Singapore’s Under-22s Lose 2-1 To Malaysia in SEA Games
Singapore’s Under-22 National Football Team has an almost impossible task.
Even after supposedly avoiding the “group of death” containing Asian powerhouses Thailand and the Philippines, Singapore’s hopes of bringing in any silverware for football at the 2017 SEA Games have been dashed.
Buckling under the pressure of 33,000 jeering Malaysians, the Under-22 team blew a 1-0 lead to the hosts who went on to score 2 goals in the second half, with the match ending 2-1 to Malaysia.
Citing fitness levels as the reason for defeat, youth head coach Richard Tardy said that his players “have problems physically”, after their match against Myanmar two days ago.
He went on to praise the team’s improvement since that 2-0 loss, and that his team played well for 67 minutes. Because cannot lose face.
Lack of fitness in the youth team
Because physical fitness and sports are 2 things that apparently have nothing in common, let’s just pretend for one second that “lack of fitness” is a perfectly justifiable reason for a sports team competing at national levels to lose their matches.
Perhaps the encounter with Myanmar truly was such a grueling test that paled Hercules’ 12 labours in comparison.
Or maybe playing 2 matches in 3 days was simply too much for the Lions to handle. Sure, I’ll buy it. After all, I start panting after walking up a flight of stairs on overhead bridges.
But when you actually dig deeper into their history, you’d make a jarring discovery.
The Singapore National Football Team, across all age groups, has been using the exact same reason for losses since 2015.
Fitness in Under-22s cited as needing improvement back in 2015
Look, once again it’s easy for a writer like myself that sits 8 hours in an office to criticise professional athletes for not having proper stamina.
But for a country that transforms PES BP recruits into Terminator-esque soldiers in just 16 weeks, there’s absolutely no reason why footballers can’t maintain their endurance for 90 minutes after 2 years of training.
When Tardy was appointed Youth Head Coach in 2015, he highlighted physical fitness as one of the core aspects Singapore needed to focus on.
Less than a month into the job, he claimed that the players needed “more speed (and) more pace” and that they were “getting cramps” due to “problems with endurance”. Delivering the supposed wake-up call, he vowed to speak with the coaches to improve the situation.
That was in August 2015, it’s August 2017 now and he’s still talking about a lack of fitness. Only this time using it as a reason for defeat instead of an area to improve on.
Senior team criticised a year later
In July 2016, Belgium fitness coach Balder Berckmans was hired by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to work with the senior Football National Team.
When putting the players through an aerobic endurance test, the fitness conditioning coach claimed the results of Singapore’s senior national players to be the poorest he had ever seen. Further examination showed that those who underwent the test had low heart rates throughout, revealing that they weren’t putting in their best.
Fitness blamed for AFF Suzuki Cup exit
Fast forward several months later when Singapore crashed out of the AFF Suzuki Cup after their loss to Indonesia, where former national youth coach R Suria Murthi was interviewed for his opinion on what went wrong.
If your guess was fitness, you’re absolutely right.
Reminiscing how he used to train 3 times a day to keep in shape, the Malaysia Cup Legend stated that he gave up on coaching due to the lack of basic fitness in the younger generation.
“Lack of Fitness” extends to Under-15s
Additionally, who could forget earlier in June this year when Singapore’s Under-15s suffered a 12-0 loss to our neighbours in Indonesia.
In reference to the defeat, FAS technical director Michel Sablon highlighted that the association has been aware that fitness was a crucial weakness and that they have been “trying to improve their strength and fitness levels via specific programmes per age category for more than a year now.”
The only thing consistent is the lack of effort from all age groups.
Massive Change Needed
Perhaps it’s time to make away with redundancies such as the Young Lions project and overhaul the football system.
Equipping our players with proper sports facilities would certainly improve our situation as well.
After all, no one would fault you if you were skeptical of Singapore’s chances of advancing to the semi-finals.
Or we can continue and be mocked by Iceland and Syria for our tired excuses.
Featured image from Facebook.