White Swans’ coach on the defensive with regards to his team’s failings against lesser opponents, while Robin Chitrakar leaves Jalan Besar Stadium with mixed emotionsHis lack of command of the English Language means that he has to be accompanied by his translator during each post-match media conference. And while certain exchanges could easily be lost in translation, a few things were crystal clear from Koichi Sugiyama’s post-mortem of the 1-1 draw against Courts Young Lions.
Specifically, he is disappointed at only earning a solitary point against lowly opponents who had been organized and had defended well throughout the night. With his trademark steely demeanour which however fails to mask his obvious disappointment, he said, “My players did their best but I have to say that I cannot be happy with just one point. We [Albirex Niigata] go into each game with the aim of winning all three points.”
His comment resonates with the reaction of his players at the full-time whistle as shaking heads were aplenty and looks of despair and disappointment were clearly etched on each of their faces. Many within the local footballing fraternity would have predicted the White Swans to brush aside cellar-dwellers such as Geylang United and CYL, but they have failed on both counts in the mere space of two weeks.
When questioned if this shortcoming could be attributed to the mentality of his players, Koichi Sugiyama retorted, “There is nothing wrong with the mentality of my players. Instead, we failed to win because CYL played very well and their defence was compact and well organized.”
And similar to the match against Geylang United when he complained about Bedok Stadium’s bumpy pitch, Koichi Sugiyama found time to blame Jalan Besar Stadium’s pitch for his side’s failings. He remarked, “The pitch was very slippery [due to rain prior to the match] and my players had trouble dealing with it.”
When reminded that a slippery pitch would have aided his side’s trademark passing game, he replied, “Yes, it is true that a slippery and fast pitch is actually good for us but we took too much time to adapt to it.”
While the White Swans’ coach left Jalan Besar Stadium clearly disappointed with the result, Robin Chitrakar was understandably left with mixed emotions. He commented, “I think we did well enough to get all three points but we are happy to settle for one against a good team.”
None of the journalist present in the room would have disagreed with the former national player’s assessment as his young team more than held their own against the Japanese outfit and were unlucky not to have scored as they piled on the pressure towards the end of the game. In direct contrast to the White Swans, CYL’s performances of late have been much better than their early season woes.
When quizzed on what has been the secret to the recent improvement, he replied, “It is as simple as a case of us playing with much more confidence and with the belief to win matches. At the start of the season, the squad was starting to gel but you can see now that we are shaping up very well.”
And if his young charges inculcate this new-found belief all the way throughout the remaining of the season, not only could their early season failings prove to be a distant memory but Singapore football could also be on its way towards unearthing real footballing gems such as Shahfiq Ghani and Hafiz Sujad.