Former national players accuse Lions of lacking pride
Across all levels, Singapore football teams have not registered a single win in 2015, a year in which it is becoming more evident that there are strong winds of change blowing through the region.
On Tuesday, the Lions were held to a 2-2 draw with Guam, while over in Vientiane, Laos, at the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers, the U-22s were held to the same score by Mongolia - both opponents considered minnows in the region.
Former international Rafi Ali believes Singapore football has buried its head in the sand for too long.
"We've been in a crisis for a very long time now, it's just that we've failed to see it, failed to acknowledge it," he told The New Paper yesterday.
While former captain Indra Sahdan asserts that the current national team are stocked with more skilful players than what he experienced in his prime, he believes they lack certain necessary attributes.
"There are players who are untouchable in the national team, they get picked even if they don't perform in games," said Indra, who revealed there were rumours of national players spotted at VivoCity at 3.30pm on the day of the match against Guam.
"And, out on the pitch, it is clear for everyone to see if they play with pride, or like prima donnas.
"I can say this bluntly now. When we won the Tiger Cup in 1998, some players were caught going out the night before the final, but we all felt guilty and felt that pride in putting on the shirt.
"We went out on the pitch and gave it all and got the job done. People can say what they want, but we had a lot of heart and respect."
While the lack of a fight for spots in national teams across all age groups is a key concern for Indra, Rafi - who agreed with his former teammate on that point - also believes the problems run deeper.
He is looking forward to the imminent appointment of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director, who he says must help to change the way youth development is run here.
"I really hope whoever he is, he looks closer at youth development and bring in proper coaches - not just ones with paper qualifications - but also those who know the game and can teach," said Rafi.
"National coach Bernd Stange has come in with a plan of playing passing football, but he can only do that much with the ability of the players that he has."
Indra still feels the sting when the national team perform poorly.
The Tampines Rovers player said: "I still hurt when people say that we are rubbish. This is still my team, that's why I feel angry."
It is this unity behind the flag on the shirt that Rafi feels can aid the situation, and he called for a look back into history, to a time when amateur players donned the national shirt and played like their lives depended on it.
"Maybe these young ones need to be reminded of the history, culture and traditions of Singapore football, when the likes of the late Dollah Kassim and Quah Kim Song played for nothing more than pride," he said.
"I know that players like former captain Samad Allapitchay wants to help, maybe people like him can provide these young boys with perspective and motivation.
"There's no point being angry with the players, they're still our boys.
"Let's help them however we can."
FAS general secretary Winston Lee appears to be on the same page as Rafi, calling for unity in these trying times.
He said: "We understand and share our fans' disappointment with our teams' recent results.
"It tells us that many people are passionate about Singapore football and we thank them for their support.
"Like our fans, we want our sport to succeed and we are always looking for ways to improve ourselves.
"We hope our fans can stick with us through these difficult times and we will be conducting a thorough review of our teams' recent performances with our coaches and backroom staff."
Results this year
- Drew 2-2 with Guam
- Lost 2-0 to Thailand
- Lost 3-1 to Cambodia U-22s
- Lost 2-1 to Syria U-23s
- Lost 8-1 to Japan U-22s
- Drew 2-2 with Mongolia U-22s
- Lost 5-0 to China U-22s
- Drew 0-0 with Laos U-22s
- Drew 2-2 with Cambodia U-22s
- Lost 3-0 to Cambodia
- Lost 6-1 to Syria U-23s
- Lost 1-0 to Malaysia U-22s
- Drew 0-0 with Bahrain U-22s
- Lost 3-2 to Thailand U-22s
People can blame Bernd Stange or even the FAS, but neither Bernd nor the FAS can go out onto the pitch and put in that necessary strong tackle, or that good cross. it all comes down to the attitude that players bring.
— Former Singapore striker Indra Sahdan