This letter appeared in TODAY (4 June):
Where did we go wrong? (TODAY, 4 June)
I REFER to your headline, “Lions’ shame” (June 3), and other reports in your newspaper. It was disheartening to watch Uzbekistan outclass us. It could have easily been a double-digit loss.
What is more disheartening is that we have to rely on foreign-born Singaporeans to boost our hopes. We have a foreign coach, defenders, midfielders and strikers. Yet, we were outplayed in every department.
If we can’t win with these imported elements, why not field a fully-Singaporean side comprising local-born talent? I can’t recall a Singapore national team that has faced the same level of humiliation in an international match.
Letter from TNG KOK KHIM
I have a feeling this letter was written by someone under severe emotional distress. I also strongly suspect it saw light of day in a widely-idistributed newspaper only because the editors wanted to highlight it as an example of flawed and blinkered logic.
Dear Mr Tng, how long have you been supporting the Lions? During the last Asean Championships (2006/07) or the previous one (2004/05)? If so, then I can understand why you can’t recall the last time a Singapore team was so humiliated.
In fact, I don’t understand why you would consider this result against Uzbekistan a humiliation. This is a team that is ranked 69 places above us on the FIFA ladder. In other words, Uzbekistan v Singapore is almost akin to, say, Brazil (currently ranked second in the FIFA rankings)playing against Albania (currently ranked 76).
And yet we managed to score three times against the Uzbeks, which, remember, is something that teams like China (lost 0-3 in the Asian Cup), Bahrain (drew 1-1 at the 2004 World Cup qualifier) and Saudi Arabia (lost 0-3 in an earlier Asian Zone Group 4 match) have not been able to do in competitive matches ( as opposed to friendlies).
Alas for Raddy Avramovic and his Lions, the seven conceded goals conceded and the way our defence collapsed against the Uzbekis clearly overshadowed this three-goal acheivement but the result was far from a humiliation.
Dear Mr Tng, do you know what is truly humilating? Let me list four examples:
i. Singapore LOSING 0-4 to SELANGOR in the 1981 Malaysia Cup final despite winning the M-League at a canter and having players like Edmund Wee, Samad Allapitchay, Quah Kim Song, Hashim Hosni in our star-studded squad. I remember it well because I watched it on RTM and cried.
ii. Singapore being RELEGATED from the Malaysian Semi-Pro DIVISION ONE league in 1992;
iii. Singapore losing 0-4 to Malaysia at the National Stadium in the 2002 Tiger Cup (now known as the Asean Championships) in front of 40,000 shell-shocked fans, some of whom became so angry that they were seen ripping up their red “Roar, Lions!” t-shirts on the terraces. I remember that well too because I spent the following week alternating between feeling angry and feeling depressed.
iv. Singapore having to play qualifying matches against minnows the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia just to qualify for the main draw of the 1998, 2000 and 2002 Tiger Cups.
If that isn’t humiliation, then I really don’t know what is.
And Mr Tng, I don’t understand your logic in arguing for an all-Singaporean team just because the current squad featuring foreign talents and naturalised Singaporean players like Aleksandar Duric, John Wilkinson, Daniel Bennett and Mustafic Fahruddin (I left Precious Emuejeraye out for obvious reasons) loses 3-7 to the Uzbeks.
If it had been an all-Singaporean team, we would have been massacred. And how do I know this?
Well, when Vincent Subramaniam was national coach in 2000, he fielded an all-Singaporean team against Japan in a World Cup group qualifying game in Macau. He also played a 9-1-0 formation (I kid you not). And we went on to lose 0-3.
And when Jan Poulsen was national coach in 2001, the bulk of the Lions were also locals (we had two foreign-born players – Egmar Goncalves and Mirko Grabovac) and proceeded to capture two points of out a possible 18 in the World Cup qualifiers.
At the moment now, although I am experiencing a little discomfort with the increasing number of foreign-born players in the Singapore team, I am still comfortable enough with the local-foreign player ratio (almost 6-5, in fact) to be able to identify with it.
Besides, the likes of Daniel Bennett (English but grew up in Singapore), Aleksander Duric (played in the S-League since 1998 before getting his citizenship this year) and John Wilkinson (came in 2002 and became a citizen after marrying a Singaporean) have been with us for so long that I’ve come to regard them as our own.
At least there is a decent blend of local and foreign talent in our team, a mix that bears the fans’ emotional affinity to the Lions in mind, not like the all-China farce that is the men’s and women’s national table-tennis teams.
And so I still feel a certain sense of pride in our Lions. The team is still local enough for me. Heck, if it was all-Singaporean, we wouldn’t even be playing at this stage of the World Cup qualifiers!
I just wish certain so-called Singapore fans would do their homework first before rushing in with their criticisms.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan