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Plenty of positives for defeated cubs

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Irfan Fandi (right) set the 25th Canon Lion City Cup alight with a series of breathtaking displays, despite the NFA U16 team bowing out of the tournament at the group stage (photo by Jervis Mun/SSC).

Singapore, 13 June 2013 – Despite working hard to earn a 2-1 win in Group A against Eintracht Frankfurt on the Jalan Besar pitch last night, Singapore’s U-16 boys ultimately missed out on a semi-final berth in the 25th Canon Lion City Cup.

The dreaded final whistle from the match official was met with crestfallen faces from Singapore’s battling cubs, but while failing to reach the showpiece final like the last two editions of the tournament may superficially seem like Robin Chitrakar’s boys have failed when it really mattered, there were plenty of positives to be taken out of their performances against Arsenal and Frankfurt.

Like father, like son

It doesn’t take the most experienced football pundit to tell that in Irfan Fandi, Singapore has a future star in the making. From the mazy run  that left a trail of Arsenal defenders in his wake on opening day to the 2 goals which were so clinically taken, Singapore's new number 17 instantly brought back flashes of his father’s brilliance in a Lions 1994 shirt.

Standing at 1.80m and having put on plenty of muscle mass since leaving for Spain 2 months ago, Irfan typifies the modern day football striker that every defender fears. Indeed he could well be the catalyst of a new generation of talented Singapore footballers to ignite our dying football spirit.

Eye catching

In fairness it wasn’t just Irfan, but Adam Hakeem Nazri and Thaniyath Vishaal as well as the entire NFA U16 team who caught the eye,as the cubs showed plenty of conviction and proved that they could indeed go toe-to-toe with supposedly superior counterparts from Europe if given the right opportunity to develop and learn.  

The biggest question to ask now is “where do we go from here”? While the number of local footballers going abroad for short stints may have increased, until there is a well thought solution to enable our talents to have extended stays to maximise their talents beyond a few short months, we may ultimately arrive back at the very same problem. 

This would also inadvertently re-ignite the age old question of national service. Should these boys, if deemed good enough, be given the chance to pursue their careers abroad and serve our nation in different capacities? 

While the results of this Lion City Cup may prove otherwise, I for one believe that there is plenty of good to be taken away from this tournament. And with more talent set to be unearthed, Singapore football may finally reach back to fever pitch and rediscover the Kallang roar in a few years time when our boys form the senior national squad in front of a packed Sports Hub. Well, I can dream can’t I?    

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