LionsXII: One step forward, two steps back?
THE LionsXII football team was formed to give match experience to our Under-23 players and to re-ignite interest in local football.
On both counts last year, the LionsXII were a stunning success. They not only gave a platform for many young starlets to show off their skills, but also generated much interest in local football, with the boys playing to sell-out crowds at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Unfortunately, this season looks unlikely to yield similar success.
Many players, such as Sufian Anuar and Hyrulnizam Juma'at, who have built up rapport with the fans have been released, resulting in a whole new team that has to start from scratch.
The new players are also struggling to gel with one another, as their recent patchy form in the league suggests.
In addition, the LionsXII are not receiving the support they need. Media reports have highlighted that they lack an adequate support structure, and many players find it difficult to turn up for matches and training sessions due to external commitments.
The success of the LionsXII in fulfilling its two objectives is contingent on the team playing good football. A team that cannot fully commit to the game and play football of an inferior quality will find it difficult to keep the interest of fans.
This has been proven time and again in the S-League, which suffers from dwindling attendances.
If the Football Association of Singapore truly wants the LionsXII to build on their previous successes, it must make serious investments in the team and ensure that they have the full range of support and uninterrupted training time that they need to improve.
More flexible arrangements must be made with schools and the Singapore Armed Forces to allow the players to concentrate on training and playing regularly. The idea of deferring national service obligations for LionsXII and national team players should also be seriously considered.
Only then will the team be able to perform at a decent enough level to maintain the interest of fans. Otherwise, we would have lost a great opportunity to revive Singapore football.
Ng Qi Siang