Two years ago, the optimism was palpable as Singapore football looked forward to the SEA Games.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) assured the country that a comprehensive battle-plan would be drawn up and the national Under-23s would go for gold on home soil.
Out of it all was the dream of historic achievement, a first football gold at the Games, witnessed by more than 50,000 Singaporeans of every race and creed, young and old, man and woman, at the grand new National Stadium, with the rest of the nation excitedly hugging and jumping and exchanging screams and high-fives with each other in coffee shops, bars and at home, watching on TV.
After two years and $3.5 million of support from Singsoc and the Singapore Sports Institute, it all ended in tears for the Under-23s, and the FAS must be answerable for this mess of a mission.
Aide Iskandar's men failed to produce even one stirring display in their four opening-round matches and did not belong in the semi-finals.
There was little quality in these Young Lions, there was hardly evidence of it in the long build-up to the Games and, surely, alarm bells should have sounded much earlier within the FAS.
The target of a final battle for gold was never on, and that is a damning indictment.
The country needs an explanation of what went wrong, because out of the ashes of this failed venture are valuable lessons and the same mistakes must never happen again.
It is always the coach who conducts a review post-tournament but Aide quit minutes after the Indonesia debacle.
I hope someone in the FAS has already started a comprehensive review of the botched venture and ensure it is made public soonest.
Tell a football-mad nation how this went so badly wrong, because the cock-up beggars belief.
Not that the Singapore football team had a divine right to win gold as hosts.
But the youngsters needed to at least play football the right way. They needed to show off eager movement and the ability to employ the quick-passing style that national teams coach Bernd Stange vowed would be a feature of all our sides from the various age group teams right up to the Lions.
Instead, the Under-23s, apparently stocked with our most talented youngsters, were scared on the ball, fluffed their passing, showed little imagination, and mostly punted long.
It is alarming, when so many of them are the future of the national team.
If Aide was just not good enough, yet, then a tough decision should have been made long ago and a head coach installed to help the former international captain, who at 40, is still young in his trade.
Clearly, Kadir Yahaya's entry came a little too late.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin has already admitted the FAS could have handled the Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi issue better. The two were with the LionsXII for much of the year and only joined the Young Lions in earnest a week before kick-off.
To see Irfan Fandi and Sahil operate like strangers up front, and learn of Faris' fatigue and injury, were painful and almost predictable.
The likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar continue to improve, playing a quick-passing game and showing a dexterity of movement and the kind of guile that make the heart beat faster in excitement.
Time is critical as we try and catch up and I wait for the FAS to reveal why their Games' blueprint flopped.
The silence is deafening and I also wait for Zainudin and his team to unveil a new masterplan, which they have said will happen soon.
I can't wait for new Belgian technical director, Michel Sablon, to deliver his blueprint for a youth development programme.
Right now, the likes of Thailand are far ahead of us.
Players like Hariss Harun, Izwan Mahbud and Safuwan Baharudin were Singapore's last youngsters with stardust and they were from the time of former Singapore coach, Radojko Avramovic.
Under-23s Faris, Sahil, Shafiq Ghani and Adam Swandi are hardly in their class.
Let alone Chanathip Songkrasin and some of his teammates who thrilled us all en route to SEA Games gold.
This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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