Football: Ball is in FAS' court, says hopeful Fandi

Local football great Fandi Ahmad and other former Lions teaching the youngsters the finer points of dribbling and passing.
Local football great Fandi Ahmad and other former Lions teaching the youngsters the finer points of dribbling and passing.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

He's keen to be national assistant coach but ex-players feel it's time a local takes the reins

With national coach Bernd Stange's contract expiring in April, there is uncertainty as to what the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has in store as the next Lion tamer.

Touted as possible replacements are former internationals Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy, although it is unclear if the FAS might opt for yet another overseas name.

Fandi, for one, remains guarded about his future.

Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of a Great Eastern (GE) event, the 53-year-old would only say: "I've already made my intentions clear to the FAS as to what I can offer. The decision is up to them."

The ex-Lions captain had turned down the offer to coach the Young Lions in the S-League and is believed to have expressed to the FAS his wish to be the national assistant coach.

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They also know the small but important things like how locals think, the difficulties they face and how they react to different situations.

''RAZALI SAAD , former national defender and FAS council member, on some advantages of having a Singaporean coach the Lions.

However, some former Singapore internationals believes it is time a local coach, possibly Fandi, gets a chance in the hot seat.

The last Singaporean to coach the Lions is P. N. Sivaji, on a caretaker basis, in 2003. Before him, Vincent Subramaniam held the job from 1998 to 2000.

Former Singapore captain Samad Allapitchay said: "A local coach understands the culture, the players and how to talk to the players' families. It's about time we give a local coach a chance.

"It's not like there is a shortage of quality. We have many coaches with the Pro Diploma."

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Pro Diploma is the highest coaching qualification offered by the AFC. There are around 20 local coaches with the AFC Pro Diploma.

Former national defender Razali Saad, a member of the FAS council, added: "With a local coach you get continuity, as opposed to a foreign coach who comes in for a few years and leaves the country.

"They also know the small but important things like how locals think, the difficulties they face and how they react to different situations."

The 52-year-old pointed to the example of Thailand, who are coached by their former striker Kiatisuk Senamuang. The 42-year-old led them to the 2014 Asean Football Championship title and is credited with reviving the fortunes of the War Elephants. Their Under-23 team, coached by former national defender Choketawee Promrut, won the SEA Games gold last year.

Asked if Fandi would be a good fit, Razali replied: "Yes he's ready. He had a good playing and coaching career, he's been around the region, has international experience and I think he can manage. But we must give him time and support as he gets used to the job."

Nazri Nasir, who was Fandi's assistant at the LionsXII, agreed.

He added: "I'd say Fandi is an obvious choice (for a local coach). A foreign coach might bring in new ideas but the local players look up to him (Fandi) the same way the Thai team respect Kiatisuk."

The former Singapore internationals got together yesterday as they took part in a six-a-side friendly match as part of insurer GE's SG50 Wishes campaign.

Playing football with the stars of yesteryear was 37-year-old Bukhari Salleh's SG50 wish.

Fandi and Co conceded the first goal against Bukhari's team Boys United, but their class eventually shone as goals from Nazri, Ho Kwang Hock and Fandi secured a 3-1 win.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who was invited by Bukhari, also took to the pitch to play in the game.

Bukhari, a private bus driver, is also a volunteer coach. Together with his team, they coach children from low-income families at least once a week. Yesterday, the kids were coached by the ex-Lions for almost an hour.

"We're always willing to help and give back to the community, and I'd like to thank GE for organising this. It's great to see the children having fun, and I'm very happy to be part of this," said Fandi.

"I've been waiting to do this for a long time. I'm happy, but it's not just about me. The children, even their parents, are very excited to see legends like Fandi," said Bukhari.

GE's chief marketing officer Colin Chan said: "We are delighted to fulfil Bukhari's wish. He and his team of coaches are to be lauded for spending their Sundays volunteering their time and services to coach aspiring young footballers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'BALL IN FAS' COURT, SAYS HOPEFUL FANDI'. Print Edition | Subscribe