National U-23 coach Aide Iskandar resigns following group-stage exit

SINGAPORE - National Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar delivered the biggest shock of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games football competition when he resigned immediately after the Young Lions' 0-1 loss to Indonesia on Thursday night.

The former national skipper, the only man to have lifted the Asean Football Federation title twice as captain of the Lions, announced his decision at the post-match press conference after a result that saw his team eliminated in the group phase of this Games.

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, he 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."

In response, Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin said in a statement: "I can understand why Aide has made this decision at this point of time. Hopefully, after a few days' rest, we can have a discussion with him and persuade him to change his mind.

 "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."

Following unimpressive performances at the Games - they edged the Philippines 1-0, lost 1-2 to Myanmar and beat Cambodia 3-1, in addition to the Indonesia loss - a section of fans had called for his head. Aide's family was also the subject of abuse.

nsanjay@sph.com.sg

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