Aide Iskandar will lead Under-23s at SEA Games, says Singapore football chief
Less than 24 hours after the Republic's Under-23 side fell to a humiliating 3-1 defeat to Cambodia's Under-22s at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) executive council came together for a meeting, where the progress of Aide Iskandar's side was one of the topics on the agenda.
Witnesses told The New Paper that raised voices were heard when the Cambodia defeat was discussed, but leaving the meeting room some three hours after the 5.30pm start on Friday, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said they remain confident that the former Singapore captain is still the best man to lead the team at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held on home soil in June.
"That (raised voices) was about the game, and you know how passions can run high," Zainudin told TNP.
"We do believe Aide can do the job, but let's not talk about the gold medal, we just want to get to the final, and do our best.
"I have to throw down the gauntlet, the only thing we are concerned about is the end result, and to get there, we need to stop all these problems," he added.
Problems with the U-23 side were laid bare on Thursday night, with Aide's team turning in a complacent, uninspired performance.
They contrived to lose an early lead to a Cambodia side that was hastily assembled, and only arrived in Singapore the night before.
"Honestly, the boys have got to learn what is a very painful lesson, and we've got to stop things like those two red cards (shown to centre backs Shakir Hamzah and Sheikh Abdul Hadi)," said Zainudin.
"To me the way to get there is to stop making these mistakes, and find solutions."
While Shakir's 68th-minute dismissal appeared harsh, the subsequent penalty handed Cambodia the lead.
Abdul Hadi received his marching orders right at the death, following an altercation in the Cambodia penalty box.
Asserting that the Singapore side were poor even before the dismissals, irate fans called for Aide's head, refusing to leave the stadium.
"Fans have a lot of views, even on a manager like (Manchester United's) Louis van Gaal, but we must look at the matter objectively, and take a big picture perspective on things," explained Zainudin, in response to a faction of fans who called for the likes of Kadir Yahaya or V Sundramoorthy to replace the 39-year-old.
"At the last SEA Games, Aide led the team to a bronze medal, and they put in a decent performance at the Incheon Asian Games - we still have confidence in him.
"We are two months away from the Games, and we want to continue on this journey, and work hard at it," he added.
"All I care about is the outcome."
The FAS had sent Aide and his charges to two training stints in Turkey, and another in Austria with Bernd Stange's senior national side, but Zai does not believe that was a waste of money.
"For example, if you send your child to school and he gets a D grade - that's not a waste of resources, is it? He's still at least in school.
"In football anything can happen - I don't think many people expected Germany to beat Brazil 7-1 (at the 2014 World Cup), did they," said Zai.
"We believe we've done all we could with this team, and we don't believe the rumours that there are problems in the team's dressing room," he said.
"Our job is simple, our job is to turn things around."