Football, athletics taken to task for flopping at SEA Games
SSI high performance head disappointed with Young Lions, says S'pore Athletics must stop the infighting and start working together
Football and athletics were censured at Singapore's SEA Games post-mortem in Clark yesterday.
Richard Gordon, the Singapore Sport Institute's head of high performance and athlete life, said: "Football's not performed well, athletics has not performed well at these Games... we don't even have to spell it out."
Fandi Ahmad's Young Lions failed to score in their first four matches and recorded just one win in the Philippines.
This is the third consecutive time the team have suffered a group-stage exit at the biennial Games.
To compound matters, nine of the 20-man squad broke curfew during the tournament.
The Straits Times reported that six of them visited Solaire Resort and Casino after their 3-0 defeat by Thailand, returning only in the wee hours.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) named all nine players - Zharfan Rohaizad, Joshua Pereira, Lionel Tan, Kenji Rusydi, Zulqarnaen Suzliman, Tajeli Salamat, Shah Shahiran, Hami Syahin and Saifullah Akbar. Disciplinary hearings took place last night.
Singapore National Olympic Council secretary-general Chris Chan admitted that he was "surprised" that FAS named the players and clarified that FAS' disciplinary process would not affect his body's inquiry into the incident.
He said: "We don't know the full details, we're still waiting for the full report from the FAS.
"As far as we're concerned, what happened comes under our jurisdiction...
"We are still unclear what jurisdiction the FAS is purporting to exercise over the nine... We're waiting for FAS to establish and justify the basis of the additional action...
"I don't think it's fair to name the person first until you've finished a thorough investigation... I'm surprised they named the players."
Gordon, meanwhile, said he was "a little bit surprised... and a little disappointed" by the Young Lions' performances at the Games, considering some of their results earlier in the year.
In March, they went unbeaten in an Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship qualification group that featured North Korea.
In June, the team won the Merlion Cup - which featured selection sides from then three-time SEA Games defending champions Thailand, hosts Philippines and Indonesia - who finished as runners-up to Vietnam on Monday.
Said Gordon: "Actually, it was a fairly long preparation period. They had Fandi in place as a coach some two years beforehand, and so he was working regularly with the team.
"So, we were a little bit surprised by the overall results, and like them, a little disappointed.
"With regards to the reasons why, we'll look into that when we get back to Singapore."
During the SEA Games, Fandi highlighted the difficulties he had getting his players together, due to perennial issues like national service and school commitments.
Said Gordon: "My response to that, as (is) the same with all athletes, (is that) the journey is never an easy journey and there are always obstacles.
"One thing that we try to do at the Singapore Sport Institute is make our athletes a little more resilient and almost expect the unexpected.
"They've got to be able to react in a very positive way and overcome these challenges."
But it was Singapore Athletics (SA) that Gordon saved his most stinging rebuke for, excoriating them for "providing nothing more than a distraction" to their athletes.
In recent times, SA has been mired in problems. There has been infighting in the fraternity, tension between management and coaches, and legal challenges by athletes Soh Rui Yong and Rachel Yang.
Said Gordon: "For Singapore to remain competitive in the overall medal tally, we need to put ourselves in a position to be competitive in the athletics programme where there are at least 40 gold medals up for grabs...
"I think what we are seeing over the last three SEA Games is a steady decline...
"The evidence is very, very clear. There were no gold medals this time around. From three in 2015, two in 2017...
"I don't think it's helped one bit by the frictions within the fraternity over the last three or four years... They seem to have a propensity for infighting... As a fraternity, you need to start working together.
"You need to start to provide stable governance because you are providing nothing more than a distraction, which is taking your time, effort and energy away from what you should be doing, which is helping support the athletes...
And I can't be stronger than that."