Abbas wants to help the Eagles fly high

Aussie will be Geylang's assistant coach as part of AFC diploma coaching course here

Former Malaysia Cup star Abbas Saad is in Singapore to attend the Asian Football Confederation professional football diploma coaching course.
Former Malaysia Cup star Abbas Saad is in Singapore to attend the Asian Football Confederation professional football diploma coaching course.ST PHOTO: SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ

Former Malaysia Cup star Abbas Saad is set to make a return to a Singapore dugout.

The 1994 M-League and Malaysia Cup winner is in town to attend the Asian Football Confederation professional football diploma coaching course from Monday until November.

As part of the course, the Australian will be attached to Singapore Premier League (SPL) side Geylang International as an assistant coach.

His first game as part of the Eagles set-up will be against defending champions Albirex Niigata on May 23.

Thanking the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for organising the course and Geylang for welcoming him on board, the 53-year-old told The Straits Times: "I'm grateful for the FAS opening the doors for me to do it, and Geylang are such a historic club ever since I got involved with Singapore football in the 1990s.

"I have been following Singapore football and I know the club went through a blip recently, but every team have their ups and downs, and I'm looking forward to assisting my good friend (Geylang coach) Noor Ali and helping the club succeed as best as we can."

Abbas was in the Jalan Besar stands to watch the Eagles push title contenders Lion City Sailors before losing 2-1 last Sunday, and has faith his new team will be able to move up from their current sixth position in the eight-team SPL.

He said: "The boys put up a fantastic performance considering all the key injuries they have, and with some luck, could have gotten a result against a talented attacking team.

"This young Geylang team have a great fighting spirit and togetherness and we can only improve from here on."

Abbas was most recently coach of New South Wales' Australian National Premier League side Sydney Olympic, with whom he won the league and Cup double in 2018 and was named Coach of the Year.

After finishing fifth the following season, he took time off to care for his ailing mother, who died of cancer last year.

But the mention of Singapore football was enough to perk him up.

He added: "I've said it before - there are good players from Singapore, and we see quite a few of them playing and doing well overseas now, and that can only be good for the national team because players cannot get too comfortable.

"There are still very good players in the SPL, even the younger ones. Okay, some clubs have more money than others, but there is now talk of privatisation and the hope is that every club will grow to have that kind of ammunition because a strong league will lead to a strong national team.

"On my part, I hope to play a part to develop Singapore football. Eventually, I want to be coaching in Asia and obviously Singapore and Malaysia are places close to my heart, so hopefully we can build a long-term relationship that goes beyond this year.

"If it's a good marriage, let's stay in the marriage."

Meanwhile, Noor Ali is also looking forward to working with his boyhood idol as he attempts to lift the Eagles after a poor start to the season.

The 45-year-old, who is also taking the course, said: "I watched him play in my secondary school days and it will be an honour to work with a legend.

"He has so much experience as a player and coach, it will motivate the players and a good learning process for me and (Geylang assistant coach) V. Kanan too.

"Abbas will be a good helping hand as we play the AFC Cup in June and try to get more points from the second round of the SPL. Hopefully, this new partnership can kick-start our season."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2021, with the headline 'Abbas wants to help the Eagles fly high'. Subscribe