Duric: Scrap the LionsXII and Young Lions, not the S.League

Former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric believes disbanding both developmental squads and concentrating on the S.League is the way forward for local football.

We need to go out there and bring in more football people into the league and the FA. We need some ex-footballers to come in and speak the football language

- Aleksandar Duric

This comes after the long-standing battle between the S.League and two developmental squads for the best young talent came to a head during a meeting between the Football Association of Singapore and club chairmen on Monday night.

The consensus between the chairmen is that the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions have siphoned away the best local players, which resulted in the decline of the league over the past few years.

Speaking to FourFourTwo via a phone interview, Duric did not mince his words on this issue – calling for the two teams to be scrapped and more emphasis to be put on the S.League.

“It’s simple – we all know football here is in a big decline and we can’t hide that fact,” he said.

“Everything can be seen from the results of our national teams this year and my thought is that we should disband these two teams.

“You can see this Under-23 side (Young Lions); they don’t learn anything together except losing repeatedly. Why not separate the team, send three to four players to each local club and get them playing more football with experienced players?

“We’ve to realise that we’re a small country where there is no big pool of players. Honestly (for the LionsXII) I do not see the use of sending a group of players to play in another country. It’s only about the nostalgic feeling of bringing back the 70s and 80s, but there’s nothing else. We can’t even have full stadiums for the MSL (Malaysian Super League) games.”

 “The LionsXII is a project that’ll never work, so it’s time to stop looking at our neighbour’s door, and start focusing on our own league and trying to make it better. I’m worried if this continues, we won’t have any league within the next few years.”

Aleksandar Duric retired in 2014 after a 16-year S.League career. Photo: WX Lim

One of the suggestions bandied around was to close down the entire S.League and focus resources on three to four Singapore representative teams competing in competitions like the MSL and the mooted Asean Super League - something which Duric hopes will not materialise.

“I hope that doesn’t happen really,” said the 44-year-old, who had played 16 S.League seasons before hanging up his boots at the end of last year.

“I will not give up on the S.League because it is the future for the kids. What we need now is to revamp the league and have more young boys to stepping in to play because there are too many foreign players around at the moment.

“That’ll be a better idea in the long term than focusing on that three or four teams and carry on supplying them our best players.  We have to focus on getting our league back to where it was during 1996 to 2001. I hope to see the government giving more help and pumping in more money, because money talks in sport.”

Getting the right people in

S.League CEO Lim Chin was reportedly frustrated with the proceedings on Monday night and suggested he might step down if the FAS stayed the course. Duric empathises with him and believes local football can only prosper if things change at the very top.

“I can understand fully why he felt that way, especially when he has so many decisions blocked and can’t do anything,” he said.

“I honestly believe the existing people have stayed for too long and it’s time for some changes. We need to go out there and bring in more football people into the league and the FA. We need some ex-footballers to come in and speak the football language, try to change something and bring in fans to the stadiums.”

Last but not least, Duric wishes to see more local clubs and matches to be scheduled on weekends.

“The current format of 10 clubs is okay, but we need less foreign teams,” he said.

“I don’t see much difference from them and the local clubs. I would rather see the likes of Tanjong Pagar (United), Woodlands (Wellington) and Sembawang (Rangers). Also we need to revamp the timing; we can’t play every single day of the week.

“Nobody comes to watch when you play on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and somebody needs to realise this. I understand there’s the English Premier League (EPL) on weekends but you can put games at 6pm and let people choose. If EPL matches can kick off at lunch time, I don’t see why we can’t play at 6pm. It’s time we stop these excuses.”