The stage is yours now, Aide
Belgian guru and Singapore's new technical director, Michel Sablon, said the most important group in a successful football ecosystem are quality coaches.
A consistent flow of talented players through the various ranks are necessary, but the football tutors who spot and mould them, and craft the right tactics and style of play, are the ones who keep the pipeline humming and ensure the national teams - from age-group to senior sides - do the country proud.
As Singapore's No. 1 sport strives to become a force once again, amid a struggling domestic league and just one international victory since January, Aide Iskandar is about to step onto a stage that could announce his arrival as a top coach in the country.
His national Under-23 players will be under the bright lights tonight at the Jalan Besar Stadium, facing the Philippines in their South-east Asia (SEA) Games opener. A sellout crowd is expectant and a nation will be watching, wondering if the team can end the hurt and finally land football gold.
Clearly, Aide is under intense pressure. He has been in charge of the Young Lions since 2013 and many in the local fraternity have continued to question the former Singapore captain's ability as a coach.
This is his big chance to shut the critics up - and I hope he pulls it off.
Criticism grew louder and louder as the Courts Young Lions spent most of the S.League season rooted at the foot of the table.
When the national Under-23 side were crushed 8-1 by Japan's Olympic team in February, and embarrassed 3-1 by their Cambodian counterparts a month later, a "Sack Aide" campaign emerged.
When the Courts Young Lions finally won their first league game in April, the naysayers joked, cruelly, that it was down to Aide's absence from the bench - he had been hospitalised with dengue fever at the time.
To Aide's credit, he bit his lip and fought on.
He never complained over the controversial move to allow his stars Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi to join the LionsXII, and he gamely juggled with the schedule of his players who were in National Service.
The 40-year-old was stoic as he ran the gauntlet, attending every post-match press conference ready to be shot at.
They say football fans have the shortest memories.
It was only in 2011 when Aide led an unfancied, low-budget Hougang United to giant-slaying acclaim. That year, Hougang reached the League Cup final and beat every team in the country in either the S.League or cup competitions.
Like any coach with ambition, he wanted the job of masterminding the home assault of the SEA Games; an international assignment that adds considerable weight to one's CV.
For a long time he worked with former international teammate S Subramani, and recently, he was unafraid to rope in Kadir Yahaya, another former Singapore stalwart regarded by many to be the country's brightest local coach.
The goal is gold, and Aide showed he didn't care what the critics would say about the appointment of Kadir.
The mission was, simply, to win for Singapore.
That takes guts.
If Singapore are successful, Aide, Kadir and Mani would have added to their reputation and the country will have a slightly larger pool of football tutors to count on.
The trio, who once made up three-quarters of the Lions' back four, are now reunited for a massive undertaking.
Last week, I asked Aide why Singapore should trust him with this team.
His answer: He has brought this team along and moulded them into a family that will fight for each other until the final whistle.
The Young Lions do not have a young Fandi or Sundram to turn to for inspiration. Team spirit and teamwork are their strengths, and if our Under-23s demonstrate those qualities, Aide will be happy.
Because he believes it will then be possible for his side to reach the final on June 15.
Win or lose the gold, in the end, all we ask is that these young footballers fight, leave everything out on the pitch.
And play football the right way.
That will be a fantastic testament for coach Aide, and his two wing men.