Football: Cubs shamed in Brunei

Football: Cubs shamed in Brunei

Team lose all matches in ASEAN U-21 tournament for the first time.

When Singapore's national Under-21s completed their Group B fixtures at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei on Monday, their report card was a compilation of sorry statistics.

For the first time in the history of the tournament the team lost all their games and lost them heavily - a five-match string of defeats (0-4 to Vietnam, 1-3 to Cambodia, 1-3 to Brunei, 0-3 to Malaysia, 0-6 to Indonesia).

The side also scored the least goals (two) and conceded the most (19).

To further add insult to injury, coach Richard Bok's squad of 18 for this regional Under-21 competition included four over-aged players - LionsXII trio Ignatius Ang (22 years old), his clubmates, Emmeric Ong and forward Syafiq Zainal and Warriors FC goalkeeper Neezam Abdul Aziz (all 23).

But they were thrashed by Vietnam and Indonesia, who fielded their Under-19 sides.

In four previous editions dating back to 2002, Singapore has never progressed beyond the group stage. Myanmar will meet Vietnam in the final tomorrow.

Bok's squad of 18 consisted of 13 from the Singapore Cubs, the National Football Academy's (NFA) developmental side which play in the S-League's second-tier Prime League, three from the LionsXII, and two from S-League clubs.

The lop-sided mix of the team raised eyebrows in local football circles, since arguably more talented players were not picked for the Brunei tournament.

For example, the top five goal-scorers in the Prime League - Home United's Nur Hizami (18 goals), Warriors' Suria Prakash (14), Tampines Rovers' Cameron Bell (13), Balestier Khalsa's Noor Akid and Geylang International's Shafeeq Faruk (both nine) - did not get call-ups.

The decision becomes all the more strange considering the top scoring player in the team was the Cubs' forward Hazim Faiz (six goals). This has led to accusations from coaches and officials outside the NFA to believe that the selection process was not balanced.

An S-League official took to social media to highlight that none of Home United's Prime League players were selected for the squad even though they are runaway leaders in the league with 48 points after 20 games, 11 more than closest rivals NFA Under-18s.

The official questioned the criteria used to select the players.

"Does being part of the national set-up, or a graduate of it... mean guaranteed selection?" he wrote.

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