More can be done to create formidable Lions team

I agree with Mr George Pasqual that outgoing national football coach Fandi Ahmad can do more to rectify the problem facing the team and factors that led to the Lions' failure at this year's Suzuki Cup (Fandi really should explain his cryptic comment; Dec 15).

A formidable team can emerge only when there is a national passion for football, apart from an excellent talent scouting and training infrastructure, with continuity from developmental stage to senior level.

Apart from raising the standard of coaching at the grassroots level, we must have continuity through the various age groups. This is sorely lacking and was a major factor behind the break-up of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games squad that finished third.

A relatively small population cannot be an excuse for our lack of talent. Some of the strongest teams in the world include Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, and Uruguay, with 3.4 million.

A deep-seated passion for the game as well as an efficient system of identifying, developing and retaining young talent probably propelled these nations to compete consistently at the highest level.

It can be argued that Fandi inherited Singapore's weakest group of players, but a coach is expected to maximise the players' full potential to boost the team's performance. However, the Lions still failed to qualify for the semi-finals, which was their pre-tournament target.

Singapore needs to break away from years of transition and perpetual underachievement to start fulfilling the nation's potential through astute leadership. The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) must change its approach by focusing on bringing in a change in culture from the academy to senior level.

Sport science must be adopted to help the Lions perform better and with greater consistency.

The team must maintain its principles in the face of major setbacks and underwhelming performances.

While youth development must be strongly encouraged, the shortage of talent may be mitigated through the recruitment of foreign-born players with Singaporean lineage as well as foreigners who have come through the ranks at our local clubs and wish to take up citizenship.

Great football teams cannot be assembled overnight. A formidable Lions squad will be years in the making. Several small nations around the world have hit on winning formulas that the FAS should take a closer look at.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline 'More can be done to create formidable Lions team'. Print Edition | Subscribe