SINGAPORE - The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has acknowledged that the Young Lions let down the public at last month's SEA Games, which saw the hosts crash out in the group phase when the team's target was to reach the final.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, the embattled association said the level of support from external parties was not a key issue but rather, the debacle was "largely down to the application". It stopped short of offering an apology.
FAS' executive committee had met on Tuesday to review the post-competition reports submitted by the technical team and key backroom staff at the SEA Games.
The statement said: "(We) acknowledge that the Singapore public, as it should, expected more from its team during the SEA Games. Ultimately, it is the duty of the FAS to lift all those involved, learn from the events, and ensure that our national team returns stronger to make Singaporeans proud in future editions of the SEA Games. This will remain our focus."
SEA Games coach Aide Iskandar resigned immediately after their final group match, a 0-1 loss to Indonesia, giving the Young Lions the dubious honour of being the first Singapore side not to make the last four at a Games on home soil.
In an interview with The Straits Times later, the former national captain hit out at the FAS' national teams' department under head coach Bernd Stange for meddling with his pre-tournament preparations, including allegedly forcing him to accept Juergen Raab as fitness coach.
Aide also accused Stange of destabilising his squad by calling up forward Iqbal Hussain for the World Cup qualifiers - just days after the youngster was dropped from the SEA Games team for disciplinary reasons.
The FAS statement added: "While we understand that emotions have run high, the FAS is hugely disappointed that key staff have taken to the press to engage in a public spat.
"This not only violates the spirit of teamwork and respect that the FAS seeks to actively promote within its organisation, but also explicitly violates the FAS Code of Conduct and Terms of Employment Contract."
While FAS offered no clarity over Stange's future, The Straits Times understands that the 67-year-old German will be released once his contract expires in September.
His two-year reign has seen more lows than highs, most notably a group-stage exit at the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in November and a recent six-month winless streak. In 27 matches in charge of the Lions since taking over from Serb Raddy Avramovic in May 2013, his record stands at 12 wins, four draws and 11 defeats.
A surprising 0-0 draw away to Japan, with former Singapore stars Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy assisting Stange in the World Cup qualifiers last month, brought a rare bit of cheer as the former national strikers were credited by the Lions for orchestrating the superb rear-guard action.
The Lions next visit Syria on Sep 3 before hosting Afghanistan and Cambodia on Oct 8 and 13 respectively.
FAS has to decide if the time is ripe for a local to hold the national post on a permanent basis for the first time since Vincent Subramaniam in 2001. Many fans and former internationals have called for Fandi or Sundram to be given a shot.
Sundram guided the Singapore Selection side's slick pass-and-move game during the Barclays Asia Trophy, while Fandi inspired the LionsXII to an unexpected Malaysian FA Cup triumph in May.