SINGAPORE: Several coaches have questioned Singapore Under-19s head coach Robbie Servais’ commitment, after it emerged that he had left the team as they were preparing for the ASEAN Football Federation U-19 championship.
The Dutchman had taken up an opportunity to work for Australia’s national team in the World Cup under an arrangement that was agreed between the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon and his Australian counterpart, Eric Adams.
Servais only returned to the Cubs a day before they were due to fly off to Indonesia for the tournament. The Singapore U-19s suffered heavy losses to Thailand, Indonesia and Laos, earning just one point in five matches.
The 5-0 thrashing to Laos was what drew attention to the issue, with former Singapore international R Sasikumar telling Channel NewsAsia earlier this week that it was an "embarrassment" and a "major issue".
FAS had said in a press release before the tournament that the team were missing some of their better players, but still had "adequate experience". On Friday, Fox Sports Asia reported that the Laos team had been put together just five weeks before the start of the tournament.
Queries sent by Channel NewsAsia to FAS at the start of the week have gone unanswered so far.
Steve Darby, who has had stints with Singapore Premier League club Home United and the Laos national team, said he was surprised" that Servais was allowed to leave.
"If you are contracted to have a major role in a team, such as head coach, the professional thing to do is to complete the task or resign and undertake the other task," the 63-year-old told Channel NewsAsia.
"If there was plenty of time before the AFF tournament then I can see the benefits to the individual coach and possible benefits to FAS if he completed a report and shared it with the local coaches.
"However, the timing appears to be the key issue here … I am surprised that permission was given as it must have an effect on the U-19 team. If it didn’t then he wasn’t being effective as a coach.
"You can’t have it both ways accept praise for success and avoid blame for defeat."
Aide Iskandar, who was previously in the Singapore national setup as head coach of the Young Lions and Singapore U-23 team, said he was appalled by it.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Aide wrote that "a dignified coach will stick with his team whether the team wins, lose or draw through any competition and his tenure as a coach".
"When you make a commitment to develop young players, please do it with your fullest commitment and integrity! Don’t just do it for your own personal development to get somewhere!
"I may not be the best person to comment but at least I have the integrity to do my best for the youths during my time as a youth coach," Aide added.
SERVAIS SHOULDN’T BE BLAMED FOR RESULTS
But one coach said he was puzzled by the negative reaction towards the whole development and said he was disappointed by it.
Alex Weaver, who led Warriors FC to the S.League title in 2015 and is now with Switzerland’s FC Lausanne-Sport, said it was imperative to look at the big picture.
"It’s about asking the question, ‘What is best for Singapore football medium-long term? Is it an under-19 tournament now or what Robbie can give to these players and coaches for the rest of their careers as a result of what he gains from working at a World Cup?," asked Englishman Weaver.
He’s still a Singapore coach working for the FAS to improve the development for the young players, he’s going to come back and share his experience (with the rest)."
"It’s the World Cup, where the best players are competing. he is able to bring all that back and share that knowledge and experience which will benefit them for the rest of the career. But I think people other than FAS and Sablon are looking as though it will only benefit Robbie Servais, as if it’s some vacation he’s taking."
Weaver added that the poor results in the tournament should not be pinned on Servais solely.
"It’s not because Robbie went to work with Australia in the World Cup. It’s because of what happened seven, eight years ago – youth development is a whole process that takes a lot of time," Weaver explained.
"He’s not a club coach where he gets to spend every day with the players … the quality he gets to work now is the result of what the previously technical director and youth coaches were doing years ago. An U-19 coach can only influence so much within a 12-month period."
The questions that should be asked then, according to Weaver, is why did FAS fail to publicise about having a coach who was going to work at the World Cup.
"Knowing the bad reputation it has at the moment, which for me is unfortunate, I would have been all over this," Weaver offered.
"Maybe if they had done that, it might have influenced people’s opinions. The fact that they didn’t say anything maybe has played a part … they should be proud of him."
That thought was echoed by Darby as well.
"I agree development is long term. But it is measured by results of teams or individual players progressing to higher levels – neither seems to be happening at the moment in Singapore."
"I would be interested to see or hear the rationale behind releasing the coach with the AFF tournament so close," said Darby.