As the Singapore Under-23 football team continue their turbulent voyage in search of that elusive first-ever SEA Games gold medal, coach Aide Iskandar is keeping calm in the face of fierce criticism.
And the 39-year-old is drawing on his experience as a national captain to find the strength to stay positive when, at the Young Lions' lowest, some fans heckled him about his possible sacking after an embarrassing 1-3 home defeat in March to Cambodia's Under-22s in a friendly.
"I would be lying if I said that the criticism has not affected me," admitted Aide.
"But I have been through it as a player before so this (criticism) is not new to me and I know how to deal with it.
"The first time I was national captain, people questioned the decision and asked if I was capable enough to lead the team.
"I took it as motivation and then I won two consecutive Tiger Cups (now known as the AFF Suzuki Cup) with the team."
In March 2003, Aide, then 28, was handed the captaincy in a friendly against Maldives.
He skippered Singapore to the 2004 and 2007 regional triumphs.
And the former defender wants to rally his squad as they jet off to Japan this morning for a week-long training camp as the SEA Games preparation enters its final phase.
Singapore will play the Philippines for their opener on June 1.
"I have told the players my experiences. We have to keep believing in ourselves and always look to turn the criticism into positives.
"Everybody has their right to comment and we respect that, but as professionals, we must keep our heads up and continue to do our best for the nation."
When The Sunday Times caught up with him on the sidelines after training at the Geylang Field yesterday, Aide revealed that he had lost 6kg after being hospitalised for a week with dengue fever.
In his absence, his assistants, Kadir Yahaya and S. Subramani, took charge as the team entered the first leg of centralised training at Singapore Sports School from May 1 to 9.
The U-23s are winless this year after a 1-8 loss to Japan's U-22s, a 1-2 defeat by Syria's U-23s and that shock loss to Cambodia's U-22s.
But a first win in the S-League (1-0 over Home United) by the Courts Young Lions, a side made up of the Singapore U-23 players, has boosted confidence.
Said Aide: "We are still a work in progress but, over the last few weeks, the players have shown a great level of commitment and desire and the win against Home United was just the timely boost we needed."
This article was first published on May 10, 2015.
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