SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) decision to allow Under-19 head coach Robbie Servais to leave his team to help the Australian national side for the World Cup is now being questioned after the Cubs' disastrous showing at a regional tournament.
Singapore exited the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U-19 championship in Indonesia on Monday after four defeats and one draw, including thrashings by Laos (5-0), Thailand (6-0) and the hosts (4-0).
The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) on Wednesday (Jul 11) confirmed that Servais helped the Socceroos as a scout for the World Cup with the blessings of FAS technical director (TD) Michel Sablon.
"Our national technical director (Eric Adams) discussed the opportunity for Robbie with the Singapore TD and it was agreed that it would be beneficial for Robbie's development and therefore beneficial for Singapore football if Robbie was exposed to the FIFA World Cup from a personal development perspective," an FFA spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.
Servais was appointed as the Singapore U-19 head coach in January this year, but began some scouting work the following month, the FFA confirmed. The arrangement ended after Australia were knocked out of the World Cup on Jun 26.
Servais joined up with the Socceroos while the U-19s were preparing for the AFF tournament, leaving the Cubs in the hands of his assistant Takuya Inoue. According to a source, Servais returned to the team only one day before they were due to fly off to Indonesia for the Jul 1-14 tournament.
Former Singapore international R Sasikumar said he was enraged when he found out about how Servais was allowed to leave the team when they were preparing for a key tournament.
"We have to go back and ask what his role was in the past year. He's there to take the team for the tournament, his core job was the U-19 team and that's why he got the job," Sasikumar said.
"And now the results are not coming, who is going to take the blame? I think they (FAS) have this lackadaisical attitude about football. For him to say I've got a better thing to do, I don't know which organisations would accept this. It's baffling, it's become so mediocre and the result shows."
A coach who wanted to remain anonymous also felt that Servais should have stuck with the team.
"He should have been with them instead of going (to the World Cup). He's the coach of the team, he should have been focused on preparing them," he said.
"But to be fair to the U-19 boys, they didn't have the best players, so that might have played a part with the results."
EPISODE LEAVES "A LOT TO BE DESIRED"
In a press release sent by FAS detailing the call-ups, Servais had said that "quite a few players are unable to join us in this tournament". It is understood that some Singapore Premier League clubs were unwilling to release their players because the league was ongoing.
Servais had also acknowledged that the team would be facing tough opponents, but he said they would "put up a strong fight in this international tournament". He added that the team will have "adequate experience".
But a parent of one of the players told Channel NewsAsia that the Under-19 boys didn't have the best of preparations.
The parent added: "One of the boys said that coach Taku (Takuya Inoue) could be seen crying at half time of the 5-0 defeat to Laos, and coach Robbie scolded the boys for almost one hour after the game."
Sasikumar said the whole episode left "a lot to be desired".
"There should be a serious investigation on this. We should start from the top - whoever allowed him to go, he should go. The fact of the matter is the team went there, got pumped, and that's it," the 43-year-old said.
"It's not about disappointment now, it's an embarrassing act. It's an embarrassment. It's just that in my opinion, how can we lose to Laos ... it's a major issue."
Channel NewsAsia has reached out to FAS for its comments on the issue.