FAS wants Lions to be Asian Cup regulars
FAS targets an improvement in fortunes for national team after recent slump
As the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) celebrates its 125th anniversary - making it the oldest FA in Asia - it is looking to arrest a slump that has plagued Singapore football for the last few years.
At yesterday's announcement of the Singapore squad that will take on Argentina at the Sports Hub on June 13, FAS vice-president Bernard Tan told The New Paper: "In the next five to 10 years, we want to see a very healthy youth development scheme which will take us up the world rankings.
"We want to win the Asean Football Federation Cup, and qualify for the Asian Cup on a regular basis."
The Lions are 157th in the latest Fifa rankings, and did not progress from the group stages of the last two AFF Suzuki Cups.
They have never qualified for the Asian Cup, which they played in once, in 1984, as hosts.
While there was sporadic excitement over youth footballers in recent years, like the Cubs that took bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, results have generally been poor.
To change this, Tan revealed that the FAS is looking to increase the number of footballers going through elite training, raise coaching standards for elite youth footballers, and also increase the intensity of competition for these players.
He said: "We are reviewing it (current youth development strategies). We are not there yet... but we are committed to building a system to produce success and results in the long term."
While the Singapore-Argentina match will take place at the National Stadium, the Lions have played there only eight times since its opening in 2014, with their last game there a 0-0 draw against Malaysia last October. With a lack of sufficient training time in the stadium, they have won just three games there and have not managed to fill the arena.
Tan wants the National Stadium to be the home of Singapore football, and said: "We need to ensure that the National Stadium is a formidable home ground for our national team... the Sports Hub is also cognisant of this.
"Another key factor would be having a National Training Centre that has a similar surface (to the National Stadium pitch) so that the national team can be more familiar, and have more of an advantage."
Senior national team players such as Lions vice-captain Hariss Harun also hopes to play more high-quality opponents at home to learn and improve.
"We might concede a few goals... but look at Thailand, they are reaping the benefits of playing better teams regularly," said the 26-year-old.
Tan agreed, and added: "I share the optimism to have more high-quality opponents.
"Hopefully, we can get more quality matches in, both as an avenue to promote football here and for the national team to improve and progress to the later stages of international competitions."
Aiden Moon, CEO of entertainment promoter Unicess, affirmed that the star attractions of two-time World Cup winners Argentina will be in town.
He said: "This is a historic match that we have been preparing for months now.
"Singaporean football fans will be able to see world-class players such as Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria in person.
"I hope as many people as possible will come for this once-in-a-lifetime event."
National football coach V Sundramoorthy has called up a 28-man squad that include four uncapped players - Geylang goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari, Warriors defender Ho Wai Loon and Garena Young Lions duo Hami Syahin and Muhaimin Suhaimi.
The 51-year-old said: "I remember when we used to play against big teams like Manchester United and Bayern Munich. We lost to United, but beat Bayern 2-1 in 1983.
"Argentina could struggle after 45 minutes with the weather, and we can capitalise.
"I believe the boys will fight until the final whistle."
Tickets for the Singapore-Argentina match are available at www.sportshubtix.sg. Tickets are priced from $40 to $188 each.