By Suresh Nair

Congratulations to Malaysia for making the cut to qualify for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup Under 23 Finals in China next January. This will surely come as a massive boost before next month’s SEA (South East Asia) Games in Kuala Lumpur where the Harimaus can now seriously fancy their chances for the gold medal.

The spirit of “Malaysia Boleh!” prevails…
For Singapore, the Young Lions salvaged a face-saving 4-1 win over Brunei to avoid returning home with the wooden spoon.

It’s time to seriously get back to the drawing boards, over the next three weeks, before the SEA Games…and please, for heaven’s sake, shut up and don’t make any impossible-to-achieve predictions.

French coach Richard Tardy made it clear to the media that he will take “full responsibility” for the dismal show in Yangon, Myanmar, after going down to Myanmar (0-2) and Australia (0-7).


Does this mean he will step down graciously or get another step-up for another shot at the SEA Games?

Seriously, going on immediate form and team-temperament and definitely not on luck, the best four semi-finalists for the SEA Games: (Group A) Malaysia & Myanmar (Group B) Thailand & Vietnam.

The FAS (Football Association of Singapore) must be honest and realistic to the die-hard Lions fans. Newly-elected FAS President Lim Kia Tong, coming on to his 100-days in office, must also take full responsibility and make no secret: We’re really, really lagging behind the Asean neighbours, as recent age-group results show. You cannot hide behind the big-number defeats!

So, please keep expectations at decent levels, don’t be cocky and not build castles in the air. The SEA Games is no “masak masak”. If you’re not up to the mark, even parking two double-deckers in front of goal will not help.

Hand to heart, let me say, that we’ve a lot of catching up to do, technically and tactically in homework, and on-the-field, especially in personal and team-fitness, which is clearly below regional standards of a pressure-cooker 90-minute match.

Please let the fans know the real serious FAS predicament.


The honest truth, which must come out the lips of Lim Kia Tong: Don’t expect real regional football results over the next two or three years. Say this sincerely to the fans: For every three steps the Lions take, the neighbours are taking nine steps, even including Papua New Guinea, who were hiding behind the football bushes just a decade ago.

The Lee Kuan Yew philosophy has always been to say it straight, sincere and seriously in no uncertain terms. Please, FAS, please don’t take the die-hard fans for another, another, another silly ride!

Once again, congratulations Malaysia, you’ve shown positive steps in the making to be a regional football power with a young promising crop of players.

Under (coach) Datuk Ong Kim Swee, the Harimaus unexpectedly topped Group H of the qualifying round by overcoming 10-man Mongolia 2-0 on Sunday to end their campaign with a dream-come-true six points.

• Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has covered regional football news for over three decades


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