Budding youth scene can be ray of hope: Raddy

The Singapore national football team are under pressure following a winless year but it's not all doom and gloom, says former national coach Raddy Avramovic.

The 67-year-old, who guided the Lions to three Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cups during his tenure from 2003-2012, feels that keeping faith in the much-maligned Young Lions and a renewed effort from the S-League clubs to groom youngsters will fill the pipeline with better quality players.

His words are timely, given that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will announce changes to youth development at their annual congress today.

"I have heard that the FAS is trying to put more focus on the clubs to do more for youth development," the Serb told The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Kuwait, where he is set to sign for Kuwaiti Premier League side Al Tadhamon.

"The development is usually done by clubs but to do that, we need clubs to be well-organised, have good facilities and quality coaches. Facilities can be a problem in Singapore but the coaches can make an effort."

In 2003, the FAS took the unusual step to corral the country's best youngsters below the age of 23 under the banner of the Young Lions and pit them against the S-League professionals. That first campaign saw them finish bottom of the 12-team competition.

They have finished with the wooden spoon for the last two seasons as well and the bulk of the players, who form the SEA Games team, endured first-round exits at the last two tournaments.

But Avramovic recalled: "People tend to forget that in 2004, Fandi (Ahmad) took the team to third place (and again in 2006). As the (then) national coach, I was always keeping an eye out for new talent.

"The Young Lions must be kept together in the near future, they just need good coaches to supervise them closely. But we also need the clubs to do their part.

"With the ActiveSG football academy also starting to increase participation (it has more than 700 kids one year after its inauguration), there is hope. Singapore will struggle in the beginning but it is not an impossible problem (to groom more youngsters)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Budding youth scene can be ray of hope: Raddy'. Print Edition | Subscribe