New Singapore football coach Tatsuma Yoshida and players 'must be on same page'

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.
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

On Monday, newly appointed Singapore football coach Tatsuma Yoshida conducts his first training session with the national team.

It is ostensibly to prepare for the upcoming friendlies with Solomon Islands and Myanmar, but also serves as a crucial introduction for the Japanese and his players.

This is important, noted former Singapore international R. Sasikumar, as both parties must be on the same page, with the same goals, for the Lions to succeed.

Sasikumar, who runs sports marketing firm Red Card Global, added: "It is important to communicate clearly his ideas, whether in person or through a translator."

With the Lions in a state of flux following the retirement of defender Baihakki Khaizan and the gradual phasing out of older players such as Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri, Sasikumar felt Yoshida's main challenge is ensuring a smooth transition.

He said: "It is good he has some local knowledge of Singapore football, having played for Jurong FC before, but it will be interesting to see how he recruits the Young Lions for the senior squad and develops them."

With the Republic 160th in the Fifa rankings and sixth in South-east Asia behind Vietnam (98th), Thailand (114th), the Philippines (124th), Myanmar (140th), and Indonesia (159th), Sasikumar also felt that the first marker of success will be "being competitive in Asean region", before taking it further.

  • LIONS SQUAD FOR UPCOMING FRIENDLIES

  • GOALKEEPERS

    Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud

  • DEFENDERS

    Amirul Adli, Fadli Kamis, Faritz Hameed, Irwan Shah, Safuwan Baharudin, Shakir Hamzah

  • MIDFIELDERS

    Adam Swandi, Hariss Harun, Huzaifah Aziz, M. Anumanthan, Shahdan Sulaiman, Yasir Hanapi, Zulfahmi Arifin

  • FORWARDS

    Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak, Khairul Amri

Former national coach and technical director P.N. Sivaji agreed: "Fans in Singapore will want the new coach to produce results quickly. By results, I mean at least performances to indicate they can compete with Asean kingpins."

He added: "I think while Fandi Ahmad and Nazri Nasir were in charge of the national team on a temporary basis, they have shown we have a decent crop of players.

"Even if they are not quite ready to knock Vietnam and Thailand off their perch, at least we have a steady group that have room for improvement and he has to get the best out of them as a unit."

While Yoshida's resume - his stints as head coach of Japanese top-flight clubs were mostly mediocre - may seem underwhelming to some in the fraternity, Sasikumar was cautiously optimistic.

Citing Vietnam's success with the unheralded South Korean coach Park Hang-seo, he said: "Park was relatively unknown until his first senior national team job with Vietnam in 2017, and their amazing run in which he led them to the AFF Suzuki Cup title last year and the quarter-finals of this year's Asian Cup.

"He also took them to the AFC Under-23 Championship final and the Asian Games semi-finals last year.

"So it's been done before with a (fairly untested) Asian coach in this region and something the new Singapore coach can learn from."

David Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'New coach and players 'must be on same page''. Print Edition | Subscribe