SportSG chief Lim: FAS needs space for soul searching
As Team Singapore are honoured, SportSG chief Lim addresses football fallout; says FAS needs space for soul searching
They were perhaps the biggest disappointment at a South-east Asia (SEA) Games that stirred a nation from sporting slumber, but the Republic's footballers - gormless and, finally, medal-less - clearly still hold a special spot in Singapore's heart of hearts.
Last night at a garden party at the Istana in the company of President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and attended by 500 Team Singapore athletes and officials to celebrate Team Singapore's unprecedented performance at the Games - a record 84 golds, 73 silvers and 102 bronzes, second best behind Thailand - the Under-23 team who fell flat at the group stage were placed up front, in the company of the golden netball women, and the gritty hockey men who came within a whisker of a famous win over kingpins Malaysia.
Speaking to The New Paper, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive Lim Teck Yin said that reducing support for the sport is not the way to go and, even in the shambles that was football's SEA Games campaign that now threatens to get ugly, Lim found a positive.
"We didn't get our fairytale ending in football, but there is a silver lining, in that the coaches are now speaking up," said Lim, pointing to comments made by Aide Iskandar, who resigned immediately after the ill-fated campaign, that hinted of a lack of direction and in-fighting within the FAS (Football Association of Singapore).
National coach Bernd Stange has also responded by pointing to inconsistencies in some of Aide's statements.
"Aide Iskandar has gone public with some of his views and the FAS has to take them on board.
"FAS is doing some soul searching now and we have to give them some space; and the players themselves have to know that they also need to put in more work," said Lim.
The FAS has yet to make a statement on its SEA Games review, or on Aide and Stange's comments.
"I've heard some factions calling for reduced support for FAS, but that is a disservice to football. They must learn how to optimise what is given to them," said Lim.
FAS receives $2.5 million from SportSG's annual funding exercise, and another $7.2m through other sources including sponsorships, to take its annual budget to $9.7m.
But question marks have been raised over the way the money is spent, including the estimated $3.5m understood to have been spent to prepare the SEA Games squad.
The results of the FAS' five-year strategic plan, launched in 2010, has been mixed at best, with the most clear benchmark - that of having the national team break into the top 10 of Asian football - still a mere speck in the distance.
The team are ranked 27th in the 46-nation region, although the recent stunning 0-0 result away to mighty Japan in a World Cup qualifier has seen the Lions rise to 150th in the Fifa rankings - their highest in five years.
SportSG has a taskforce in place to study what ails the sport here and what can be done to help take it to the next level, and, while Lim has an idea of which key area the focus will likely be on, he will give FAS time.
"We've had casual discussions with Bernard (Tan, FAS vice-president), on youth-development plans and we are aware that it's not just about improving coaching and improving methods, but also about improving facilities," said Lim.
"But first we have to find an opportunity to sit down with the FAS."