Players say it's not fair to single out Aide for criticism

Although he was not named in the statement from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on the SEA Games failure on Wednesday, it was clear that coach Aide Iskandar was chided by his former employers.

But national and SEA Games players who had worked with the 40-year-old have stood up to defend the beleaguered Aide.

He quit as the Young Lions coach in the immediate aftermath of SEA Games elimination in the group stages - resulting in the first Singapore side not to qualify for the football semi-finals in a home Games.

Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is one player who had not only played alongside Aide but was also one of three over-aged players for the Singapore Under-23s that Aide led at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014.

In that campaign, Aide masterminded his side to impressive displays, which included a 2-1 win against Palestine and a 3-3 draw with Oman, although they bowed out at the group stage.

"Aide was a great leader as a player and a good coach as well," said Hassan. "It is normal to have critics but Aide is not the reason alone as to why we did not do well at the SEA Games.

"The whole team were involved."

He added: "At the 2005 Games (in the Philippines) under Raddy (Avramovic), we were tasked to win a medal but we were knocked out at the group stage too.

"But people didn't point fingers at Raddy alone."

On Wednesday, the FAS had expressed its disappointment with the SEA Games failure and how Aide and national team's head coach Bernd Stange had clashed in the media after the tournament.

Its statement read: "The FAS noted that the Under-23 team had received extremely strong support - both from within the FAS and from external parties - for the past two-and-a-half years.

"While more resources will always be preferred, the FAS believes that what was offered was sufficient. The level of support was not a key issue. Rather, it was largely down to the application."

The statement also added: "The FAS is hugely disappointed that key staff have taken to the press to engage in a public spat."

However, SEA Games captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman disagreed that Aide had failed as a tactician and was unable to manage fatigue in the squad during the tournament.

The defender said: "The (SEA Games) players have been with Aide for at least two years so Aide knows best how to use them, more than anyone else.

"People can have their opinions about how we should have played but coach Aide decided on the tactical approach based on the team's strengths and weaknesses.

"He communicated with us well and would often check if the training was taking a toll on the players or otherwise."

Midfielder Anumanthan Kumar is also behind his former coach and called for the public and the FAS to look at the positives.

"The whole team respected Aide and he never needed to command respect because the players knew he is a legend in local football," said the Republic Polytechnic student.

"Even when the players were at fault, he shielded us from the media and this is not something most coaches would do. Football is a team game so singling out coach Aide for criticism is unnecessary."

Current national team captain Shahril Ishak credits Aide with helping him when the playmaker first broke into the national team as a 19-year-old in 2003.

"Aide is someone that most of the younger players looked up to.

"He was a real leader in the dressing room when he was the captain," Shahril told The Straits Times.

"He really guided me when I broke into the the national team, was always available for advice and I'm grateful to him for all of that.

"I understand that the SEA Games result was not as good as the nation wanted but it is unfair to single out Aide.

"He has done so much for Singapore football as a player and as a former national captain.

"I feel he still has much more to contribute to our local game.

"Let's learn from the Games and give support to our local coaches."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'Players say it's not fair to single out Aide for criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe