Singapore and Malaysia to field joint team at 2013 SEA Games

A combined Singapore-Malaysia football team will reportedly take part in the 2013 SEA Games as part of plans for closer cooperation
After the successful re-integration of LionsXII in the Malaysia League and Cup, following an 18-year absence for a Singapore team in the Malaysian football competitions, plans are now reportedly underway for the next step in football development.

Sources have revealed that there had allegedly been provisions put in place to allow for a joint venture at the age group level in the initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in July of 2011.

Inspired by the success of the LionsXII and the fan fare surrounding the historic Great Britain team at the London Olympics in 2012, Singapore and Malaysia will field a joint Under-23 team at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) to be held in Myanmar in December.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the initiative stated: "The MOU was signed to bring closer cooperation between the two nations and help both nations move forward in football development."

"With the LionsXII gaining fan interest and making headway in the Malaysia League and Cup, I think it's clear, that the way forward is to go back to where we started from.

"Our S.League wasn't bringing in the fans and generating interest, so we decided to re-join the Malaysian competitions, and now that the Singapore national team seems to have hit a brick wall, we think it's time to talk about merging our national teams too."

Although it's unclear if the team will be deemed legitimate under AFC or Fifa rules, there is believe that the SEA Games has enough autonomy to move forward with the plan.

A Malaysian insider also pointed out that such a joint team will also spell greater cooperation between the two nations in other aspects beyond that of sports

"We have been talking about working closer together and this might be a good start," said the insider.

"I'm not sure how the fans will react to it but I think the older fans will like it more as they would remember a time when the two countries were together."

A new coach will reportedly be brought in to head the team, with no clear front-runners named. The team will comprise of approximately equal number of players from both countries, with the starting line-up determined purely on merit.

When asked about the fan reaction to this, the Singaporean source added: "The Great Britain team had a lot of naysayers even from the start but in the end it happened and the fans got behind the players when it came to the Olympics and no one mentioned it ever again. So maybe we'll see something similar, but [I don't know], and we just have to give it a try."

The 2013 SEA Games will be held in Naypyidaw, the new Myanmar capital, with the competitions starting December 11 and ending on December 22. It will be Myanmar's third time as hosts and the first since 1969.