Twenty nine years ago, Singapore took on Iran twice in the Asia Group Three pre-Olympic Games qualifying competition.
Singapore and Iran aside, the other countries in the tournament were India, North Korea, Sri Lanka and China.
All the teams had to face one another in a round-robin format.
Subsequently, the top two teams at the end of the round-robin matches will face off in a final, with the winner clinching the sole qualifying ticket to the Olympics.
Singapore lost 0-3 to Iran in its round-robin match. However, the Lions captured the nation’s imagination when it defeated giants North Korea 3-1 and China 1-0.
Singapore also defeated Sri Lanka 3-0 and India 1-0 to finish second in the group and earn a final play-off against Iran.
On the other hand, Iran got its campaign off to a slow start when it drew 0-0 with North Korea and 2-2 with China.
But it defeated India 2-0, Singapore 3-0 and then smacked Sri Lanka 11-0 to finish top of the table.
In the final, Singapore,s despite a 60,000-strong crowd, proved to be no match for the Iranians who romped home 4-0.
Coached by Jita Singh, the Singapore squad then included the following players:
Goalkeeper: Edmund Wee. Defenders: Jeffrey Lazaroo, Syed Mutalib, Hasli Ibrahim, Samad Allapitchay. Midfielders: Lim Tang Boon, Hashim Hosni, Rahim Hussein. Strikers; Wong Kok Choy, Mohammed Noh, Fandi Ahmad.
Fast forward to 14 Jan 2009.
Singapore took on Iran in their opening Asian Cup Group E qualifying competition in Teheran. And subsequently lost 0-6. The result is national coach Raddy Avramovic’s second biggest trouncing since losing 0-7 to Oman in 2004.
The Singapore team was made up of:
Goalkeeper: Lionel Lewis. Defenders: Precious Emuejeraye, Daniel Bennett, Ismail Yunus, Baihakki Khaizan. Midfielders: Mustafic Fahruddin, John Wilkinson (who was subsequently replaced by Agu Cashmir), Isa Halim and Shahril Ishak. Strikers: Indra Sahdan (who was subsequently replaced by Muhammad Ridhuan) and Noh Alam Shah.
Here’s something I can’t figure out:
How was it that back in 1980, an all-local Singapore team still managed to stop Iran at four goals, whereas our modern-day Lions team, which included five naturalised citizens, just collapsed 0-6 to Iran?
What does it say about the playing standards of our Lions? Has it deteriorated that badly over the past three decades, that we end up being slaughtered by Iran, even with foreign talents on board. What does this say about the quality of our naturalised talents?
Are some of them really that good or have they been appearing to be good players because they have been performing in a sea of S-League mediocrity all this while?
Finally, I really shudder at the thought of what the score would have been like if we had fielded a team made up of only local, natural-born Singaporeans against Iran.
I think the score would have been 9 or 10-0.
This is one of the reasons why the Foreign Talent Scheme can be so deceiving. The Football Association of Singapore has clearly used it to paper over the cracks and hide the harsh truth of the situation: that local footballing standards are really abysmal without the help of imported foreign talents.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan