Singapore's Under-21 football team may have hit a new low in losing all their five matches at a recent regional tournament but national teams head coach Bernd Stange believes this painful learning experience is necessary.
The German said the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) decided against sending a stronger team to the fifth edition of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy tournament, where they lost all the games (conceding 19 and scoring two) to give "the Cubs their first international exposure this year".
Their opponents were Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei.
In response to The Straits Times queries on why players from other Prime League teams - like Home United's Nur Hizami, who is the league's top scorer with 18 goals - were not called up, Stange said: "After much consideration, we decided to register our Cubs for the competition to provide them with their first taste of international football.
"Our young players need international games and exposure for their footballing development. We also wanted to provide some games for a few LionsXII players who have had very little playing time this year."
The squad that went to Brunei included LionsXII reserves Emmeric Ong, Syafiq Zainal and Ignatius Ang. Stange added that players with international experience like Ammirul Mazlan, Anumanthan Kumar, Iqbal Hussein, Sahil Suhaimi (all Courts Young Lions), Adam Swandi (who trains with the Young Lions) and Faris Ramli (LionsXII) plus overaged stars like Safuwan Baharudin (23), Shahril Ishak and Hassan Sunny (both 30) could have been picked to bolster the team. But doing so would not benefit football development.
Stange said the FAS is disappointed with the results and will review the team's performance. The senior national team coach said: "We still want to continue to give our players international exposure but we must ensure they do not end up being out of their depth against their opponents."
Home United fan Samuel Tan, 45, supported Stange's view, saying: "Unlike other teams in the region, our youth players are not able to train professionally daily due to various commitments.
"That is why they must be sent to as many international competitions as possible."
This article was first published on August 23, 2014.
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