Football: Invest in S-League, focus on youth footballers: Jang

Jang Jung, who starred in the S-League after Singapore pulled out of Malaysian football in 1995, says the LionsXII’s exit from the Malaysian league will raise the profile of the S-League.
Jang Jung, who starred in the S-League after Singapore pulled out of Malaysian football in 1995, says the LionsXII’s exit from the Malaysian league will raise the profile of the S-League. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Singapore should forget about the Malaysian league and instead focus on and pour resources into its own S-League and the development of youth football, says Jang Jung.

The South Korean, 51, was a familiar face in both competitions. He was part of the Lions team that clinched the Malaysian league and Cup double in 1994, yet also went on to star in the S-League after Singapore pulled out of Malaysian football in 1995.

Jang feels the S-League is key to building a strong foundation for local football.

"I've been involved in Singapore football for a long time. If you don't help your own clubs and youth development, how do you improve your football standards? It's like building (a house) on sand," he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of a football programme for about 60 pupils at Sembawang Primary yesterday.

ESTABLISH A PROPER FOUNDATION

If you don't help your own clubs and youth development, how do you improve your football standards? It's like building (a house) on sand.

JANG JUNG, former Singapore defender and S-League coach, on the importance of having a good domestic football league

"Realistically, which team can do it (youth development) properly? (We should have) proper salaries for youth coaches and proper marketing. (For now), only financially strong teams - three or four of them - can (do it)."

Jang, in Singapore on a personal visit, believes that the LionsXII's exit from the Malaysian league will raise the profile of the S-League.

"It's good for the S-League... to make your own league stronger. Don't waste time (trying to rejoin the Malaysian league), because (if) suppporters and players concentrate on the M-League but not on the S-League, how (will it) survive?

"Now it's another chance to set up (the S-League) nicely."

Jang was a household name in this region, where he spent most of his footballing career. The former South Korean international joined Perak in 1990 and helped the Malaysian side lift the Malaysia FA Cup in 1991. He signed for Singapore in 1993, where the permanent resident eventually settled down with his wife Kim Hea Youn.

Following Singapore's pullout from Malaysian football, he joined S-League club Geylang United in 1997 as a player, before becoming the club's head coach in 2001, the same year he was named the league's Coach of the Year.

He also had coaching stints at Balestier Khalsa, in Sri Lanka and more recently, Perak (2012).

Jang revealed that he is open to returning to the S-League, saying: "If there's any offer, of course. Singapore is my second home."

In Korea, Jang coaches 16- to 19-year-olds at a high school in Daejeon, but he has maintained his close ties here.

Both his children were educated in local schools. Daughter Se Eun, 24, is studying in Australia. Son Jang Wook, 19, is a final-year accountancy student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and will be enlisting in National Service soon.

Jang also urged local players to make their mark overseas, saying: "If there's a chance, go, must go."

Citing himself as an example, he added: "When I came here, it was also scary, you didn't know many things like the weather. But I've collected all kinds of medals (since I moved out of South Korea).

"Most importantly, when you go overseas and play well, many people will know about your performance, then your country's name and national image will (be enhanced)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Invest in S-League, focus on youth footballers: Jang'. Print Edition | Subscribe