Heartbreak to break for floorball friends Jeremy Chia and Abdul Mateen
After missing out 5 times, Chia and Mateen in new-look squad for AOFC Cup
National men's floorball coach Lim Jin Quan, 26, subscribes to the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
His biggest tactical change since taking up the pro-bono post three months ago was to mould his players into a unit that would fight for one another.
The 22-man squad have adopted an aggressive style that incorporates fewer touches.
Their new approach will be tested at the July 7-12 Asia Oceania Floorball Confederation (AOFC) Cup in the Philippines, where their target is the gold.
Lim said before a friendly match at Our Tampines Hub last week that, although the plan appeared simple, it wasn't easy to implement.
It took multiple training sessions for his players to adapt.
"They are setting aside their differences to make sure the team become one. The message is not what is one's ability or the others', but what as a team they can set out to do.
"The system of fully trusting each other may be new for some because of different backgrounds or exposure... but, once everyone is on the same page, we will be very strong."
The AOFC squad for Manila have nine debutants. Eight veterans who played at last December's World Floorball Championship (WFC) were omitted.
As the AOFC Cup has no bearing on world rankings, Lim has called up nine youngsters aged between 19 and 23.
"This will be good for their exposure," he said. "They are young, earnest, mouldable and are able to execute the game plan."
Two of them are Abdul Mateen and Jeremy Chia, both 21, who were rivals before becoming teammates at Meridian Junior College three years ago. Both missed the cut five times in the last three years.
Chia shared that he even cried after being left out last year.
"We put in the most effort then. We had to rush from camp at Chua Chu Kang, training at Tampines and back," he said.
"I actually cried, but not in front of everyone. It was the first year we really felt we had a good chance but still didn't make it."
Mateen added: "I took a month to get over it before realising it's just not our time. We just had to get better so that they would not leave us out again."
The duo motivated each other and trained on their own to improve their stick-work and game awareness.
When the final squad were announced last month, Mateen's name was first to be called, but he did not celebrate until he was sure that Chia and his friends were also called up.
Lim said he was impressed with Mateen's tenacity and clean-yet-aggressive play as a centre, which is "an asset on the international scene".
As for Chia, Lim noted that he had great potential as a defender and could also play as a forward.
Singapore, who meet Japan on Sunday, are set on reclaiming the title from Thailand, who won 8-4 two years ago.
This tournament will also serve as a warm-up for their gold-medal defence at the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games.
They thrashed Thailand 9-0 in Singapore in 2015, when floorball was last contested at the biennial Games.