CLUBS in Singapore’s embattled S.League are already braced for funding cuts from next season – but one club chairman has suggested disbanding the Garena Young Lions.
According to The New Paper, at a meeting with Football Association of Singapore (FAS) officials last Friday, one club chairman called for the dissolution of the Young Lions.
His argument was that the Young Lions players, who make up the core of the Singapore national under-21 team, would benefit more from competing for places at other S.League clubs.
The Young Lions were formed in 2002 and first competed in the S.League the following year.
The aim was to improve Singapore’s chances of success at the SEA Games, which became an age-group competition from 2001, while building a stronger national senior team.
But the men’s senior team has their lowest ever FIFA ranking – 171st – while Singapore have been knocked out in the group phase of the SEA Games tournament five teams since the Young Lions were formed.
The Young Lions finished 3rd in the S.League in both 2004 and 2006, but have been in steady decline in recent years.
This season they could become the first team in the S.League’s 21-year history to go a whole league season without winning a single game.
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After 24 of 34 games, they are bottom of the nine-table league with three points.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong acknowledged the lack of quality Singaporean players coming through S.League teams – including the Young Lions – was discussed on Friday.
He told The New Paper: “There has been a constant statement that the league has not been a good platform to produce better national players.
“That’s accounted for, perhaps, the performance of the national team.”
The Young Lions have finished bottom of the S.League table in two of the past four seasons, which has led critics to question whether they are justifying their existence as a professional club side.
But FAS technical director Michel Sablon, who has been credited with playing a key role in the regeneration of Belgian football, has warned against the implications of scrapping the team.
“It would be a very, very bad decision for Singapore football,” said Sablon, who signed a contract extension to 2019 earlier this year.
“If we send the players to the clubs and then they don’t play, we would lose a whole generation of players.
“The Young Lions have given them an opportunity to play at a level which is a little too bit high for them, yes, but it is good for them to learn.”