Aide: Young Lions can go all the way with self-belief
Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar shares his thoughts with ALI KASIM ahead of their quest for a historic SEA Games gold
PHILIPPINES v SINGAPORE
(Tomorrow, 8.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium, Live on Singtel TV Ch 134, MediaCorp okto)
Is Singapore good enough to win the gold? What would you deem a successful tournament for your team?
Aide: Going into any tournament, the boys must have self-belief. In terms of ability, we don't have the luxury of talent compared to Thailand and Vietnam. But the coaches (Kadir Yahaya and S Subramani) and myself have been emphasising the importance of self-belief and teamwork. As a cohesive unit that's willing to work for one another, I believe we can go all the way.
What's also important for us is home support. I do hope the fans will come and support this young team. They may not be the most talented players, but they are not short on fighting spirit. The team's positive energy can only be fuelled by the fans' support.
You've seen all the squad lists, who are Singapore's big threats at the SEA Games?
I've seen Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia in action and all three look good. I think Indonesia will be a threat as well, and you cannot rule out dark horses like Myanmar.
Thailand are the favourites because of their experience. Many of the players have featured in major tournaments like the Suzuki Cup, the Asian Games and the previous SEA Games. Half of the team that won gold in 2013 are still there. So in terms of experience and cohesiveness, they are the team to beat.
In 2013, we pushed the Thais all the way. If we had scored early, we might have even beaten them.
The boys in this year's team feel they can match Thailand on the day. This time, we just have to take our chances.
We started slow in 2013, drawing 1-1 with Laos in the opening game, which ensured we did not top the group. How crucial is an opening-game victory against the Philippines (tomorrow)?
The boys have to learn from past mistakes. A winning start to the campaign is important, as is a good start to any match we play - because that minimises the pressure.
In 2013, we recovered from a slow start, but we don't want to be in that position again. We have to take control.
Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi are the two main men of the team. How has their integration with the rest of the players in the Under-23 team been, after their stint with the LionsXII over the past five months?
The boys have all played together since their NFA (National Football Academy) days, so there are no problems with camaraderie and commitment.
Of course, it would have been an added advantage if they had trained together since day one, but I think the experience they got from the LionsXII was invaluable.
Having played and scored in the (Malaysian) FA Cup final recently (bodes) well for Faris and Sahil. It's great timing for them and also a source of motivation for the rest of the players to have them in this team.
I can't say if they are the main men; I rather every player work together for the team. And you never know in this competition, a rising star might emerge. Players like Adam (Swandi), Irfan (Fandi) and Anu (M Anumanthan) could make a name for themselves in this competition, just like Sahil did in 2013.
You've received a lot of criticism from fans over the past year. Do you feel it was fair?
It has always been in my character that the more beatings I get, the more determined I am to prove people wrong.
Some comments were very unfair. I've contributed and sacrificed a lot for my country as a player and I think we should take that into consideration.
I respect every opinion, positive or negative, and all I want is to do well for my country. I've done well for the country as a player, as a captain, and now it's time for me to do well as a coach.
Hopefully, the boys will do their best and show that they have the ability to unite fans in Singapore.
Tell us why Singapore should trust you to lead this team to success at the SEA Games?
I think when you're building something, especially a young team, it always takes time, especially with the challenges and obstacles in Singapore.
A lot of people wrote me off when I was appointed Lions' captain, and I proved them wrong.
The most challenging part of being a captain was integrating the foreign talent with the locals, and making them united. I did my part and that's why we had (Suzuki Cup) success in 2004 and 2007.
With the assistance of Kadir and Mani, I think I've managed to bring this team together as a family as well. The boys are high on team spirit, they have matured after all the preparation so far, and thanks must go to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Football Association of Singapore and Sport Singapore for their support.
This team are ready for the SEA Games. So let's come together - the players, fans, media and all stakeholders - let's try to create history together.
SUPPORT THE YOUNG LIONS AND WIN PRIZES!
The Young Lions’ hunt for Singapore’s first SEA Games football gold begins tomorrow when they face the Philippines.
And here’s a fantastic chance to show your support.
Shoot a video to show your support.
Six pairs of tickets to the Young Lions’ matches at the SEA Games and six Courts Young Lions soccer balls are up for grabs.
Your cheer could be just you screaming into the screen or at the top of your voice.
See how we at TNP do it at tnp.sg. It’s the thought that counts. So what are you waiting for?
How to join the contest
- Post your video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, with the hashtag #roarforlions (make sure your account or the post is public!)
- Tag @TheNewPaper.
- Deadline for submission is Thursday, 11.59pm.
- Winners will be notified via the respective social media platforms they posted their videos on.