Singapore's football ecosystem must go back to 'basics' in order to rebuild
Rebuilding from the ground up is necessary to "once again" have a team that is competitive at the regional level, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, Eric Chua.
SINGAPORE: The reality of the situation is that Singapore's football ecosystem is "much weaker" today and it needs to “go back to basics” to rebuild itself, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, Eric Chua, on Thursday (May 25).
This entails rebuilding from the grassroots, harnessing and developing youth talent, “so that we can once again have a team that is competitive at the regional level”, said Mr Chua in his opening remarks at an event organised by Unleash the Roar.
The national movement, set up in 2021 to raise the levels of Singapore football, held a “football conversation” at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition on Thursday evening with more than 150 people in attendance. This included fans, coaches, parents and even former players.
Fresh in the minds of many in the room was the 7-0 mauling by Malaysia in the Young Lions' final group game at the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia earlier this month. It was Singapore’s heaviest defeat at the Games since the competition became an age-group affair in 2001.
Despite Thursday’s session coming across as “ill-timed”, Mr Chua, who is chairman of Unleash the Roar’s executive committee, stressed that he decided to proceed as “football without fans is nothing” and called for the support of fans.
Such conversations under Unleash the Roar are meant to gather feedback in order to develop pathways for the next generation of national team players.
The reality of the situation is that Singapore's football ecosystem is "much weaker" today and it needs to “go back to basics” to rebuild itself, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, Eric Chua, on Thursday (May 25). Aslam Shah with more.
SUPPORT OF FANS NEEDED
The result of Singapore’s “much weaker” football ecosystem has been “an impact on our local pipeline of talent”, Mr Chua said on Thursday.
“What has been done before is perhaps no longer working well enough to produce talent that will make our national team competitive at the regional level. At the same time, others in the region have forged ahead,” he added.
“So at this juncture in time, we can do one or two things. One, we can sit by, wallow, do nothing. Or two, we can take action – concrete actions – to rebuild Singapore football. I vote for the second course of action.”
Addressing the Young Lions' poor performance at the Games, Mr Chua said that there is “understandably” a lot of anguish and frustration with the displays in Cambodia.
Some people, he pointed out, have shared comments online, expressed concern in person, signed petitions and even spoken to the media.
“We have heard much of it as well. I, too, feel the pain and the heartache. Not just because of the 7-0 defeat, but the entirety of our (Young) Lions’ campaign at the SEA Games,” he added, calling the performances “difficult” to accept but it is “the reality of the situation” in Singapore football today.
“We know it is a bitter pill to swallow, and we need to work hard to make sure that this does not happen again.”
DEVELOPING TALENT SCOUTS, SINGAPORE YOUTH LEAGUE
Mr Chua on Thursday also gave a brief recap of the roadmap to build local football talent.
For a start, this entails creating structures to “identify and retain talent at more youth levels”, beginning with the School Football Academies and the National Development Centres that have started this year, he added.
“We then want to enhance the pipeline by giving our boys and girls the best opportunities to blossom. And this means developing robust programmes for development. At the same time, learning from the best around the world.”
Chief of sport development group under Sport Singapore, Marcus Tan, on Thursday also highlighted some initiatives that will bolster football talent development. These include developing talent scouts and rolling out a Singapore Youth League by 2024.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has started training talent scouts, having run two courses in March and May for 76 participants in total, said Mr Tan.
"I think this course is very important because it allows us to have a common base of picking out the talents, and this is a more structured way in comparison to a selection programme."
With FAS planning to roll out the Singapore Youth League by 2024, Mr Tan pointed out that this would "increase the (competition) load" for youth players. Training would comprise 28 weeks of competition, not including the National School Games, he said.
Focus group discussions were also held during Thursday's session, with participants giving their take on what can be done to improve Singapore football.
The media was not allowed to report on these discussions – but there was a palpable passion for the sport, and a collective call for various stakeholders, from parents to schools, to work together to take Singapore football forward.