Football: Lions coach Bernd Stange criticises media ahead of 2018 World Cup qualifier

Stange claimed a story "insulted" the work ethic of his players and backroom staff.
Stange claimed a story "insulted" the work ethic of his players and backroom staff. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - On the eve of a crucial 2018 World Cup football qualifier against Cambodia, Singapore coach Bernd Stange kicked off his pre-match press conference on Monday accusing the country's "main newspaper" of "lying" and "unprofessional" behaviour.

With stand-in captain Hariss Harun sitting next to him looking slightly perplexed, the German took issue with an article which revealed that first-team players were given two days of rest after the Lions beat Afghanistan 1-0 on Thursday.

The former Belarus coach went on to claim that "officials, stakeholders and sponsors" had questioned him about whether he was doing the right thing by giving the team a break.

The Sunday Times reported that the team had a 90-minute aqua training session on Friday morning, interspersed with physiotherapy and video analysis. They also had a one-hour recovery session on Saturday, before resuming full training on Sunday.

Stange had insisted then that Singapore players like Faris Ramli "play more than Cristiano Ronaldo" and need to be given more time to rest during busy international weeks

On Monday, however, the 67-year-old claimed the story "insulted" the work ethic of his players and backroom staff.

Addressing the 20-strong media scrum at the Amara Hotel, he said: "You can treat me like you want but insults to staff and players shouldn't be allowed.

 

"You need to do your job more professionally; we are never hiding our team, training is open to all - if you lie about our work, then we will have to make closed training."

Singapore are third in Asia's Group E with seven points from four games, two behind second-placed Syria and three behind leaders Japan.

The four best runners-up across the eight groups in the Asian section will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifiers as well as the 2019 Asian Cup finals.

The Lions' opponents on Tuesday have lost all four matches and conceded 14 goals without scoring so far. Singapore beat Cambodia 4-0 in Phnom Penh in their opening game of the qualifiers.

Even with goal difference set to play a decisive role in qualification, Stange said three points - rather than a goal-rush - is his main priority.

"We should be more realistic and not increase the demands for scoring goals. What happens if it's 0-0 after 60 minutes? We must be patient," he said.

After the press conference, the veteran coach continued his verbal attack on selected journalists. When asked if he was nit-picking and considered an aqua recovery session to be the same as full training on the field, the Saxony native waved off the remark and walked off.