Football: Singapore to play in 4-team Myanmar tournament

Sahil Suhaimi (right) facing off against Myanmar captain Yan Aung Kyaw in last week's 2-1 win, coach Bernd Stange's final home game.
Sahil Suhaimi (right) facing off against Myanmar captain Yan Aung Kyaw in last week's 2-1 win, coach Bernd Stange's final home game. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Last Thursday, Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise was left to rue his team's profligacy against four-time Asean Football Federation (AFF) championship winners Singapore, as the White Angels fell to a 2-1 defeat at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

But Zeise and his charges will have a second shot at taming the Lions soon enough.

The Straits Times understands that Myanmar will host a quadrangular football tournament in June for which Singapore and Vietnam have confirmed their participation.

It is believed Hong Kong were invited but they have not responded yet.

In a statement, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman said: "The FAS has been working with our strategic partner MP & Silva to develop a calendar of international football competitions, and we will share more information when details are confirmed."

The tournament format has not been decided, but it is understood the hosts prefer a round-robin format, with the top two advancing to a final.

This means each team will play at least three matches, as opposed to a maximum of two matches in a knock-out format.

The matches will be played in Yangon, and is part of Myanmar's preparations for November's AFF Suzuki Cup, which they are co-hosting with the Philippines.

Zeise had said earlier that the target is to win the regional title for the first time, especially with it being held on home soil for the first time as well.

Myanmar are certainly going all out in the lead-up to the showpiece.

According to the German tactician, the national team will link up for centralised training on Aug 20, some three months before the biennial championship.

In September, they will head to Germany for a training trip, where several friendlies, including matches in neighbouring Netherlands and Belgium, are planned.

A month later, the team will travel to South Korea for another training stint.

On the other hand, the Lions will likely be led by a caretaker coach for the four-nation tournament.

Current national coach Bernd Stange will step down when his contract expires next month, but it is understood the decision on his replacement will be made only after the FAS' elections in June, when a new president will be elected.

With The New Paper reporting that Fandi Ahmad will leave the FAS next month, Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy, who has been assisting Stange for the past few matches, will likely get a crack at leading the Lions in Myanmar.

While the coaching situation remains uncertain, the players are relishing more matches on the international stage.

Lions defender Madhu Mohana said he had not heard about the tournament, but would welcome it, especially with the Suzuki Cup coming up.

He said: "It's always good for the national team to play more games and spend more time together, especially before the Suzuki Cup. It allows us to gel, know each other better, and function better as a team."

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore to play in 4-team Myanmar tournament'. Print Edition | Subscribe