Football: Young Lions seek new naming rights sponsor and coach

Khairul Amri, the Young Lions' new "overaged" player, is ready to battle and score goals for them but wants the youngsters to play with confidence and a winning mentality.
Khairul Amri, the Young Lions' new "overaged" player, is ready to battle and score goals for them but wants the youngsters to play with confidence and a winning mentality.ST FILE PHOTO

It is the only sponsor in the S-League with naming rights to a football club but after five seasons, Courts has ended its partnership with the Young Lions.

This was confirmed by Terry O'Connor, the household appliance and furniture retailer's chief executive.

Although the sponsorship deal will not be renewed, it will not signal the end of Courts' involvement with Singapore football.

O'Connor told The Straits Times: "While we have decided not to renew the sponsorship for the Young Lions, we continue to be passionate about supporting the development of local football and remain open to exploring other ways that we can continue to do so with FAS (Football Association of Singapore)."

An FAS spokesman said that the Young Lions, the country's developmental team, are still in the process of finalising their sponsorship deals and coaching appointments.

The team, who finished ninth in the 10-team S-League last year, are currently without a coach after Juergen Raab returned to his native Germany at the end of his contract last month.

Former LionsXII tactician Fandi Ahmad is believed to be the FAS' choice to lead the side but ST understands that the 53-year-old prefers to be an assistant to national teams head coach Bernd Stange.

Although the Young Lions managed to secure the signature of Khairul Amri, the national team's leading striker, for the new season, the squad have lost some of their best players.

Midfield hard man M. Anumanthan has signed for Hougang United, goal-scoring winger Jordan Webb has joined powerhouses Tampines Rovers, set-piece expert Shahfiq Ghani is now at Geylang International, while Fandi's oldest son, promising striker Irfan, has been unveiled at Home United.

The spate of departures has surprised 20-year-old striker Taufik Suparno, who earned his first national call-up last year.

He said: "Just when I thought I'm starting to be comfortable playing alongside Irfan, he's now gone to another club.

"It will be more challenging because there are so many new players. But it's good for the whole team to learn, expose ourselves and gain experience."

Still, the clinical and experienced Amri will be a prized catch for the rookies and the 30-year-old veteran hopes to lead them despite the long odds.

He said: "I hope that the players will go into every match with a mentality that there is nothing to lose.

"It will be a big chance for them to improve themselves, gain more experience and I hope they will make full use of this opportunity.

"I want the young players to know that I will be there for them, I will fight for them and do my job as a striker to score goals. I will try to help the team and bring them forward."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Young Lions seek new naming rights sponsor and coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe