With Unleash the Roar, Singapore must hear football noise, again
After previous flops, team led by FAS' Tan, SportSG's Lim must deliver on this national project
Speaking to The New Paper after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) revealed the plan to revive the local game on Tuesday, former Singapore star Kadir Yahaya wondered if there would be a commitment to stay the course after a few previous failed attempts.
FAS deputy president Bernard Tan said it is crucial that all stakeholders understand that Unleash the Roar is a long-term project which must be followed through if it is to achieve success.
Tan and Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin will helm the national project, and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong, who first spoke about Unleash the Roar in Parliament on Monday, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) will be part of the effort as the goal is to increase the pool of players starting at school level.
They are all serious players and, while we wait for the exact details on how the strategy will be carried out, the country must expect FAS' Tan and SportSG's Lim to get the full backing of MCCY's Tong and the MOE and deliver results.
Especially when it will require a considerable investment to fund the project.
After years of silence, I desperately want to hear Singapore football make noise and stir the country again.
I remember when V. Sundram Moorthy and Robin Chitrakar told me about the young teenager who set tongues wagging whenever he got onto the football pitch and soon, Hariss Harun became Singapore's youngest international at 16 years and 217 days when the midfielder came on for the Lions in a friendly against North Korea in 2007 at the old National Stadium.
Strikers Indra Sahdan Daud and Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin generated a similar kind of buzz in the 1990s, and, of course, in the 1980s there was a lot of noise coming out of Sembawang about a dazzling young Sundram.
HEARTS BEAT A LITTLE FASTER
I will never forget the din a young Fandi Ahmad raised in the late 1970s before he joined the national squad. These players drummed up the kind of noise that made our hearts beat a little faster, it sparked football chatter, it led to better national teams and made Singaporeans of all creeds and races want to go out and watch them play.
Languishing in a deep trough for years now, Unleash the Roar is the latest blueprint offered by the MCCY and FAS to generate that sort of buzz again.
While some will call it a climb down, I am relieved that qualification for the 2034 World Cup Finals is no longer viewed as a hard target because lying in a football backwater and struggling to make any sort of headway even among our neighbours, the odds were always going to be stacked against the Lions.
After the Goal 2010 debacle, another failure would have weighed down the No. 1 sport in Singapore for years more.
The aim to galvanise the nation and work towards entrenching a well-oiled ecosystem that consistently produces quality coaches and players with sound basic skills who are fit to compete in high-tempo games, and allows gifted individuals to realise their fullest potential, is the way to go.
It was only ever going to work if MOE and Mindef were part of the blueprint and it is heartening these stakeholders are onboard because youth development and the need to continue to improve players during their years in national service are vital.
The move to offer scholarships to ensure talented youngsters will not have to sacrifice their studies while honing their skills will also help convince more parents that this is a worthwhile pursuit for their children.
The project's leading stewards Tan and Lim, and their team, must fashion a system that consistently turns out national sides that can joust with South-east Asia's best for honours, and produces players good enough to do the country proud against Asia's leading lights.
Singapore football will then once again generate the right kind of noise. And it can then dream of taking the next step.