Seak Poh Leong: Project Goal 2010 bore fruit

Few thought it was possible, many mocked the programme, and the goal was eventually torn up and stored in a dark corner of the Singapore football psyche.

Seak Poh Leong, though, believes the Republic's ambitious plan to qualify for the World Cup Finals - Project Goal 2010 - did benefit football, claiming the positive effects have gone unnoticed.

Today, the former national coach and Lions skipper says football in the country has fallen behind, and feels the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has to make changes before the gap widens even with our regional rivals.

Speaking to The New Paper, Seak said: "The signs are there to suggest that if we don't review what we're doing and admit that we've gone wrong in certain aspects - and change - we will have to accept that others in the region are improving and we're not.

"And that will be sad."

The 61-year-old was referring to the poor run of the LionsXII in Malaysia's club competitions this year, and the performance of the Singapore Under-21s, who were soundly beaten by regional rivals at the recent Hassanal Bolkiah Tournament in Brunei.

Seak, who has also had a stint as FAS director of coaching, has called for more accountability in the FAS and changes to the youth development system.

He also suggested utilising the Foreign Sports Talent scheme to boost standards, like it had in the past.

"While Goal 2010 didn't get us to the World Cup, the plans put in place are among the reasons the national team managed to do well and win three ASEAN championships (2005, 2007, 2012)," said the former midfielder.

Seak was referring to the fast-tracking of citizenship for selected players, along with a vibrant system that saw S.League clubs run their own youth development programmes.

The current programme sees only three of eight local S.League clubs run youth development programmes due to the stringent criteria set by the FAS.

He also feels the National Football Academy (NFA), which is run by the FAS and houses the various national age-group teams, also hurts local effort when counted alongside the number of youth programmes run by professional clubs.

"The NFA, I think, was a step back in development because it wasn't a country-wide approach, and resulted in a smaller pool of players. It has helped in some way, but for me the negatives outweigh the positives," said Seak. "We must cast the net wider and get all clubs to start developing players again."

Along with a bigger pool of youngsters playing the sport, Seak hopes the national team can be strengthened with foreign talent. "The national coach's (Bernd Stange) aim to implement a playing philosophy is something I support, but that can only bear fruit in five to 10 years, and only if it is played all the way through the youth teams," he said.

"That may not be enough for us to see success now."

Seak was puzzled over why Stange came out to respond after the poor performances of the U-21 side in Brunei instead of technical director Slobodan Pavkovic, under whose purview comes youth development.

Seak said: "Accountability is a key factor for me.

"Why is the national coach coming out and answering for the U-21's performances in Brunei?

"While I am not familiar with the structure within FAS, that worries me, and makes me question: who is fully in charge of our development plan?"


1972-76: Singapore national captain

1976-81: National youth coach (U-16, U-18, U-20)

1985-93: FAS director of coaching

1987-88: National coach

1997: Chairman of S.League competitions

2002: Geylang International head coach

2003-10: Geylang director of coaching

This article was first published on Sep 12, 2014.
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