The Lions crashed out of the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup after losing 0-1 to Vietnam tonight, the first time they have done so since 2002.
Frankly, this outcome was probably the best thing to happen.
I don’t think I could have gone on watching the Lions in this tournament without feeling more and more unhappy and dissatisfied with the state of the national team.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Singapore football has returned to the dark ages. From two consecutive Cup wins to a semi-final exit in 2008, and now this, a group stage exit. If this is not the most apt symbol for going backwards, then I don’t know what is.
We’ve returned to the late 90s and early years of the new millennium when the likes of Nasri Nasir, Rafi Ali and Zulkarnaen Zainal ruled the roost but couldn’t take the Lions forward anymore.
But what really hurt this time was watching some of our national players in action. Noh Alam Shah, Ridhuan Muhammad, Baihakki Khaizan and Precious Emuejeraye ere the worst culprits.
While Precious has always been a poor defender, one cannot help wondering what has happened to the first three in recent times.
They’ve played so poorly this time that one just cannot help wondering whether they were intentionally doing so in order to save themselves from injury and return to their Indonesian Super League clubs fully fit.
Or have they become so big-headed as a result of their being treated like stars in the ISL that they’ve come to think of themselves as the Untouchables, players who will always be picked to play regardless of form?
When the Lions suffer in defence because of injury to Daniel Bennett, lack bite in midfield because of the absence of Shi Jiayi and John Wilkinson, and have to rely on Aleksandar Duric and Agu Cashmir to deliver the goals, the state of local football can only be truly classified as really bad.
Really, let’s be frank here: how well would we have really done in the last two years without these naturalised citizens taking to the field as our Lions?
In other words, these naturalised citizens have been the strips of duct tape that have been holding up the torn and tattered shell that is the national team all this while.
Which brings me to my next point – it is also probably time for national coach Raddy Avramovic to go.
I think he deserves a medal for what he has done for Singapore football, but I think he has also come to the end of the road as the man tasked with taking Singapore football to the next level.
We will need a new man at the helm, someone who comes in with a clean slate, with no biases, no attachments to players that were groomed during his tenure, and who can call a spade a spade.
We need someone with the guts to cull the laggards. Most importantly, we need to give this new man time to cast a fresh eye on the talent of the land and give him our blessings to take risks with new emerging talents and groom his new generation of Lions.
Does he have to be a foreigner? Maybe not.
I see some promising local coaches in the national set-up who can do the job if they are allowed to do their job, and pick their own players without interference from their bosses.
Bottom line: it hurts to see the Lions going out. But this could also be a blessing in disguise.
Let’s just hope the Football Association of Singapore has the f***king guts to do what is necessary.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan