The Footballing Association of Singapore released their review of the Singapore football team’s performance at their now-infamous showing at the recent SEA Games.
This comes in the wake of the Young Lions finishing at the absolute bottom of the Group B table with 0 wins that culminated in the record-breaking and history-making 7-0 loss to Malaysia, which was the biggest defeat in more than 20 years.
The team only managed to score two goals in the SEA Games, with one of the goals being an own goal from the opponent; while simultaneously doing Fedex and Amazon proud by shipping in 13 goals in their own net.
FAS’ Review & Recommendations
Post SEA Games Review
The purpose of the Post SEA Games Football Review 2023 is to recommend action to improve the performance of the Singapore Football Team in future editions of the SEA Games. The review is now complete, and the recommendations will now be made public.
This set of recommendations will not touch on long-term developmental issues regarding our football ecosystem. It is already recognized that major work needs to be done to allow our players to play at a different level. Much of this will be done under the long term Unleash the Roar! Project. The recommendations contained within will therefore focus largely on the SEA Games tournament preparation and the tournament itself. These recommendations address major structural or procedural issues that affected the national U22 team in this tournament.
The objective in developing recommendations was to build a better future and not attribute blame. This approach was crucial throughout the review to ensure that there was proper soul searching amongst participants, and so that everyone could be honest and constructive in a safe space.
The Report and the Recommendations drew its conclusions from three sources:
- From internal operational reports submitted by FAS departments post tournament, and objective data generated by analytics.
- From subjective feedback gathered by a SEA Games Review Committee that was commissioned by the Acting President on behalf of the FAS Exco. Over the course of the five weeks from 22nd of May 2023, the members interviewed personnel involved in the SEA Games, including but not limited to, players, coaches, administrators, and backroom teams. Four reports were submitted individually. As these reports were uncorroborated or fact checked, they had to be subject to corroboration with other objective data and reports. Post submission statements were also requested where necessary to clarify issues and facts.
- From discussions with other resource individuals, including members from other Member Associations of FIFA who were approached and were helpful in helping formulate some of the recommendations.
The content of discussions and findings remain confidential whilst the recommendations are being made public. In putting together this report, an attempt was made to take all views into consideration, including subjective ones.
The FAS will work to implement the recommendations, and this will be done over the next three to six months.
The Men’s U23/22 side will be moved under Men’s National Teams, headed by the National Head Coach. The Men’s National Teams will henceforth be accountable for both the performance of the A and U23/22 team and in charge of securing and using all available resources in support of the U23/22 side during major tournaments. This change elevates the importance of the U23/22 squad, ensures that National Team resources are made available in support of the U23/22 squad, and accelerates the transition of U23/22 players to the full A team.
The SEA Games should be run as a two-year project. This is to allow the Coach and Team to develop over a longer period. This will include the opportunity to deliberately blood younger players to clock up valuable experience in the SPL as well as in 8-10 high tempo, high intensity international matches over that duration. The SEA Games Coach, who should also be the coach of the Young Lions, will be appointed for the duration of this project. This will enable the coach to plan long term.
[Observations: Of the 20 players selected for the SEA Games squad, many had limited SPL minutes and only seven had had prior international experience before the Merlion Cup. Both are important to expose the players to the more intense football played at the international level. One of the consistent feedback from the players in SEA Games Squad was that they were not prepared for the high tempo games played at the SEA Games. Many had commented that the tournament was played at a tempo and intensity that was “beyond that of the Singapore Premier League” making international match minutes beyond the SPL even more important. This batch had limited international minutes and opportunities due to Covid. This lack of exposure to international football possibly affected Singapore players more than it did our competitors, who could experience high tempo, high intensity football within their own borders.]
A long list of players in the U23/22 squad is to be developed at the start of the project, and those on it are to have proper Individual Development Plans (IDP). This will allow the Coach and his team to improve the individual abilities of players over the two years of preparation, even whilst many are playing in their respective clubs. A key focus of IDP preparation must be the 3–6-month period before the tournament. National Team players must turn up for International Duty match conditioned and fit. The SEA Games Team Coach must work with his players pre-tournament. Acting on an IDP will require constant communication between the national coaching team, the individual players, and the cooperation of the clubs. The player’s progress must be monitored.
[Observations: Players arrived for pre-tournament training on 17th April 2023 with different levels of fitness and conditioning. This may be more of an issue at the U23/22 level than the A Team since the players have fewer playing opportunities. A review of the players data, which is also incomplete, of matches played over the previous 21 days, the distance ran, both cumulative, and high-speed runs, show that the condition of the players were very uneven, with some having had very little pre-tournament match exposure, and little intense training. A two-week period is not sufficient to ramp the players condition up.]
The U23/22 will from henceforth focus only on two priority tournaments: the SEA Games and the AFC U23 tournament (which serves as the Olympic qualifier). All other tournaments will be regarded as developmental opportunities. This is in recognition that most of our age group players have competing obligations unlike other teams in the region. If there is a scheduling clash, consideration for withdrawal should be given, if an appropriate squad cannot be formed.
[Observation: U23/22 players in Singapore are unlike others in the region as the vast majority are either doing National Service (NS), or are students, and our talent pool is small. This makes asking the same players to commit to take leave across multiple tournaments for centralized training as near impossible. Some prioritization is required. 2023 had four scheduled U23/22 tournaments plus the Merlion Cup – the SEA Games, the AFF U23, the Asian Games and the AFC Qualifiers. This possibly led to a loss in focus.]
Changes in SPL rules will be reviewed to allow for an increase of U23/22 minutes for key players. The key focus is on the U23/22 National Team’s long list of players and to ensure that they get enough league match experience at the highest level, especially closer to the tournament. A variety of ideas are being considered including freeing up the transfer window for U23 players. This review will be done in conjunction with the SPL clubs to ensure that both club and national objectives can be met.
[Observations: Match conditioning and tournament preparedness hinges on recent minutes of playing at the highest level. Only eight players were playing regularly in the SPL 2023 (with over 50% of the minutes). The majority of the squad started regularly playing in the SPL in 2023, with most not having a full season under their belt. The lack of game time possibly affected the ability of players, especially those not exposed to sufficient minutes, to cope with the tempo of the tournament, where a game is played every two to three days over the course of two weeks.]
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be imposed for U23/22 priority tournaments that have multiple matches in a single window for the squad to have a minimum of 2 weeks preparation.
A longer preparation time is required at the U23/22 level. The SOP will aim to deliver two to three warm up games prior to the start of each tournament, with one week domestically and one week in the country of competition.
As most multigame tournaments stretch for two weeks, up to a maximum of 35 days per tournament, the FAS will adjust SPL scheduling and/or enact rule changes to enable all U23/22 players to meet this SOP. In return, all national players will be expected to make a commitment to fulfil this SOP with full attendance for the duration.
[Observations: The SEA Games players had limited time before departure, and only one pre-tournament game held in Singapore against Geylang International FC and one training session in Cambodia before the match against Thailand. This was due to multiple constraints.]
Mental Preparation and Team Building activities will no longer be discretionary. A trained sports psychologist will from now on be involved in pre-tournament preparation and will help to prepare players individually, and the squad collectively. The psychologist should also work on second line leaders within the group to help them play their role effectively. Multiple leaders are important in a tournament setting.
[Observations: A sports psychologist did not play an active part in the preparations of the players for SEA Games. This should not be optional moving forward.]
Diets of the players will be planned when the FAS has control of meals. Currently, only hydration is monitored, while players are advised on healthy eating.
[Observations: Diets were not “controlled” at the SEA Games Hotel given the host (Cambodia) decides on the menu. The players also ate the food on offer, which the other competing teams generally ate as well.]
A comprehensive analyst team should be built at the national level. An analyst team is now part of modern football. They provide pre-game opponent analysis, in game analysis and recommendations, and post-game review and objective feedback.
[Observations: The team was supported by one analyst. This may not constitute a comprehensive team.]
All injured players during tournaments have to be verified and signed off by a Medical Doctor, and a medical certificate must be issued for the players unavailable for selection to cover a period post tournament. Control of players, including those leaving early, should be cleared by the Head Coach.
[Observations: The availability of players was limited during the final game against Malaysia.]
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