Football: Sundramoorthy is national football coach on 1-year deal, sets semi-final target for AFF Cup

V Sundramoorthy (left) will be replacing Bernd Stange as caretaker head coach of the national team.
V Sundramoorthy (left) will be replacing Bernd Stange as caretaker head coach of the national team.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Singapore football's worst-kept secret is finally out. After two weeks of speculation, V. Sundramoorthy was finally unveiled as caretaker head coach of the national team on Friday (May 27) at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Released from S-League side Tampines Rovers this week, Sundram joined on a one-year deal, taking over from Bernd Stange, whose contract expired last month. The 50-year-old is also the first local to coach the Lions since P.N. Sivaji, who coached for six months on an interim basis in 2003. Before him, Vincent Subramaniam held the post from 1999 to 2000.

Facing the media in a packed conference room, Sundram said: "It is not an easy decision to leave (Tampines)... However the opportunity to lead the national team is one which many local coaches cannot decline.

"I am confident that we will perform well at the year-end Suzuki Cup. My initial target is a place in the semi-finals. I believe in the direction of the national team and I will continue to identify and select young talents as part of the rejuvenation process."

His first assignment as national coach is a quadrangular tournament next week in Myanmar that features the host, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The national team will gather for their first session under the new coach on Saturday.

But the acid test will come in November's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship, where the Lions, who are joint record four-time winners with Thailand, will be expected to challenge for the title.

There is also the 2019 Asian Cup third qualifying round, which starts in March 2017.

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president Lim Kia Tong said: "In addition to his coaching credentials and detailed plans aimed at strengthening the National Team, Sundram also knows the players well. He is the best choice for the role and FAS will support him fully as we continue our preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup."

Sundram's first foray into the world of coaching was in 1999, when he was appointed player-coach at Jurong FC. After retirement, he held a few posts within the national set-up, including coaching the Young Lions in the S-League.

His crowning achievement came in 2013, when he won the Malaysian Super League with the LionsXII.

The former Singapore international's last act as Tampines head coach was to guide his team to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday. The Stags beat Indian team Mohun Bagan 2-1 after extra time in the round of 16, and are the first local team to reach the last eight since 2008.

He is replaced by assistant Akbar Nawas in the Tampines dugout.

Sundram had coached the Lions for the AFC Asian Cup 2015 qualifying match against Jordan in 2013 after Raddy Avramovic stepped down. Singapore lost 4-0.