Lee Man Hon: Singapore football cannot rebuild overnight after consecutive failures

The former Singapore international speaks to Weixiang Lim, insisting the various national sides need to step up after the Young Lions' failed Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign but also calling for patience.

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The former Singapore Armed Forces Football Club and Tampines Rovers midfielder was part of the side Singapore side that won the 1994 Malaysia Cup, and surfaced last year to grant an interview in the wake of Singapore’s disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.

Though he had, by his own admission, been away from the local football scene for a number of years now, Lee was scathing of the Singapore Under-23s' performances.

Speaking to FourFourTwo, he said: “This SEA Games was special because it was held on home soil. My friend and ex-team-mate Aide Iskandar was also the coach of the team. I was actually rooting for them given this year’s team was drawn from all races.

The team has obviously under-performed. Looking at the way the team played, what do you think went wrong?

Honestly, I thought a lot of the players didn’t look ready.  You could see, from their body language and the way they played, that they were short on confidence. They couldn’t string more than four passes together. And in the crucial match against Indonesia which they had to win, they didn’t really take the initiative to attack.   

Is the Malaysian FA Cup more important than performing in the SEA Games on home soil during SG50?

The senior players like Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi didn’t turn up. These are players who play regularly for the senior national team. You would expect them to display higher levels of performance and be the leaders in the team. Sadly, they were outshone by some of the younger players.

The excuse may have been that they were tired and carrying injuries after playing a lot of games for the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League and the FA Cup. But if that was really the case, then they shouldn’t even have been in the SEA Games squad in the first place.

Why we are sending these ‘important’ players to play in the LionsXII is a strange situation to me. Which competition is more important? Is the Malaysian FA Cup more important than performing in the SEA Games on home soil during SG50 [Singapore’s 50th year of independence]?

And then when Faris was left out of the team in the game against Indonesia, everyone started to blame Aide. It’s really not fair to Aide. His hands were tied.