Despite Singapore's age-group teams not enjoying a stellar year, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin insists the country's young footballers will come good eventually.
In a robust defence of the state of Singapore football during his association's annual general meeting at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, the 51-year-old said: "We need to let our boys learn how to win or lose."
They have had plenty of bitter losing experience recently, when the national Under-21 side - expected to supply a number of players for next year's SEA Games on home soil - lost all five matches at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy regional tournament.
Among those losses were heavy defeats by Vietnam (0-4), Malaysia (0-3) and Indonesia (0-6). Vietnam and Indonesia even sent their Under-19 sides, while the Cubs were reinforced by four overaged players.
Meanwhile, the LionsXII, consisting mainly of national U-23 players, had a disappointing season, finishing eighth in the Malaysian Super League a year after lifting the title and being eliminated in the Malaysia Cup group stage.
However, Zainudin said: "Last year, I said our U-23 boys would do well at the SEA Games. They were close, but came in third.
"For the Under-21s, let's see if the players will perform at the 2015 SEA Games. I believe they will still do well. They will be primed and ready."
Even the senior Lions team have struggled, as they are trying to adapt to national coach Bernd Stange's high-tempo, quick-passing style.
Zainudin said he is "realistic" about their chances of retaining the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup crown at the National Stadium in November.
He explained: "Several seniors are no longer with the team, men like Aleksandar Duric, Fahrudin Mustafic, Shi Jiayi and Daniel Bennett. This is a new side but they are young and dynamic."
"Bernd will need time to develop this side. We must bite the bullet and change the older players, as the youngsters must be given opportunities."
Zainudin believes that steps are being taken to beef up Singapore's football production line, especially as the Republic is keen on fielding a competitive team as it bids to host the 2019 or 2021 Fifa U-17 World Cup.
Yesterday's AGM also saw the resignation of Slobodan Pavkovic, who has been the FAS' technical director since April 2008.
He will leave in January, and a high-calibre replacement is being sought.
Zainudin said applicants must have experience leading a team to a Fifa or Uefa age-group championships, or have been the technical director of a top European club's academy.
The Straits Times believes that Brian Eastick, who led the England U-20s to the 2009 European Championships, losing 0-2 to Ukraine in the final, is on the shortlist.
Another European on FAS' radar is current Austria technical director Willi Ruttensteiner.
The FAS is also on the lookout for a coaching instructor to groom the country's grassroots and elite coaches.
FAS vice-president Bernard Tan explained: "One of the key legacies (of hosting the 2017 U-17 World Cup) is to develop our kids to compete and hold their own at the international level."
"It's not just about infrastructure. There has to be software. There has to be quality of instruction to groom the kids' technique and movement."
Zainudin also announced that the ASEAN Super League (ASL) is gathering steam as all 10 ASEAN nations have signed up to be a part of the regional tournament.
He said: "The ASL is set to kick off in 2016. We have had approval from the AFF and the AFC (Asian Football Confederation). In two weeks' time, I'll be at Fifa to let them look at our papers."
This article was first published on Sept 13, 2014.
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