Like the previous three SEA Games matches, Aide Iskandar arrived at the post-match press conference late. But the writing was on the wall last night when the Young Lions coach arrived teary-eyed and sniffling after Singapore lost 1-0 to Indonesia and were booted out of the Games football competition.
In what was expected, the 40-year-old announced he was not only resigning as coach of Singapore’s under-23 squad, but quitting the Football Association of Singapore. He delivered a short speech thanking the FAS for their trust when they hired him in 2013 to take charge of the side preparing for the SEA Games in Singapore.
But it has been a painful campaign for Aide, wrought by a lucklustre 1-0 win over the Philippines on June 1, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Myanmar three days later, and struggling to keep their hopes alive with a 3-1 win over Cambodia on Monday (June 9).
A week before the start of the competition, he controversially dropped forward Iqbal Hussain, who had been a key figure in the under-23 side.
Summarising his two-year tenure, Aide said he tried to build a team for the Games but faced a lot of challenges along the way, including the loss of key players in striker Shahfiq Ghani and defender Ammirul Adli.
Thanking everyone who had supported him and the Young Lions, including Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, the FAS, Sports Singapore and the fans despite not posting “the best of results”.
Added Aide: “I am very proud of my boys, they gave their best and pushed to get the goal and equaliser even though we were a man down. This is something rare to see from a Singapore side.
“For your information, I just resigned and I have informed the players and told them the journey still has to go on for them as they are still young and they can only get better. I’ve also told them that failures can only make them stronger.
He ended the press conference saying that he had to go back to his family who “has been waiting for me for a very long time. I think it is best that I have to go back to them”.
Aide refused to take questions and left abruptly, leaving more questions about the state of football in Singapore.
This is not the first time he has quit a national post. In 2007, he resigned suddenly as captain of the national team before the start of Singapore’s crucial World Cup qualifying tie against Tajikistan. He was unhappy for being dropped from then coach Raddy Avramovic’s starting line-up in a previous match against Palestine.
Last night’s drama came after Singapore’s game was marred by the same issues that have been plaguing them: Mindless passes, silly tackles and shots that went everywhere but at goal.
The comedy of errors reached a climax in the 84th minute when Suria Prakash and Adam Swandi were floored after clashing with one another in an attempt to control a loose ball on the edge of the Indonesian 12-yard box.
The game was all but over for them a minute after the break when Indonesian playmaker Evan Diman Darmono sent a scorcher into the roof of the Singapore goal.
The dagger was plunged deeper 20 minutes later when Ho Wai Loon was sent off by South Korean referee Kim Kee-gon for a second bookable offence. It was an inept performance by a Singapore side that never had the quality to go far in the Games.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin issued a statement that read: “I can understand why Aide has made this decision at this point of time. Hopefully, after a few days’ rest, we can have a discussion with him and persuade him to change his mind.
“Regardless of how we have fared at the SEA Games, Aide is a good coach and has a long and bright future ahead of him.”