Lions face dearth of strikers

Singapore's third consecutive exit from the AFF Suzuki Cup came as no surprise to many football observers here (Lions no match for Thailand; Nov 26).

While commendable, Singapore's wins against Indonesia and minnows Timor Leste during the group stages of this tournament pale in comparison with the free-flowing attacking football displayed by defending champions Thailand.

There are several deep-seated issues that warrant deep introspection.

Profligacy continues to haunt Singapore football.

Very often, the Lions are goal-shy and miss sitters, exasperating fans who are well aware of the fact that the team that does not convert chances into goals will ultimately pay the price of defeat.

Singapore football has, for a long time, been facing a dearth of strikers to supply goals, ever since the departure of golden boys Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundram Moorthy from the national team in the 90s.

And it is due to this fact that Singapore has been struggling to carve wins - even against minnows during international friendlies - in recent years.

This situation is a stark contrast from the 80s and 90s, when almost half of the Singapore football team possessed the character to assume the role of playmaker. Players like K. Kannan, D. Devaraj, Abdullah Noor, Malek Awab, Steven Tan and Terry Pathmanathan possessed the capacity to bamboozle opposing teams with their deft touches, dash, dribble and dazzle - even against stronger teams like Kuwait, China, Korea and Japan.

This brings us to the next question - does the Singapore Premier League offer the competitive environment for boys to scale greater heights in footballing excellence?

Probably not, if compared with how players of yesteryear evoked respect during their professional days, particularly in the Malaysia Cup tournament.

At one stage, slightly more than half of our Singapore footballers secured lucrative contracts to play in Malaysia, which has shown the quality of its football fraternity by qualifying for the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Singapore should also play to its strengths and reignite interest in local football by re-joining the Malaysia Cup tournament.

Irwan Jamil

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2018, with the headline 'Lions face dearth of strikers'. Print Edition | Subscribe