Football: No disrespect to opponents

Football: No disrespect to opponents
Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver at the team's Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League match against Hougang United held at Hougang Stadium on 22 August 2013. The match ended in a 2-1 win for the Warriors.

Warriors FC drew criticism when they fielded a team of reserves and Prime League players against a full-strength Geylang International on Tuesday night and duly lost 4-0.

That defeat in the StarHub League Cup group stage came three days after they had booked their spot in the quarter-finals by beating Tampines Rovers 3-2 - with their regulars.

Not surprisingly, the Warriors' weakened line-up in the second game - which saw them replace all 10 of their outfield players who had played in the win over Tampines - set some tongues wagging.

Some fans on the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League Facebook page speculated if the changes were intentional, so that the Warriors could face a supposedly weaker side in Tanjong Pagar - who are lying 10th in the league, rather than fourth-placed Albirex Niigata - in the last eight.

Albirex vice-chairman and general manager Koh Mui Tee tweeted: "Not nice for Warriors to put Prime League and reserves against Geylang.

"Disrespectful to Geylang, Tanjong Pagar and my team. Not nice."

Geylang coach Jorg Steinebrunner also said in the post-match press conference on Tuesday: "Football is not about choosing who you want to play but how you want to face your opponents."

REST PLAYERS

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Warriors coach Alex Weaver insisted that he had no intention of disrespecting any opponents or choosing his next opponents, and his decision was made to rest players amid a tight schedule so that they could make a good run in the League Cup.

The 37-year-old Englishman also posted an explanation on his club's official website yesterday, along with a detailed training schedule considering all permutations during the League Cup.

Weaver wrote: "We qualified for the next round of the competition with one game still to play.

"As our match and training schedules are fully periodised (a planned competition and thorough training strategy), I was then already preparing for the quarter-final game as a priority by focusing on the freshness of our players.

"In order for us to be successful in the season, it is vital that we do not simply select a team that are 'better on paper' but one that is also the freshest."

Weaver added he would have risked his regulars getting injured had they also played against Geylang.

He said: "The thought of selecting a team based on which team we could play in the next round NEVER crossed my mind and was never considered at all by the club.

"Secondly, thinking that either one of Tanjong Pagar or Albirex will be 'easier' to play than the other would not only be very disrespectful but also very naive given the fact that any team in this league can beat anyone else 'on their day'."

The League Cup rulebook dictates that participating teams must observe regulations specified in the S.League rulebook, which states: "Any club failing to play its full strength team in any S.League Match shall be deem guilty of misconduct."

In the English Premier League, where similar rules apply, Wolverhampton Wanderers received a suspended £25,000 ($53,000) fine in 2011, while then-Blackpool boss Ian Holloway was fined £25,000 for resting players with an eye on future fixtures.

However, the EPL then agreed to relax the "weakened teams" rule.

Weaver hopes the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) would be equally understanding.

He said: "I can understand why some people without an understanding of sports science have made certain comments because that's what it looks like.

"A lot of coaches have explained their rationale and that's important.

"I'm sure the FAS have got sports science people in their midst and they would understand the importance of periodisation if a team are to be successful in this competition."

In response to TNP's queries, FAS director of marketing and communications Gerard Wong said: "The S.League has written to Warriors FC with regards to their match with Geylang International FC in the StarHub League Cup.

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 17, 2014.
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