U-19s lack 'good mental spirit'

Singapore Under-19 goalkeeper Benedict Loh tries to get the ball ahead of Myanmar forward Aung Zin Phyo as Muhammad Shah (No. 5) looks on. Myanmar won 1-0.
Singapore Under-19 goalkeeper Benedict Loh tries to get the ball ahead of Myanmar forward Aung Zin Phyo as Muhammad Shah (No. 5) looks on. Myanmar won 1-0. PHOTO: MYANMAR FOOTBALL FEDERATION

Tardy, fans concerned about poor results, some slam FAS for silence on team's progress

Two weeks ago, Richard Tardy branded the Lion City Cup performances of the National Football Academy's (NFA) Under-16 and U-15 teams as "not good enough".

Now, it appears the newly-appointed head coach of Singapore's national youth teams has more to worry about, following the abysmal results recorded by the NFA U-19s at the ongoing Asean Football Federation (AFF) U-19 Youth Championship in Vientiane, Laos.

The team, led by Takuya Inoue, former assistant coach of J-League side Omiya Ardija, have played and lost three group-stage games.

They started the competition on Aug 23 with a 0-1 loss to Myanmar before suffering embarrassing 0-4 and 0-6 defeats by Malaysia and Vietnam respectively.

Singapore are the only side in the 10-team competition who have yet to score. Having failed to make the knockout stage, as only the top two teams advance, they end their campaign against Timor Leste today.

The other group features Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, the Philippines and Laos.

The last time they played in this tournament in 2013, Singapore had finished with four points from the four matches. They recorded a 3-1 victory over the Philippines and a 1-1 draw with Timor Leste before going down 0-3 to Laos and 2-3 to Cambodia.

With the tournament being staged as the youth equivalent of the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup that is contested by the senior national teams in the region, the results have unsettled some fans.

"Most of these players will go on to be in the national team of the future, based on the FAS system, and the results make me feel very concerned," said Alex Ng, 40.

Tardy, who watched the first two games, admitted that "we must work very hard now because we do not have the required mentality and technique to compete".

"At the moment, we do not have a good mental spirit," added the Frenchman, who noted that the team are missing "four or five good players" because of injury or exams.

"There wasn't 100 per cent focus from the team and we gave away stupid goals."

The supporters have also taken the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to task for its lack of updates about the team's progress in the championship.

A check of its Facebook page saw no mention of the tournament or the team's results, with some fans posting comments demanding why there have been no announcements pertaining to the U-19 team.

Ng added: "The U-19 is an elite development side so the fans here are definitely interested in knowing what is going on. I have friends in the region who are football fans and when they told me (the results), I was surprised."

Another fan, Hafiz Fauzi, 27, added: "(FAS) is busy promoting the U-16 AFC qualifiers.

"These are similar tournaments but just a different age group and they have left it out.

"Is it because they expect the U-19 team to not do well?"

The FAS has been promoting the upcoming matches for the Asian Football Confederation U-16 qualifiers, which Singapore will host, on its social media pages.

The U-16 team will take on Cambodia, North Korea and Thailand from tomorrow to Sunday in an attempt to qualify for the finals in India next year.

The FAS did not respond to ST's query about the lack of updates on the U-19 team by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'U-19s lack 'good mental spirit''. Print Edition | Subscribe