Future of Singapore football lies in futsal

Anyone who has followed football closely over the decades can vouch for the fact that the current generation of Lions is no match for their predecessors, especially in terms of game intelligence and technical skills.

Where is the equal of Fandi Ahmad and his peers in today's squad, never mind the "higher level of football" that it is supposedly exposed to?

Game intelligence and technical skills are what set the best players, coaches and teams apart in dictating a match's tempo, shape and direction, often by making the ball work for them.

The strategic and tactical approach to any combat must be a function of relational prowess and context rather than a strict adherence to cookie-cutter orthodoxy. This is what keeps football surprising and exciting.

Singaporean football is, and was, nowhere close to these levels (What will it take to make S'pore football great again; July 14).

We have neither qualified for the Asian Cup - except for the time we were the host - nor played in the final round of the Asian qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup.

The odds are heavily stacked against Singapore joining the super and middle powers for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a world-class footballing culture as well as competing demands for resources from other sports.

The football fraternity needs to keep its hopes and dreams in check.

It may well need to take several steps backwards to the less competitive and space-demanding area of futsal for the local game to progress in the future.

Futsal - played informally on the streets or on basketball courts- is where most children get their initial taste of football in our dense urban landscape.

It should be considered the foundation of our youth football training and development programmes, and perhaps even of the restructuring of the ineffectual and costly S-League.

Our football authorities need look no further than the Fijian rugby team for some inspiration - highly formidable for the seven-a-side game, but not in the same league for the 15-a-side.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Future of Singapore football lies in futsal'. Print Edition | Subscribe