After the failure of the Singapore U23 team to advance from the ‘Group of Death’ at the SEA Games at
, the media (or one should say SPH) laid the blame either on the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) or the S-league. Manila
On the contrary, the importance of the S-league to the Republic had never been more emphasized.
No, the author is not defending the S-league just because he had always written that the S-league has not been given it due respect for since its debut in 1996, Singapore had won 2 regional international competitions - Tiger Cup 98 and Tiger Cup 04 - which 73 years of Malaysia domestic football had failed to achieve.
Rather, the author will bear out the facts to showcase his defence.
There are several factors to point out and the history of the Republic youth development should be the starting point with the question of what one can remember or know about Singapore 'great history on youth development’ and the answer to that would well turn out a blank.
It is not surprising as the Lions City Cup, Singapore greatest youth competition according to FAS, was not held for 16 years with the result that an entire generation of footballers were never nurtured to their full potential and not a single voice was raised by FAS, the public or the media on how such a situation could have arise.
This showed the low priority placed on youth development and even now, one questioned if all 3 parties (FAS, public and media) are really interested in ensuring the continue of youth developments that finally took off in 1999.
Even with youth development starting to take shape, one must acknowledged the evolution of
society over the time lost meant that for every single dollar spend, the impact would not be as dearly felt as it would have been 1 or 2 decades ago. Singapore
The game of football is still popular but it may no longer be on the field that the younger generation would find this joy thanks to the advanced in FIFA games on Xbox and PS as well as being the coach on the crouch.
This is an important factor especially in the case of
as the Republic is an island of no more than 700 sqm and the whole of the general public is living in an urbanized surrounding. Singapore
Unless an impossible scenario see the Republic turn the clock back an entire generation, which nobody want, youth development in the Republic will have a tough time establishing itself as a part of society.
At the same time though, countries like
Laos and who have a head start at youth level - as their society have not developed to the Republic current stage – have never been able to ensure the same success at the senior level. Myanmar
They lacked the structure of a league like the S-league which aided the Republic at the next level.
Their leagues -
Laos and - are devoid of foreign players and their established local players are not regularly exposed to international football which is a double blow to the development of their youth players. Myanmar
That is not the case for the S-league and at this stage; it is where the Republic young players play catch up on the rest of the ASEAN region as apart from just serving up domestic fare the S-league is able to serve up international menu as well with clubs participating in the AFC Cup and ASEAN club championship.
One other reason would be the age cheating that plagued
Asia but this accusation would not be swallow down without a bitter argument even if it had been more or less proved in Thailand Asian Games team of 1998 and 2002 so it would end here.
This numbers of reasons are why successes have been found at the senior level with 2 Tiger Cup victories, although it does not mean we give up on youths as youth development should not be about results but progress, for the S-league have been the ground which the Republic play catch up.