of the squad to represent the Republic in Malaysia next year. But one may wonder if more talent could have been at Singapore's disposal in the quest for that elusive first SEA Games gold.

Tardy had named a 20-strong squad for the quadrangular and 13 players ply their trade for Garena Young Lions, the FAS' developmental side.

But there are only three players from the much-vaunted 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) bronze-winning team - defender Dhukilan, along with midfielder Jonathan Tan and forward Muhaimin Suhaimi.

Following their heroics six years ago, the Cubs have been largely quiet. Their star attacker, Hanafi Akbar, was arrested last year on suspicion of drug offences, while skipper Jeffrey Lightfoot, currently in national service with the Singapore Police Force, drifted out of the game but is attempting a comeback after training with the Young Lions for the past two weeks on a trial basis.

FOCUS ON WHAT COUNTS

The past is the past. We look forward to the future... YOG was when we were 15 years old and that was six years ago.

DHUKILAN JEEVAMANI, whose objective is playing in next year's SEA Games.

Billed as a golden generation, none of the team that won the hearts of the nation as 15-year-olds has earned a single cap with the senior Lions, adding to the sense of loss.

But Tardy is not worried, saying: "Youth teams are generally developmental sides; rejuvenation and renewal of teams across the different age groups is part and parcel of football at the developmental level all over the world, not just in Singapore."

The U-21 team that Tardy assembled will have a chance to impress today as they open their International Challenge Cup campaign with a match against Hong Kong at Bishan Stadium at 8pm.

The other invited teams in the quadrangular are Iran and Uzbekistan.

  • Unfulfilled potential

    The 2010 YOG bronze medal-winning squad won the hearts of the nation six years ago. But not one of them has made it into the full national team. Where are they now?

    Goalkeeper:

    • Fashah Iskandar: Garena Young Lions

    Defenders:

    • Jeffrey Lightfoot: National service but training with Young Lions

    • Dhukilan Jeevamani: National U-21 and Young Lions

    Midfielders:

    • Ammirul Emmran: National service and Young Lions

    • Hanafi Akbar: Balestier Khalsa (national service - arrested last year on drug-related offences)

    • Jonathan Tan: National U-21 and Young Lions

    • Brandon Koh: National service and Geylang International

    Forwards:

    • Muhaimin Suhaimi: National U-21 and Young Lions

    • Hazim Faiz: Young Lions (national service)

The Frenchman said: "I have confidence the U-21 players are all motivated to put in their best efforts for the tournament.

"I know that this year, we must get enough experience and have more friendly games because next year is the SEA Games. We must do the best with our players and this (tournament) is a good way for them to show their quality."

Dhukilan, 21, said: "The past is the past. We look forward to the future. There's the national team ahead and we're now in the U-21s. YOG was when we were 15 years old and that was six years ago.

"Every time I play for my country, I just want to give my best - be it in the YOG or be it here (in the Challenge Cup). Next year is the SEA Games - that is the main objective and every tournament is a stepping stone to our main goal."

Iran also face Uzbekistan today at Bishan in the opening game at 5pm.

•For ticketing details, visit www.globaltickets.sg. Tickets will also be available from 3.30pm onwards at the Bishan Stadium ticket counter.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Most of golden generation gone'. Print Edition | Subscribe