LionsXII's boost to football can be tapped

I disagree with the view that the cons of the LionsXII's participation in the Malaysia Super League outweigh the short-term gains ("War of words erupts in S-League v LionsXII row"; yesterday).

There is no doubt that the likes of Izwan Mahbud and Safuwan Baharudin have benefited from the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) decision to participate in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), and their progress will, in turn, gradually raise the standards of Singapore football, including the national team's.

Instead of adopting a defeatist attitude, our clubs need to do more to raise the quality of football and bring in more fans.

Truth be told, the non-existence of the LionsXII will not translate into more fans at the S-League matches.

It would also be naive to believe that the likes of Izwan, Gabriel Quak or Zulfahmi Arifin would remain in Singapore, instead of venturing overseas, if we cease to field the LionsXII in the MSL.

We should recall the exodus of top players, such as Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan, Khairul Amri and John Wilkinson, to other leagues in the region just a few years ago.

Players who have demonstrated their quality will seek new challenges, and are always likely to move to a foreign league to gain new experience and test themselves at a higher level.

Our clubs need to do more to develop young talents, instead of lamenting that the best Under-23 players are selected for the LionsXII and the Courts Young Lions.

In all honesty, how many of the current U-23 players were developed fully by the clubs over the years, and not through the FAS' national football academy system?

The LionsXII are akin to a tenant in a shopping mall. Their promotional activities have raised awareness and interest in the mall, and have also increased human traffic and visitors.

Other tenants should capitalise on the opportunity and actively explore ways to sustain interest towards both the mall and themselves.

It is clear that the FAS is always seeking to make a decision based on the long-term interests of football.

One clear example was its decision to allow Safuwan to join Melbourne City on loan - a decision which we knew would impact the LionsXII's chances of success in a competitive league.

Let us offer viable and practical ideas. At the same time, let's stop using the FAS as a convenient punching bag.

Tan Heng Choon

This article was first published on April 23, 2015.
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