I believe in The Lions: Yoshida

Tatsuma Yoshida, who was unveiled as the Singapore national coach yesterday, has vowed to work closely with his assistant Nazri Nasir and national Under-22 coach Fandi Ahmad. ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN
Tatsuma Yoshida, who was unveiled as the Singapore national coach yesterday, has vowed to work closely with his assistant Nazri Nasir and national Under-22 coach Fandi Ahmad. ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

New national coach aims to make Singapore Asean kingpins by playing attacking football

He speaks halting English, but Tatsuma Yoshida's ambition is clear.

The new national coach wants to restore Singapore's position as South-east Asia's top side with an attacking brand of football.

The Lions failed to reach the semi-finals of the last three AFF Suzuki Cups and trail Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia in the world rankings.

Despite having a translator in the form of Albirex Niigata Under-15s coach Ryo Ishibashi, Yoshida made a conscious effort to field questions on his own in English during his unveiling at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.

He told The Straits Times: "The shorter-term target is the World Cup qualifiers, which I hope we can surprise (a few teams).

"The longer-term target, we want to be top of Asean. Currently, we are in the middle. Step by step, we will get there."

The 44-year-old is the first Japanese, and the youngest coach in this millennium, to lead Singapore.

  • Yoshida factfile

  • • Born in Chiba prefecture on June 9, 1974.

    • A central midfielder, he began his playing career with hometown club Kashiwa Reysol before turning out for Kyoto Sanga and Montedio Yamagata.

    • In 2002, he signed for Jurong FC and played under V. Sundram Moorthy, then player-coach for the Cobras.

    • Retired in 2002 and returned to Reysol, where he rose through the ranks from youth-team coach to technical director and then the head coach. While at Reysol, he helped to produce national players like Marseille right-back Hiroki Sakai. When he was Reysol's sports director, they won the J1 League (2011), Emperor's Cup (2012) and J-League Cup (2013).

    • He spent one season each as head coach of Reysol (2015) and Albirex Niigata (2016).

    • His last head coach assignment was at Ventforet Kofu from 2017 to last year.

  • RECENT SINGAPORE COACHES' RECORDS

  • RADDY AVRAMOVIC (2003-12) P130 W45 D31 L54 GD-14

    BERND STANGE (2013-16) P35 W15 D4 L16 GD-8

    V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY (2016-18, includes interim stint) P23 W3 D6 L14 GD-25

    FANDI AHMAD (2018, interim) P8 W5 D1 L2 GD+7

    NAZRI NASIR (2019, caretaker) P2 W1 D1 L0 GD+1

    P: Played, W: Win, D: Draw, L: Lose, GD: Goal difference

He has been appointed on a two-year deal and replaces V. Sundram Moorthy, who was the last permanent Singapore coach before he vacated the post in April last year.

Since then, former national captains Fandi Ahmad and Nazri Nasir have both served on an interim and caretaker basis.

Yoshida's first assignments will be the upcoming international home friendlies against Solomon Islands (June 8) and Myanmar (June 11). The Lions will then await the World Cup qualifiers draw in July, with the games to commence from September.

He said: "I am honoured to be appointed Singapore's national team coach and thankful for the trust that FAS has placed in me. This position bears heavy responsibilities which I will undertake with commitment and pride.

"While I am aware that this is no easy task, I believe in the potential that Singapore football has to reach greater heights and success on the international stage and look forward to embarking on this journey with the players and fans.

"Teamwork is crucial in order for us to succeed, which is why I am pleased to have local legends like (national Under-22 coach) Fandi and Nazri (assistant national coach) on board this journey.

"The synergy in my partnership with Fandi will be of utmost importance as the Under-22 team are critical to the long-term objectives of the national team."

The former Kashiwa Reysol, Albirex Niigata and Ventforet Kofu coach told ST that he had watched Singapore play in last year's AFF Suzuki Cup and liked the team's organisation and defence.

The former Jurong FC midfielder said: "The pressing was good, but we want to go to the next step.

"It is important to make good use of possession and I want to improve the team's attack, build-up play, and penetration into the box to get the goals. I believe in the Lions, myself, my staff, and FAS... We are one. I believe in my abilities and knowledge."

The FAS earlier this month appointed 53-year-old Australian Joseph Palatsides as its new technical director after Belgian Michel Sablon stepped down last December.

FAS president Lim Kia Tong explained Yoshida was recommended by Japan FA's technical department and his youth development expertise - he had produced national players like Marseille defender Hiroki Sakai - matched what the FAS was looking for.

Stressing the FAS' expectations of improving on their current world No. 160 ranking, Lim added: "He brings with him the exemplary attitude, strict discipline and hard work that the Japanese are known for.

"We are convinced he will be able to bring about the high-intensity, fast-moving football style that we and the fans are looking for."

Lions skipper Hariss Harun is looking forward to working with the new coach, and urged all stakeholders to get on the same page.

The 28-year-old midfielder said: "It is normal for people to question his credentials, but it is also possible we can achieve success with him. It is not just up to him, but down to the whole system to help Singapore football achieve what we want.

"We can see his excitement and energy. His English may be limited but, so far, we have no problem understanding him. Ultimately, the players need to work hard to get the job done."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'I believe in The Lions: Yoshida'. Print Edition | Subscribe