Pressure? Bring it on

Pressure? Bring it on
Aide Iskandar, Singapore's football team coach

1 With the draw for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games football competition done, what are the plans for the Singapore Under-23 team from now till the big kick-off on May 29?

AIDE: We will have centralised training from May 1 and we should be going overseas for two weeks.

We are finalising the details and the destination will be confirmed on a later date.

2 Singapore are in Group A with 2013 silver-medallists Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. What are your thoughts on our opponents?

I watched the Indonesian team lose 1-0 to Vietnam in a recent friendly, and they are good at counter-attacks with their speedy wingers and skilful midfielders, such as Manahati Lestusen and Evan Dimas.

Myanmar will be interesting because they have made it to the Under-20 World Cup. We have a score to settle with Cambodia after they beat us 3-1 here.

The Philippines may not have many foreign-born players in their Under-23 side, and we did beat them 6-0 in a friendly two years ago.

At SEA Games level, we can't underestimate any team and we will keep working hard.

3 The national U-23s won a bronze at the last SEA Games, losing by a penalty to Thailand in the semi-finals, and were so close to making the Round of 16 at last year's Asian Games. But the results have been poor since. What are your thoughts?

Results have not been good so far this year.

As you know, despite our best efforts, we have not had the full complement of players for our preparations, although we should do so with this latest centralised training.

The boys who are with the LionsXII - Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi and Christopher van Huizen - have done well and they should have no problems settling into the team.

These are our boys, and I hope that the country will get behind us.

Home support has lifted Singapore's footballers to play above themselves in the past, and I'm sure our boys will be inspired by the home fans again.

4 You have competed at the SEA Games as a player and now you will again take part as a coach. Fans sing your name when things are going well but, after a string of defeats, critics are baying for blood. How do you handle the heat?

I like this kind of pressure because it pushes you, whether it is to prove critics wrong or to prove to yourself that you can do it despite the difficulties.

But the most important driving force must be that you want to do the country proud and do justice to the national jersey and the flag on your chest.

I believe in my abilities as a coach and in the players' abilities both as individuals and as a team.

5 What is the biggest difference between representing Singapore as a player and as a coach?

The pressure as a player and as a coach is quite similar, with the biggest difference coming from the fact that a coach has to be responsible for 30 players, which is never easy.

This is why I'm thankful for the support of the backroom staff, such as national coach Bernd (Stange), my assistant coaches Kadir (Yahaya), S Subramani, Harald (Irmscher), (Juergen) Raab and John (Burridge).

6 What is your biggest takeaway from the last SEA Games other than the bronze medal?

It could have been more than a bronze medal.

We cannot afford to be complacent.

For example, in the group stages two years ago, we did so well to beat Vietnam and Brunei but conceded late equalisers against 10-man Laos in the first game and Malaysia in the last game.

These lapses cost us four points, which meant we could have qualified as group winners instead of runners-up and avoided eventual champions Thailand in the semi-finals.

I will make sure the boys learn from our experience from the last SEA Games and make sure we are focused.

Just like two years ago, I want our team to start well with three points.


This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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