Football: New Singapore coach Fandi Ahmad calls for Lionhearts

Fandi Ahmad is happy with his new role but has also said he will focus on the Under-23s after this year's AFF Cup so that the future coach will have quality players for selection.
Fandi Ahmad is happy with his new role but has also said he will focus on the Under-23s after this year's AFF Cup so that the future coach will have quality players for selection.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Named national coach to oversee AFF Cup, he wants players to play with pride, passion

Short of form and low in ranking, the Lions are lacking in confidence but Fandi Ahmad believes he is the man to bring "fire and desire" back into Singapore football.

With November's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup looming and the Lions without a coach after V. Sundram Moorthy resigned last month, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) yesterday named Fandi the national coach until the end of the year.

The 55-year-old will continue in his current role as FAS' head coach (youth), in which he is in charge of the Young Lions, essentially the national Under-23s, in the Singapore Premier League.

During Sundram's two-year tenure, the Lions won just thrice - all were in friendlies - in 22 matches and are ranked world No. 172.

Significantly, they are the eighth-best team in South-east Asia, ahead of only Laos (179th), Timor Leste (190th) and Brunei (194th).

On top of that, the team were known to play defensive football.

But Fandi hopes to change the mood. The former national captain said: "It's all about pride and passion (to represent Singapore). If selected, the players need to have fire and desire.

TAKING THE FIRST STEP

I'm seriously excited. This is the first time that I'll be head coach of the national team and I had always dreamed of this. I am excited to see how the players respond to the new coach. These players are good enough at this level.

FANDI AHMAD, on his appointment and the faith he has in his players.

"I know them very well as a friend and as a coach. Heart is very important for me. We have not been doing well in the last few years... But I know how to motivate them and I've done it many times.

"Technically, I can't teach them anymore. But if I can give them fresh ideas in training and be smart tactically and if our players show discipline, determination and dedication, we can match anyone. That's why I am not too worried."

He will be assisted by former national defender S. Subramani and is also in talks with another ex-Lion to join as his assistant coach. Fiery ex-national striker Noh Alam Shah will be the assistant team manager.

The Republic are in Group B of the biennial AFF Cup alongside defending champions Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and either Timor Leste or Brunei. They open their campaign at the National Stadium against Indonesia on Nov 9.

In preparation, two friendlies in September and October plus an overseas training camp are being planned.

While Fandi oversees the Lions, the FAS will continue its search for a national coach for 2019 and beyond. FAS president Lim Kia Tong said: "We are looking at the matter holistically and we do not want to rush the appointment. We want the next coach to take the national team to the level we desire."

On whether Fandi will be considered for the job if he delivers a successful AFF Cup campaign, Lim replied that "anything can happen".

  • SPL at the Hub

  • Balestier Khalsa will take on Home United at the National Stadium on Saturday while fellow Singapore Premier League (SPL) sides Warriors FC and Geylang International will do battle a day later.

    Both matches will kick off at 8.30pm, with tickets going on sale at 9am today.

    SPL clubs will feature at the Singapore Sports Hub to give the clubs greater exposure and the experience of playing at the iconic venue.

    Geylang defeated Hougang 3-1 on May 12 for their first win of the season. They are eighth in the nine-team table with five points, with the Warriors just ahead on goal difference.

    Saturday's clash pits fourth (Balestier) against fifth, although Home - two points behind the Tigers - have played two fewer games than their next opponents.

    For more information, visit www.fas.org.sg/tickets

FAS vice-president Edwin Tong said the FAS council has not decided if the future Lions coach will be local or foreign.

He added: "Regardless of whether we are able to pick a coach yet or not, for the purposes of the Suzuki Cup, we would have picked Fandi anyway even if we have someone we can appoint next week.

"Fandi is immediately familiar with the team, he knows the quality of the boys and the boys know him. He is a perfect candidate at this point in time."

Former national goalkeeper Lionel Lewis, who played under Fandi for the Young Lions from 2003-2005, said: "There is little or no adjustment time for the national team as Fandi knows the local culture well. He understands the constraints of the job like knowing that young players have to juggle national service or studies with football and he will work around it.

"He is a great motivator and he believes in attacking football. Players will be inspired to play for him."

While Fandi has made no secret in the past about his desire to be Lions coach for the long term, he was happy with the current role.

He told The Straits Times: "That dream will come later... one day, I hope so. But after the Suzuki Cup, the Under-23s will be my job and I want to supply the future national coach with a bigger base of players so he can have more choices."

He added: "We have two home matches, which is very crucial. Our first game on Nov 9, we need everybody behind us. Without the roar, there are no Lions. With these players that I have, they will play and they will die for the country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Fandi calls for Lionhearts'. Print Edition | Subscribe