Football: Stags to return to Tampines home by July

Rovers' new head coach Jurgen Raab with Khairul Amri (left) and other players during his first training session yesterday.
Rovers' new head coach Jurgen Raab with Khairul Amri (left) and other players during his first training session yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The new year has so far ushered in a slew of changes at Tampines Rovers - new players, new main sponsor and a new head coach.

Next up for the five-time S-League champions - a brand new home ground.

After more than five years of playing their home matches in the west, the Stags are set to move back to their spiritual home in the east when Our Tampines Hub sports complex fully opens in June.

Yesterday, Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra confirmed that talks are under way for the homecoming and said the team should complete the move in July.

The club left the old Tampines Stadium at the end of 2011 to make way for the sprawling new facility, which occupies 5.3ha - about the size of seven football fields.

They played their home matches at Clementi Stadium from 2012 to 2014. Nowadays, they are based in Jurong West Stadium.

"It's a homecoming of sorts. We really want to give back to the Tampines community, whose support we've benefited from," said Krishna, who said attendance had dropped by half since they moved.

"These are exciting times ahead. We have a new look in terms of squad, coaching (staff), club philosophy like how we raise revenues. It's all exciting."

Our Tampines Hub, which opened last November in the first of three opening phases, will have among its numerous facilities a 5,000-seat stadium - a higher capacity than the grounds of the seven other local S-League clubs, which average around 4,000.

But Krishna emphasised that any move has to make financial sense for the team. Said the corporate lawyer: "Hopefully the relevant bodies can sort out this part because we are going to do a fair amount of community programmes.

"We have plans to involve children in Tampines from underprivileged backgrounds."

All S-League clubs have to pay rental to local sport governing body Sport Singapore, which manages the stadiums.

Said Lai Chin Kwang, chief of ActiveSG: "In the coming months, we will work with Tampines Rovers FC through the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for a smooth transition from their current stadium to their new ground."

Yesterday also saw new Tampines head coach Jurgen Raab oversee his first training session.

The 58-year-old German signed a three-year contract on Wednesday. He replaced Akbar Nawas, who parted ways with the club last week.

Raab, who holds a Uefa Pro Licence, football's highest coaching qualification, is no stranger to Singapore football, having joined the FAS as a fitness coach in 2014.

In 2015, he coached the Garena Young Lions, then called the Courts Young Lions, following the resignation of Aide Iskandar.

Taking over midway through the season, he led the development squad to a ninth-place finish in the 10-team S-League.

He admitted that coaching perennial title contenders Tampines is a different challenge and called for time to implement his philosophy.

"That's why I signed a three-year contract. It's a long-term project. and I have to convince the players of my style of football. Only if we all pull together will we have a chance," said Raab, who represented the former East Germany from 1982 to 1988.

His first test is against Malaysian side Felda United in the Asian Football Confederation Cup on Feb 21, before the S-League opener against champions Albirex Niigata at the National Stadium on Feb 26.

Raab said: "We must dominate games with attractive offensive football instead of reacting to our opponents.

"We want to be the best team in Singapore and then become tough opponents in the AFC Cup."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Stags to return to Tampines home by July'. Print Edition | Subscribe