Football fans disappointed with Lions performance at AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup

SINGAPORE — Local football fans are up in arms, voicing their displeasure at the Singapore national football team’s performance in the recent AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, where the team was eliminated from Group B and failed to advance to the semi-finals.

The Lions won 3-2 and 2-0 against Myanmar and Laos, respectively, before they held Vietnam to a draw. In their final group match, they went down 4-1 to Malaysia and ended the tournament in third place behind Vietnam and Malaysia.

After their match against Malaysia, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) posted a thank you message to the fans who had returned to the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

“Thank you to all the fans who showed up last night and everyone who supported the Lions in this AFF Championship campaign – it was a disappointing result and we have to come back better,” said FAS on their Facebook.

The thread has since attracted nearly a thousand comments, and many have expressed interesting thoughts and opinions on Singapore football and the Singapore national team head coach Takayuki Nishigaya.

One netizen, Andrew Low, said that he had been reading up on Nishigaya’s coaching profile before he was hired as the Lions’ head coach.

“It seems that he has no international experience in being a coach of a senior team. In fact, he has never coached a senior team in any top or national league. He also doesn’t seem to have won anything with any team he was involved in. His biggest achievement seems to be coaching third division SC Sagamihara to 9th place, among 17 teams,” said Loh.

“The majority of his time in coaching is dedicated to coaching youth and university teams, such as being the head coach of third division Matsumoto Yamaga’s under-18 team, and being assistant coach to others. And his total experience as a Head Coach of an adult team is 3 years, coaching second division Mito Hollyhock, and third division SC Sagamihara?”

“The resume mentions no trophies, or titles he has won with any of the clubs he was involved in. None. Maybe I’m missing something, but can anyone fill me in on why the FAS chose him as the head coach for Singapore?”

A Malaysian, Naqib Ruslan decided to join in the conversation and shared, “Honest opinion from a Malaysian, you guys get the coach wrong. Who would hire a J3 coach for a national team?”

“Did not have a clue what he was doing. Singapore used to be a very fit side, that was your strong point. Even Duric time he was 38. But still fitter than our Malaysian player. Now most players looked undersized, except for the Fandi brothers.”

Another football fan, Kenny Poh feels that it is fine to be defensive, but he just could not accept the fact that players were losing ball possession too easily.

“If you are set up to play defensively, you play defensively, it’s not a shame to do that especially when you don’t have the attacking players available! So what went wrong? Giving away the ball cheaply in your own half, by playing lousy half hearted short passes like you are trying to thread one through into the opponent’s penalty box when you are actually nearer you own, and allow your opponent to repossess and mount a counter that close to your own penalty box,” shared Poh.

“When you want to play defensively, do it properly! Close down your opponent, be more physical and pump the ball out of danger! When you do not have enough talent, stop showing off those short defence splitting passes when you can’t do it. Pass to get out of danger, not to create danger for yourselves!” expressed Poh just like a true football fan.

‘Parry Lim Kopi’ brought up a good point. A succession plan in the football system, and he hopes that FAS reads the comments by the football fans as it shows that there are still local fans that care. That is why they still take time to voice out their opinion, although at times, the truth may hurt.

“There is no dressing room spirit. We had Fandi/Nazri passed down to Raffi Ali, Aide Iskandar, who passed it down to Indra, Noh Rahman, who then passed it down to Sharil Ishak / Isa Halim. It is eventually now passed down to Safuwan and Hariss. But who can we pass it to? There is no leadership transition,” expressed ‘Parry Lim Kopi.’

“And I hope FAS can take a hard look at the state of the team and league. If you read the comments, there are still many fans who care, many may criticise but that’s because they care. If you guys are not careful, one day the fans won’t even bother visiting the pages to comment. That’s when it is too late. Invest in a good coach. The Korean coach at LCS is a good example, they punched above their weight in the ACL. That’s what investment does for you.”

The Lions have won four AFF Championship titles. Their first in 1998, winning it under Barry Whitebread with a solitary goal by R. Sasikumar against Vietnam. Singapore then enjoyed three titles with former national team coach Radojko Avramovic, in 2004, 2007, and 2012.

Since then, the furthest they have gone in the tournament was the semi-finals when they hosted it in 2020. They held a 1-1 draw with Indonesia in the first leg, and the second leg ended 2-2. The Indonesians advanced to the finals as they added two more goals in extra time, winning 5-3 on aggregate.

Back to the current competition in 2022. Singapore’s national football team, number 160 in the FIFA world ranking, did not have the best preparation as they faced misfortunes even before their first match against Myanmar on 24 December.

The FAS confirmed that the team would be without key striker Ikhsan Fandi and experienced midfielder Adam Swandi due to a knee injury sustained in a friendly match against Maldives days before the start of the regional tournament.

Despite the setback, Ilhan Fandi (pictured below), Shah Shahiran, and Shawal Anuar scored a goal each for the Lions to pick up valuable points in their opening match 3-2 win against Myanmar at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Photo: Football Association of Singapore

Although Singapore maintained its perfect record in their second match, the team struggled to find the back of the net in their 2-0 win against Laos, ranked 187 in the world. Irfan Fandi netted in the first half and Shawal Anuar added the Lions’ second during the second-half injury time.

Back to their homeground in the third match, the Lions went on the defensive against tournament favourite Vietnam and managed to hold out for a precious goalless draw. But Singapore lost another key player in the match as Ilhan stumbled to the ground clutching his thigh mid-way through the first half and was later replaced before half-time.

Heading into the final Group B match against Malaysia, Singapore sat firmly in second place on seven points with leaders Vietnam. The Lions only need to avoid a defeat against Malaysia, which is in third place with six points.

But the Malayan Tigers had other ideas as they came out on the offensive from the get-go at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, winning 4-1 against the bewildered Lions. Faris Ramli was the scorer for the visitors.

The last time Singapore suffered a heavy defeat to arch-rival Malaysia in the AFF Championship was in 2002 when former technical director Jan Poulsen was at the helm. The team lost 4-0 to Malaysia in their first match. He was sacked after the tournament due to poor results as the Lions failed to advance from the group stage.


Send in your scoops to 

– Advertisement –


Business Asia
the authorBusiness Asia

Leave a Reply