S'pore football gets ok for SEA Games

SINGAPORE - The national Under-23 football team's narrow 1-0 victory over their Indonesian counterparts earlier this month proved sufficient to land them a ticket to this year's SEA Games.

Hariss Harun and Co. were among an initial list of 286 athletes across 24 sports selected by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Friday to represent the Republic at the Dec 11-22 event in Myanmar.

The national table tennis team, despite leaving out top players like Feng Tianwei, Gao Ning and Yang Zi, also got the nod from the 13-member selection committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and SNOC president Teo Chee Hean.

SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan said there was no cause for controversy or dispute during the meeting, which lasted more than three hours.

"There's no issue. As long as national sports associations have an explanation of why a person is nominated and the selectors are happy with it, that's it," he added.

Question marks had earlier surrounded the U-23 footballers' eligibility after they drew 1-1 with Indonesia away and beat the Philippines 1-0 in their only two friendlies up until earlier this month.

But the team proved they could meet the qualifying mark of matching the third-place standard from the last Games when they beat 2011 runners-up Indonesia 1-0 on July 13.

Said coach V. Sundramoorthy, who will spearhead Singapore's bid for a first football gold at the SEA Games: "The boys definitely deserve to go to Myanmar.

"They had done very well to win the MSL (Malaysian Super League) despite the majority of them being below the age of 23 and competing against experienced professionals.

"This is one of the best-ever batches of young footballers to be produced in Singapore. They deserve this chance to test themselves."

Singapore Table Tennis Association president Lee Bee Wah, who has consistently campaigned for the need to blood younger talents at the SEA Games, was also delighted at the news.

She said: "There must be a mix of experience and youth for the SEA Games as it gives us an opportunity to give our most talented youngsters a chance to shine.

"We would like to thank the SNOC for agreeing with our position and development strategy."

With Singapore due to host the SEA Games in 2015, SNOC's Chan said the selection committee was also aware of the need to prepare the Republic's young athletes for a good showing at home.

He said: "The selectors are aware that some of the sports may be featured in 2015. Therefore, when we look at the nominations, if an athlete is put in place for 2015, then there is a chance for more leeway even if he is marginally off (the qualifying mark)."

Among the 29 sports which submitted athletes for nomination, five - chess, karate, muay thai, volleyball (women) and weightlifting - did not get the go-ahead.

There were no submissions for bodybuilding, kempo, petanque and vovinam.

National sports associations have until Aug 19 to file appeals before an appeals committee meets on Aug 30. The SNOC has to submit the contingent's names to the Myanmar organising committee by Nov 6.

maychen@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Wang Meng Meng


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