‘Time for a Singaporean to be The Lions’ head coach’

Bernd Stange’s contract will be expiring on 15 April. (Photo: Yahoo Singapore)

A Singaporean should take charge of the national football team and boost the status of the sport, according to several prominent members of the local football fraternity.

With Bernd Stange’s contract expiring on 15 April, talk is rife that either one of Singapore’s favourite footballing sons, Fandi Ahmad or V Sundramoorthy, should be appointed as the head coach to replace the 68-year-old German.

Current national player Baihakki Khaizan said that 53-year-old Fandi and 50-year-old Sundram have the necessary experience and qualifications to assume the post.

The Johor Darul Takzim II (JDT II) player said that the timing is right for a local coach to take charge, at least on a temporary basis.

“With the ASEAN Football Championship kicking off in seven months, I think it is time for either Fandi or Sundram take over at least as an interim coach. 

“Why not give them a chance?” said Baihakki, who lifted the 2013 Malaysian Super League (MSL) title with Sundram, when the latter was the coach of the LionsXII.

Local knowledge is essential

Chief Executive of S-League club Home United, Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi, said that whoever is appointed as coach of the senior Lions should have intimate knowledge of local issues besides football.

“The criteria for a successful coach not only include a person’s breadth of experience but also the ability to understand the local issues such as understanding National Service (NS) issues, the quality and availability of facilities, as well as the role of the national team in the public’s eyes.

“This contextual knowledge is underrated but in this sport, which has such a significant human aspect to it, it is really important,” said Azrul, who was the national team manager from 2013 to 2014.

Bernd Stange, second from right, flanked by his assistant coaches, V Sundramoorthy, right and Fandi Ahmad, second from left. National team manager, Farehan Hussein, is seated on the extreme left.

Azrulnizam and Baihakki won’t comment on whether Fandi or Sundram is better suited for the job.

Fandi and Sundram are already familiar with the national team coaching set-up,  having assisted Stange previously, Baihakki pointed out.

However, a current national player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that he would like to see former LionsXII assistant coach Kadir Yahaya as head coach because of his ability to instill tough discipline in players.

“We have to get back our winning mentality again. Playing for the national team is all about results and winning international matches. 

“I truly believe Kadir is the best person to push us to the next level, be it mentally or physically,” he said.

Raddy not the answer for ASEAN Football Championship challenge

With the ASEAN Football Championship kicking off at the end of the year, would it be feasible to hire former national coach Radojko ‘Raddy’ Avramovich in the meantime to lead the team until the conclusion of the tournament?

Is Raddy Avramovich (centre) - seen here with Baihakki Khaizan (left), and former FAS executive, Sobban Munyandy (right) - the right man to lead Singapore in the ASEAN Football Championship?

The 66-year-old Serbian has a strong track record of success in the tournament, having guided Singapore to winning the title thrice in 2004, 2007 and 2012. He was also credited with grooming a newer generation of players like Hariss Harun, Izwan Mahbud and Safuwan Baharudin for the national team.

However, Baihakki said that it is time to think about the long-term growth of local football, not just merely planning on winning a trophy this year.

He added that the tournament is a good chance for a local coach to prove his capabilities at the highest level.

“A foreign coach will need time to understand the team and the culture of Singapore football. That is going to take time but a local coach will already have that knowledge and understanding,” said Baihakki.

Former S-League coach of the year, Richard Bok, pointed out that a lot of resources had been devoted to hiring foreign coaches previously but with little to show for.

“Where are we now? We are lagging behind in terms of progress as compared to Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar and even Laos,” said Bok, who was the former head coach for Warriors FC.

“Progress means not only (developing) the national team but football as a whole.”

FAS response to coaching selection

When contacted by Yahoo Singapore, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman said that they are always looking for top candidates to fill suitable key positions.

“We have a fair and merit-based employment process in place to ensure that we appoint the most suitable candidate, regardless of nationality, for our association. 

“We will make an announcement in due course,” said the spokesman.