SINGAPORE - There is no quick fix to clear the malaise that hangs over Singapore youth football but Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) technical director Joseph Palatsides has pledged to make the changes necessary to raise standards.
On Wednesday (Nov 6), the national Under-18 team were thrashed 11-0 by South Korea in their opening game at the AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers in Yangon.
The U-18s, coached by Fadzuhasny Juraimi, next face China on Friday (Nov 8) and Myanmar on Sunday.
Palatsides, who was in Myanmar with the U-18 squad, told The Straits Times on Thursday (Nov 7) the scoreline is "a true reflection of the gulf between us and one of the best teams in Asia" in terms of technical ability, physical attributes and the type of domestic and international exposure both teams have.
He added there is "much room for improvement in terms of physical and mental conditioning".
While the 54-year-old Australian did not respond to why up-and-coming playmaker Ilhan Fandi was not included in the squad, he also did not use the unavailability of key players such as skipper and defender Nur Adam Abdullah, and striker Vasileios Zikos Chua as reasons for the big loss.
He said: "We have to look at all areas of our football landscape, namely how we develop our young footballers, what pathway they have, coaching methods used and the frequency of which our players are able to participate in more competitive matches against high-calibre opponents in order to develop further."
Singapore's youth football teams have had a wretched record of late. In 2017, the country's U-15s were thumped 11-0 by their Japanese counterparts in an AFC U-16 Championship qualifier. That year, the national U-15s, U-18s and U-22s won just five out of 19 games, losing on the other 14 occasions as they scored 19 goals and conceded 58.
Two years on, the statistics have barely improved with just four wins and four draws from 17 games, with 23 goals scored and 45 conceded.
The only bright spark has been Fandi Ahmad's U-22s who were unbeaten in the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers in March and narrowly missed out on advancing to the main tournament.
But the overall poor results across all youth levels will be a concern as these players will form the base for the Young Lions and senior national team in the future.
Palatsides, who was appointed in May, said: "I have joined FAS to make sure the youth development improves significantly and players representing Singapore will do so in a very competitive manner, challenging the best teams in Asia.
"That is something I am determined to do. I have identified areas that need changing and together with the fraternity, I will be making these changes for the betterment of football in Singapore. This won't be a quick fix but one that will have a structure that will last for the future in developing our players in an elite manner."
"In the meantime, we will support our players and coaching staff in learning from this experience at the qualifiers. We have another two tough matches coming up, with China on Friday, and the boys know they are capable of improved performances in this campaign."