I EXPERIENCED the Malaysia Cup euphoria at first hand when I was younger, and was thrilled by the football skills of the late Mokhtar Dahari and other Malaysian icons ('FAS: Singapore team are a hit with the fans...' by the Football Association of Singapore and '... They won't be unless the Roar returns' by Mr Ang Chin Guan; both on Tuesday).
I was even more excited watching Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy play. But I was often disappointed by the Singapore national team's performance in bigger competitions.
When Singapore left the Malaysia Cup and started the S-League, we developed a generation that went on to win three editions of Asean's premier tournament. Singapore was feared in South-east Asia for a decade and, to me, that was our golden age internationally.
Truth be told, the Singapore national team bred on Malaysian competition did not come close to winning top regional titles, despite my fond admiration of Fandi and his peers.
The current leadership of the FAS should not be blinded by the immediate popularity generated by the LionsXII's participation in the Malaysian league.
The next challenge is to compete well on an Asian level. So rejoining Malaysian football is beneficial only if the tournament helps to groom young players; and with its popularity, the team should produce a class of star players.
The LionsXII squad should be restricted to Under-23 players, who would play in the S-League once they are above the age of 23. If these players have earned star status during their time in the LionsXII, it will add glamour to the S-League and promote its popularity.
The S-League's drawback is not poor football quality but a lack of star power. We should recall that in the early years, the S-League had star power because Fandi, Sundram and their cohort of better-known players were playing.
Top Malaysian football official Hamidin Amin was right in criticising the FAS ('Trouble for LionsXII?'; Tuesday) when he alluded to the understanding that Singapore was supposed to field a team of Under-23 players in the Malaysian league, who would then graduate to play in the S-League, boosting the domestic league's popularity.
The 'good old days' of Malaysian football may have produced Malaysia Cup champions, but we would do well to remember that those Singapore teams were champions of nothing else, not even in South-east Asia.
Liew Eng Leng