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Football: Former Singapore national coach V. Sundram Moorthy signs three-year deal to coach Laos

The Straits Times by MOHAMED SHAMIR MOHAMED OSMAN

Former Singapore coach V. Sundram Moorthy last night signed a three-year deal to become the national coach of Laos.

Another Singaporean, Mike Wong, the technical director of Laos, had been leading the national team prior to Sundram's appointment.

Former Haiti coach Patrice Neveu was believed to have been appointed last month to lead Laos, but the situation surrounding his deal remains unclear.

Sundram's immediate assignment is the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Asean Football Federation tournament that runs from Nov 8 to Dec 15. Laos, who are in Group A with Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia, could face Fandi Ahmad's Singapore in the knockout stages. Singapore are in Group B with Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

"I effectively have four weeks until the Suzuki Cup. My aim is to take the team to as high a level as possible, to put up good performances at the tournament," Sundram told The Straits Times in a phone interview from the Laotian capital of Vientiane last night.

"I'm honoured and very excited. How often do you get an opportunity to lead one national team after another?" added the former Singapore forward, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on Saturday.

The last Singapore coach to take full charge of a foreign national team was the late Hussein Aljunied, who led Brunei from 1990 to 1993.

He stepped down in April after a two-year stint that saw the Lions win only three times and draw five matches in 23 outings. He was criticised for deploying negative tactics in his time as chief trainer, but he has put all that behind him and is relishing the challenge ahead.

RARE CHANCE

I'm honoured and very excited. How often do you get an opportunity to lead one national team after another?

V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, newly appointed Laos coach, relishes the task ahead of him.

The man known as The Dazzler in his pomp believes Laos is a country equipped to do well in the region.

The Laotians were once considered minnows, with former striker Noh Alam Shah's seven-goal feat in Singapore's 11-0 demolition of the landlocked nation in 2007 still a single-game Suzuki Cup record. But they have improved tremendously in recent years.

At the 2012 Cup, they took a shock 2-0 lead over Singapore in a group match before Shahril Ishak inspired a 4-3 comeback win.

Singapore went on to win the title under coach Radojko Avramovic.

"The football in Laos is developing well, and there are many talented players in the system now, especially at the youth level," said Sundram, who was part of the coaching set-up that led Singapore's Under-23 team to the bronze medal at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

"I hope to bring more young players into the national team, and I have a good feeling about Laos at the SEA Games in the Philippines next year."

Sundram, who also led the now-defunct LionsXII to the Malaysian Super League title in 2013, is aware that the Laos job will be no walk in the park, with language the most obvious barrier.

"Yes, I've been thinking about that. It will be a challenge, even though we will have a translator. But I intend to show the players what I expect of them through videos," he said.

"It's a new chapter for me, and I'm really looking forward to all that it brings."