36 sports and 402 events will be held at the games to be hosted in Singapore next June, but women's football has failed to make the cut
The SEA Games Federation's (SEAGF) announcement on Tuesday afternoon of the final list of approved sports events at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore confirmed that a total of 36 sports will be contested in 402 events.
Up from the 30 that were initially announced in December 2013 at the end of the Myanmar edition of the SEA Games, the list includes 34 Olympic events and includes footbal as well.
However, only the men's event wil be contested, as women's football has been left out of the final list.
The exclusion marks only the second time in 14 years that women's football will not be seen at South East Asia's flagship sporting competition. The last time women's football did not make the cut was in 2011, with the event otherwise being held at every edition since 2001.
Speaking to reporters at the press conference held yesterday, SEAGF sports and rules committee chairman Chris Chan explained that apart from setting a standard for future SEA Games to follow, the final selection was also based on Singapore's own chances of excelling, adding: “Quite obviously we want sports we’re strong in, with popularity and following."
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) had previously indicated that they were targetting the 2015 SEA Games for the currently inactive Singapore national women's team to make a return to competitive action.
Speaking to Goal, national team striker and 2013 Goal Singapore Football Awards Women's Player of the Year winner, Kamaliah Hashim expressed her dismay at the decision.
"I was surprised and speechless," said the 24-year-old forward. "I believe the whole team, from players to officials, have put in all their effort and time for field training, gym training and also in friendly matches."
"As we aren't full-time footballers, we really sacrificed the time we spared for our passion."
Singapore women's team manager, Suzanna Foo, also stated her disappointment in an interview with Berita Harian.
"We are disappointed with the news because the players are really passionate about playing in front of their home crowd," she told the local Malay daily. "But this won't dampen our spirits. We will still do our best to expand the sport here in Singapore."
The 2013 SEA Games Women's football competition saw six nations participating, with Thailand winning the gold medal ahead of Vietnam and Myanmar who finished second and third respectively.
Singapore last participated in 2003 where they were knocked out at the group stage after losing 2-0 to Thailand and 3-0 to Myanmar. The Republic's best finish was a silver medal won in 1985 at the Bangkok games where the event made its debut with just three participating nations.
Although largely inactive at regional level in recent times, the Singapore women's national football team was a pioneer of women's football in Asia. The Lionesses secured a credible third place in the second edition of the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 1977. It remains Singapore's best finish at an Asian football competition.