Aide: Harsh lessons will spur Young Lions on

Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar believes playing against more experienced opponents in the S.League week in week out will aid his side’s continual development as they eye SEA Games gold. 

The developmental team has often drawn flak for less-than-desired results in their last two seasons under the tutelage of Aide – achieving just a total of 12 wins in 54 games.

However the former national captain is adamant that the tough lessons learnt had helped his boys mature over the years.

“The Courts Young Lions has always been about youth development thus it’s important for us to expose young players to tough opposition,” he said at the Young Lions’ season launch, which was held at the Singapore Sports Museum on Friday afternoon.

“The S.League platform has allowed us to achieve that aim because we’re playing against seasoned professionals on a regular basis. It may be difficult as seen from last season, but ultimately it will benefit this team.

“I’m proud that we improved as the season went on and we finished the year strongly to achieve tenth place.”

The quest to better last season’s placing will not be easy considering that top scorer Sahil Suhaimi has left to join the LionsXII, but former national defender Aide believes the returning Shahfiq Ghani is more than capable of filling the Sahil's boots.

“We all know Shahfiq’s talent – he has a good left foot and is one of the few players who can score from free kicks,” Aide said.

“Thus we need to maximize his potential. He didn’t have a good outing in the last SEA Games and he’s now taking steps to improve himself.

“Also he has been lacking games thus I got him back. With him getting more games and gaining back his form, it can only help this team.”

With the Young Lions targeting the SEA Games gold medal this June, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as well as its statutory board, Sport Singapore, have managed to negotiate with the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to grant special provision for seven players who are currently serving their full-time National Service.

These seven players will get time off their daily in-camp duties as well as extra leave this year to focus on their footballing commitments.

“I’m really thankful to MINDEF for generously granting our players time off, as well as MCCY and Sport Singapore for their efforts in making this possible,” Aide said.

“The [extra] leave has made it possible for them to travel with us to Turkey during pre-seaosn for two weeks. With all their support, it will go a long way to make sure these NS boys can train and be available for games.”

With the much-awaited biennial tournament kicking off in three months’ time, the coach wants his boys to translate the pressure into something positive.

“Every host want to win the tournament and I believe the boys are feeling it (the pressure) now,” he said.

“But we should be aiming to win the first game and then take one game at a time, so that we don’t feel the nerves.  I can say that they’re very motivated to do their best, especially that it’ll be the last SEA Games for about half of them.”

Photo: Shawn Lim/Football Association of Singapore