Football: Singapore's Cubs concede a dozen goals against Indonesia

FAS technical director Michel Sablon refused to blame the players for the losses.
FAS technical director Michel Sablon refused to blame the players for the losses. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Twelve-zero. Yes, that is right. This is not a typographical error. Singapore's national Under-15 football team did indeed suffer this huge defeat on Saturday evening.

The loss came not at the hands of a world leader like Brazil or Germany, nor a continental power like Iran or Japan. The thrashing was by Asean neighbours Indonesia in a friendly played at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium in West Java.

Coached by Sofiyan Hamid, who was appointed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in February, the U-15s were in Indonesia for a training tour where they played two games against their hosts. In the earlier match on Thursday at the same venue, the Cubs fell 3-0 to the same opponents.

FAS technical director Michel Sablon refused to blame the players for the losses.

The Belgian said: "Our U-15 national team had a heavy schedule, playing two games in three days against two different older age-group teams, which is very physically demanding on the boys.

"The opponents were not only older but also physically stronger than our boys. Fitness is an area we have identified as a weakness of our youth players, and we have actively been trying to improve their strength and fitness levels via specific programmes per age category for more than a year now."

  • 10

  • Wins Singapore's age-group sides have amassed out of 62 matches from 2014 to 2016.

The heavy defeats will not bode well when the Cubs take part in the July 9-15 Asean Football Federation (AFF) U-15 Youth Championship in Chonburi, Thailand.

Singapore will have a tough time earning one of the top two positions in Group A, where they have been drawn with Australia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia and the hosts.

In September, the squad will also compete in the 2018 Asian Football Confederation U-16 qualifiers, where they have been drawn in Group J alongside Japan, Malaysia and Guam.

Sablon added: "We will be facing strong teams in both tournaments, such as Australia and Thailand in the former and Japan and Malaysia in the latter. We will also face Indonesia in the AFF U-15 Youth Championship.

"It is important for us to play strong teams in our preparations so that we can progress and improve. The planned preparation programme will continue, and the long-term development remains our main target."

The Cubs' drubbing completed a miserable evening for Singapore football as the Lions were humbled 2-1 at home by Chinese Taipei in an Asian Cup qualifier.

And although Lionel Messi was spotted in the Republic as Argentina jetted into town for tomorrow's friendly against V. Sundram Moorthy's men at the National Stadium, the Barcelona forward left within hours as it turned out that he was in transit, leaving the game to celebrate the FAS' 125th anniversary devoid of its star attraction.

The big loss suffered by the U-15s comes at a time when the FAS is under scrutiny for the poor results of its teams. From 2014 to 2016, its various age-group sides from the U-14s to U-23s lost a staggering 39 out of 62 matches, winning just 10 times.

In March, the U-15s were in Hong Kong for the Jockey Club International Youth Invitational Tournament. The team started badly, with a 6-0 hammering at the hands of the hosts before a heavy 5-1 loss to Thailand in their second game. But they ended that tournament with a 3-0 victory over a Qatar side that lost all three matches in the competition without scoring a single goal.

Sales manager Tan Hwee Heng, a longtime Lions fan, cringed at the mention of the 12-0 hammering.

The 42-year-old, whose passion for the sport has seen him take up a coaching licence, said: "The result felt like a lopsided scoreline you see from a school game. But even if Indonesia did field older and bigger players, the difference can't be that big. It's a very unhealthy result to reflect on our youth development.

"But having attended coaching courses conducted by the FAS, I feel that Sablon's philosophy is correct. He and his staff are putting in a lot of hard work. What we need now is patience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'Cubs concede a dozen goals against Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe