Singapore Under-23 head coach Aide Iskandar is relishing his side’s opportunity to train in Austria and play against some of the best European sides on their current 16-day tour of the country.
“It’s really nice to be back in Europe again for the second phase of our preparations for the SEA Games in 2015,” he commented in a a feature he wrote for fas.org.sg.
“This trip to Austria will give us a chance to explore just how far they have come since our previous training trip to Turkey.
“This time around I hope the U23 Singapore team will show the qualities that we have painstakingly been building up over the past few months.”
For Aide, the highlight of the tour is the chance to spar against Borussia Dortmund’s U23 squad on July 15. The German club is renowned for its comprehensive youth development, with the likes of Germany’s Mario Gotze and Marco Reus coming through the ranks.
“I believe that it is only with such exposure that the team will be truly tested and it will also be a good measure of how they have improved in their game as well as how they cope and compete against the best in Europe,” said the former Singapore skipper.
“Only by pitting them against top-class opposition will they see just how good the very best are.”
Aide also strongly feels that the only way to be the best is to beat the best.
“Rather than demoralising them, it should spur them on to reach for greater heights," he continued. "That is the only way we can improve as footballers: to continuously take on tougher opposition and to give it our all.
“Along the way, not only do we improve our technical skills, gameplay and finesse, but we will also bond better as a team. After all, everybody knows that football is a team sport, not a game of 11 individuals.
"My hope is that this will not only inspire the current team, but also spur players of the future on. All of this sends out a good signal to the younger generation of footballers in Singapore that there is a pathway as long as they are willing to take it and make the sacrifices."
The 39-year-old, who has 121 international caps to his name, also stated that times have changed since he was a professional footballer.
“Younger players now have greater backing from the [Football] Association as well as parental support and even the support of their National Service units, which gives them far greater opportunities to grow and develop as players," Aide explained.
Looking ahead, Aide revealed that his charges are training hard for the upcoming SEA Games, which will be held at Singapore’s new Sports Hub next June.
Competition from rivals Malaysia and Indonesia will be tough, as these countries have also sent their youth squads for overseas training stints in Slovakia and Italy respectively, but Aide assured supporters that his side will give their all.
“I believe this is truly the way forward for Singapore football and we will make our mark.”