Rebuilding Lions begins at primary school level

I could not agree more with Mr David Tan Kok Kheng that in order for talent to be nurtured to improve the quality of both our Singapore Premier League clubs and the national team, coaches must start effectively communicating to them the technical points of the game at primary school level (New football coach won't help if basics are not fixed; April 15).

The participation of young adults as players is insufficient to serve as a pipeline for the national squad.

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

Apart from raising the standard of our coaching at the grassroots level, there must be continuity through the various age groups.

This is sorely lacking, and was a major factor behind the break-up of the Youth Olympic Games squad eight years after the boys defied all odds to finish third.

A relatively small population cannot be an excuse for our lack of talent.

Uruguay won two World Cups with a population of 3.4 million - so success cannot be attributed to the depth of its player pool.

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

Despite the chronic shortage of talent, former national coach V. Sundram Moorthy must shoulder some of the blame for the dismal performance of the Lions, who were unable to register a single competitive victory in their two years under him.

There was no fluency in attack and a worrying nervousness in defence. Sundram never looked like he was getting the team out of trouble because he was bereft of ideas, and often opted to pump long balls upfield in the absence of any creative wellspring in his team.

A potentially massive rebuilding job is at hand before embarking on a serious push for the Suzuki Cup later this year.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Rebuilding Lions begins at primary school level'. Print Edition | Subscribe