Let’s Disband The Young Lions | Khairul Amri, Please Be More Sensitive

Photo: Great Eastern - Hyundai S.League

Chris Peng
Guest Contributor
Blogger at A Home United F.C.'s Fan's Perspectives

Guest Commentary: Great week for Tampines, poor moment for Young Lions.

What a week it has been for Tampines Rovers and it’s star striker Khairul Amri. He scored in the 68th and 72nd minute vs Felda United. After a matter of days he scored with virtually the last kick of the match, rendering the Young Lions pointless with the match winner. Tampines’ resilience is to be lauded.

Photo: Garena Young Lions

What a season it has been for the Young Lions. They were tipped to be wooden spoonist and didn’t let that prophecy down when they suffered 5 goal defeats to Home United and Albirex, not a huge shame as their opponents are title contenders while the Young Lions are just a bunch of developing youngsters without a single senior player to their name. I felt that they have made marked improvements subsequently, losing by no more than 2 goals versus their next 5 opponents. I also felt that their performance was especially credible versus two traditional giants. They led 3-1 versus the warriors , only to let themselves down by conceding 3 goals within 8 minutes. They were also inching towards a massive point vs Tampines Rovers, going down to a last minute goal by Khairul Amri. So they are making improvements, everything is good, right?

Break up the Young Lions.

Hardly. I don’t get how will they improve by playing against teams with better players on a weekly basis. I get it that it is meant to be a rite of  passage for the boys, in preparation for the 2017 Sea Games in Kuala lumpur. Are our Asean opponents as old or as weathered as our seasoned S-League teams? If not, what good does playing in the S-League as one team achieve? Stop pitting boys against men.

Here are some suggestions. Inaction isn’t helping anyone.

Split them among S-League Clubs, play even matches on a weekly basis.

We might as well split them among the S-League clubs, with the stipulation that at least three players younger than 21 get some match time on a weekly basis. Sure, it’s brute force. But we’ll have to put the players to that test when they are teamed up with more seasoned players to really see who can stand the tide of time. S-League teams are more even in strength with a mix of Senior National players, foreigners and regular Singaporeans. If we throw 3-5 Young Lions to each team, they will be able to learn from their seniors and be able to play even matches versus other S-League Clubs. This method doesn’t ensure uniformity in age, just in standards. Don’t we do better versus realistic opponents? If we need to train our boys, let’s do a tag team. Men with boys vs Men with boys.

Photo: Garena Young Lions

This is not a new suggestion at all, it’s frequently thrown out as people fear that the quality of the league will be worsened with young players forcefully added to teams. Shahrin Saberin didn’t become good playing with the Young Lions this season. He became good because Coach Aw and Coach Aidil from Home United gave him a chance with the senior squad last season. Perhaps if we force S-League clubs to give youths more of a chance, we can unearth more gems such as Saberin, Irfan and Amiruldin Asraf. The S-League clubs can consider it a form of national service to work with young players even if they can’t find the next Fandi.

Spread them across the Prime League, at least they are playing versus other young men.

Failing which, send all the young players evenly to the respectively Prime League teams and let the young men slog it out among themselves. The standard of the games will certainly be lower than playing in the S-League but at least the youthful exuberance will be fully displayed during Prime League games. It’s just a league when boys play against boys. They will be playing against fellow boys from Asean countries during the Sea Games right?

The Utopia. A regional Asean Prime League. SEA Games lite on a weekly basis.

Is either of the above mentioned methods ideal when it comes to giving our boys the best exposure and training in preparation for the Sea Games? Hardly. Since the Sea Games feature the elite boys versus the elite boys, an ideal scenario is to have each Asean Country send out one or two teams and have the 10 or so teams filled up to the brim with the best young talents each country has to offer duke it out Home and Away on a weekly basis. Is this feasible? No. It will be a complete logistical nightmare. That’s why it’s but a pipe dream.

Our League is very poor in terms of monetary returns, we might as well make it more meaningful as part of the production chain towards producing the next prodigy. The next prodigy should be within our Young Lions team if the selectors did a good job, right? I really doubt he will emerge in the current boys versus men situation.

Grass roots and semi-pro football in Belgium is all about unearthing young talents and look how far it has got them. Michel Sablon is with us right now, perhaps he can develop the youths better if they are better spread across different teams, or at least be playing with teams of a similar standard or age group.

Why, Amri, why?

Another side effect of keeping the Young Lions together is that their morale takes a battering on a weekly basis. Football is as much a game of mental fortitude and confidence as it is a physical battle. They can’t be feeling good, losing 7 games in a row. Their last defeat versus Tampines Rovers might have been the most painful result of them all, losing via a goal scored in the 94th minute,  scored by their former Captain and main man who  went celebrating in an amok fashion. Stripping his shirt in wild abandon. He also got a second yellow card for his troubles.

Of course Amri is entitled to celebrate, it ended up as a great week for him and his club, both locally and in the Asean stage. But did he really need to throw common sense to the gutters by celebrating in such a manner?

Photo: Garena Young Lions

His opponents  rightfully hold him in high regards. He led them from the front last season as one of their over aged players. He’s indisputably the republic’s number 1 striker and had a trophy laden career with club and country. For the young Lions, it’s painful enough losing in such a fashion, at this time frame to a player they held closely to their hearts as a role model. Khairul Amri didn’t need to rub it in by celebrating like this.  A great week for him, yes. Did he score in the Champion’s league or the World Cup? Hardly.

Amri, you are a senior National player. The boys you have just beaten are just boys, i understand that football is a game of emotion and you were just letting yourself loose. But practicing restraint and sensitivity is an element of human decency. They are not just your opponents, they are also your ex-team mates and fledgling young players you need to help groom for the future. A muted celebration would have been a lot more appropriate. Keep your sheer joy within your dressing room. Let the Young Lions leave the pitch with dignity.

They earnt it by keeping a clean sheet in the regulation time, didn’t they?

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