No expense has been spared in preparing their bid for a first SEA Games gold.
But Singapore's national Under-23 football team found themselves without coach Aide Iskandar this past weekend, as their 16-day training stint in Austria drew to a close.
This, after the 39-year-old former national captain returned home last Thursday - almost a week ahead of schedule.
It raised question marks over his future as the Republic's SEA Games coach and his role as the man entrusted with delivering a historic first football gold when the biennial event comes to Singapore next year.
But speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Aide explained that personal reasons had forced him to cut his stay short.
"I came back because I had some family and private matters to settle," he said.
His explanation was backed up by Gerard Wong, the Football Association of Singapore's director of marketing and corporate communications.
"Aide spoke with head coach Bernd Stange early last week to request (permission) to return home because he urgently needed to attend to family matters," he said.
"As you are aware, his fourth child arrived last month (June 1) and he had to leave Singapore shortly after (July 7) for the national teams' training tour of Austria.
"He was given the green light and informed the other coaches and his players of his departure on Tuesday before leaving."
In Aide's absence, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad took charge of the U-23s for yesterday evening's friendly against German amateur side TSV Freilassing.
It was the Young Lions' third and final outing of the July 7-23 tour, which also saw a 21-strong senior squad step up their preparation for the defence of their AFF Suzuki Cup crown later this year.
Following a 2-2 draw against Czech side FC Brno and a 0-3 defeat by Torpedo Moscow, Stange's Lions will round off the tour this evening against Russian top-tier outfit Dinamo Moscow.
The U-23s, meanwhile, were put to the sword by FK Pribram of the Czech Republic (1-6) and their counterparts from German giants Borussia Dortmund (0-5) before last night's finale.
Featuring several youngsters including Fandi's two eldest sons - Irfan, 16, and Ikhsan, 15, the 20-man Young Lions squad was chosen with an eye to the future.
But their more immediate challenge is to deliver SEA Games gold on home soil next year.
In April, national coach Stange said that Aide will mastermind the U-23s' bid to make history.
And the Courts Young Lions trainer is adamant that he remains on task, even as his abbreviated Austrian stay fuels speculation to the contrary. "Nothing has changed," Aide said. "I am fully committed to the team."
This article was first published on July 21, 2014.
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