Kadir Yahaya is deeply saddened.
He believes he is from an era when playing with the Singapore flag on your chest actually meant something, that national pride mattered, something that Lions both young and old felt along with every other footballer who did not get the opportunity to don the shirt.
The 47-year-old is perhaps one of the brightest football minds on Singapore touchlines now.
Down the right flank of Singapore sides of old, no one needed to remind him to give 100 per cent for his country.
He accepts that times have changed and his voice dropped to a sombre tone when he suggested that money is the only way he believes is possible to make the Singapore jersey mean something again.
Kadir, who guided Saint Joseph’s Institution to their first title in 30 years after just four years at the helm, said: “We have to put perks in front of the national players.
“If not, we are in danger of having to play the qualifiers to make it to the main Suzuki Cup tournament in the future, with teams like Brunei, East Timor and Laos.
“The matter is serious. It seems like there’s no motivation, pressure or challenge for players to want to be in the national team. Part of the problem is pride – that’s missing – and I feel we must increase the stakes of being a national player.
“I don’t know how else we can do this except pay the players who are in the national team.”
Kadir suggested supplementing monthly income of national players on an decreasing quantum, based on their international experience, perhaps $4,000 for those with 70 caps and above, $2,000 for those with 50 and on a sliding scale for those with fewer.
He said: “To have to use money is a little sad, but you need some sort of carrot and I don’t see any other ideas on this.
“Maybe this is how we need to inspire this generation of players who seem to have lost the desire to play for the flag. But we must do something.”
The Lions failed to survive the group stage of the 2014 Suzuki Cup despite being the defending champions. Many are predicting a similar failure in the Philippines, where they play their opening match against the hosts tomorrow.
If Singapore fare the worst out of the eight teams in the tournament, they could face the ignominy of having to play through a qualifying competition to earn the right to play in the main draw.
SLAP IN THE FACE
This will be a slap in the face of a team who have won the Asean trophy four times, a record matched only by Thailand.
The last time the Lions had to qualify for the main draw of an Asean tournament was in 1997, but they went on to win the 1998 Tiger Cup for the first time.
“There has been a lot of talk about how we need to get our grassroots, National Football League and women’s football – our whole ecosystem – but all that is election talk,” he said, of the comments made by some in the football fraternity in the lead-up to the Football Association of Singapore election that is expected to take place in the next few months.
“The national team have to be the main priority, because if they fail, who will support all those longer-term targets?
“We’re paying the price in the national team now for things we did before (like player development), but the national team have to be the main priority in the short term,” he said.
“We must do it and we must do it now, before we fall to the bottom of Asean and have to challenge against the likes of Brunei and East Timor.”
Source: The New Paper