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Making Up For The Lost Time

"This was for me the hardest night of international football in my career. The two players on my side were like horses, running up and down, and I didn't expect that (Almawas) was that fast, or that (Al Shibbli) was that good."

Those words expressed in the papers by defender Shakir Hamzah after Singapore's 2-1 defeat to Syria last month came as a shock to me.

"I didn't expect ... was that fast, or that ... was that good." were those keywords tersely summarized by the 23-year-old on both Mahmoud Almawas and Alaa Al Shibbli who rugged him that night at Kallang.

Shakir Hamzah (right) got it past Japan's Keisuke Honda (4)
Shakir Hamzah (right) got it past Japan's Keisuke Honda (4)

Moreover, it wasn't the first time we faced the Syrians whom we narrowly lost to weeks ago on the road which was why I was taken aback by those quotes.

To be honest, I would never anticipate thoughts like "didn't expect ... was that fast ... was that good" to be said after an international competitive match by a player representing his country when adequate preparation should be in place for that kind of intensity.

And when those words were uttered, what could they be interpreted as? To say the lack of adequate preparation for the recent World Cup Qualifiers could be something hard to accept when there was not much shuffling in recent selections that gelling up shouldn't be much of an issue.

THE INVISIBLE GAP ...

Yet, I am more inclined to the suggestion by some that the lack of sparring matches against quality opponents is one of the factors that triggered those thoughts from Shakir.

It is widely acknowledged the huge gap between domestic and international football that many players who may thrive domestically had found the transition hard when earning their caps on a bigger stage (just think hard to recall who were those called up to play a few games before diminished from the radar).

Jamil Ali (left) has been consistent at a point being overlooked, why?
Jamil Ali (left) has been consistent at a point being overlooked, why?

Part of the Strategic Plan unveiled in 2010 is "to expose our National Teams against the Top 15 in Asia and Top 50 in the world where possible" and there was a time it was hardly possible when the National Stadium was not ready yet to attract any marquee team to play against the Lions.

Just when the cornerstone of the Sports Hub is ready to their arms open, several well-documented controversies surrounded the playing surface which hogged the sending out of those invitations.

Imaging the tourist dollars revenue if we often versus teams like Japan
Imaging the tourist dollars revenue if we often versus teams like Japan

And when we are ready to do so, news revealed the standoff (source:1, 2) between the stadium operators and leading international media rights company MP & Silva who are planning to revive the Merlion Cup to allow Singapore national team to compete against some notable sides.

QUESTIONS ... QUESTIONS ...

If that breakdown eventually sees the Merlion Cup be shifted out of Singapore, as reported, some questions in regards to the partnership inked between FAS and MP & Silva (MPS) in February would have to be asked.
  • If that agreement had granted MP & Silva any exclusive right to negotiate on behalf of FAS on staging the Merlion Cup, which took its name from the uniquely Singapore icon?
  • If so, does that mean FAS does not have any say in the negotiation between MPS and Sports Hub over the staging of the said tournament which prompted the shift of tournament venue outside Singapore in a deadlock that can't be resolved, as mentioned?
High rental costs of the National Stadium, as it may seem, to be the stumbling block in the ongoing wrangling but let us not forget it is still a new and prominent landmark of this country that shall be utilized in boosting the tourism industry by inviting some big name teams to face the Lions in the new arena which wouldn't mind hosting them given the FIFA international dates are already made available for the next three years, thus allowing some adequate planning ahead in aspects like marketing, drumming up of awareness, etc.

MPS-FAS linked up in February 2015
MPS-FAS linked up in February 2015

There must be somewhere things can work out
There must be somewhere things can work out

Supposedly, the schedules of these international friendlies are already made known in advance to players, hope it will motivate them to prove their worth to the national selectors who might want to try out some fresh faces in these non-competitive fixtures to accumulate some exposure (perhaps some FIFA ranking points too).

After all, isn't the time to make up for the lost time?

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