Asian Games Absentees: Philippines and Singapore skip Asiad Football

The Asiad provided us a spectacle of sports particularly in football where we saw a lot of upsets, surprises and a lot of improvements specifically with Southeast Asian nations joining the tournament. But problem is, we missed out two powerhouses in the said tournament because of their absence.  

Being an avenue for success and improvement for the upcoming 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, the 2018 Asian games featured Southeast Asian main contenders Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and promising nations Timor Leste, Myanmar and Laos.

However, two household names gone missing in the said competition. 2019 AFC Asian Cup debutants Philippines and four-time AFF Suzuki Cup champions Singapore missed out the Asiad due to some inevitable things revolving around their federations. We look into the reason of their exclusion in the Asiad and its effect towards the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup.

SNOC Barred Singapore U-23 ahead of the Asiad

Every time a sporting event is about to commence, participating nations want to send the best of the best in each discipline for high hopes winning a medal for the country. This has been the case for Fandi Ahmad and his boys as they were not allowed by the Singapore National Olympic Committee to compete in the Asian Games.

This has been the first time in over a decade that Singapore did not feature in the said football tournament. To be fair with Football Association of Singapore, they have exerted maximum efforts to appeal the case of the U-23 side but the requirements of the SNOC is stringent enough to not let them fly to Jakarta.

The criteria they were judged upon by the SNOC is for them to match the top-six results from the previous games, or to beat an opponent ranked at least sixth in the region. They saw a glimmer of chance when FAS confirmed an international friendly with Myanmar. It was a must-win game for Fandi’s boys as their past friendly with Indonesia saw them get run over by the Garudas three goals to nil.

The international friendly between Singapore and Myanmar was scheduled on the 20th of June, few weeks short of the Asian Games. Looking to produce a positive result, they went out raring to go at the Bishan Stadium however, they were defeated two goals to nil, shutting every open door towards the Asiad.

Despite not qualifying for the Asian games, Singapore still saw this as an opportunity to prepare for the AFC U-23 Championship qualification next year, the 2019 SEA Games and the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup. Although that gives them more time to prepare for the upcoming competitions, it’s still an opportunity missed for the Lions as neighbours Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam have participated in the continental tournament and impressed as well, making them a step ahead of Singapore for the upcoming Suzuki Cup.

Philippines Suffered the Same Fate as Singapore

In a country where football doesn’t seem to be as popular as basketball or volleyball, the Philippines always get a stick not only from their Southeast Asian neighbors but also from their fellow countrymen. Also, the focus needed doesn’t seem to bee provided to the young guns of the Philippines as most of the attention has been provided to the senior squad.

The AFF U-16 Championship has been a testament for the teen Azkals as they haven’t won a single game and got drubbed by other countries. Hoping to reclaim the pride of the country, an appearance from the U-23 side should be a welcome sight in the Asiad.

Instead of seeing the U-23 squad being sent to Jakarta, no news or updates about them surfaced although one thing was certain, the Philippines did not participate in the Asian Games.

According to Philippine Football Federation General Secretary Attorney Ed Gastanes in a statement via SMS, “The Asian Games Task Force (headed by the Philippine Olympic Committee officials) did not approve sending (a team) in football, pursuant to their adopted policy that in case of team sports for the 2018 Asian Games, the Philippines must be in the Top 4 in (the Asian Region) for the sports’ participation in 2018 Asian Games to be approved.

“(The) PFF asked that they be allowed to send men’s and women’s football (squads) but the POC denied the proposal.”

Hence, with such policy, the Philippine Football Federation has been given no choice but to focus their efforts geared towards the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Azkals’ debut in the AFC Asian Cup next year. A justifiable reason, but it could’ve been part of their preparation for the country as well especially that the regional tournament is just two months away. Nevertheless, the country has opted for an intensive training camp in Bahrain where they are scheduled for two friendly matches with Bahrain national team.

Although this will be a bitter pill to swallow for Philippines and Singapore, they are now a step behind their toughest competitors in the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia pulled off over-the-top performances in the 2018 Asian Games.