News

National coach by next month

The Straits Times by WANG MENG MENG

Come next month, it is not only the time to usher in a new year, but the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will also be welcoming a new national coach.

The timeline was revealed by FAS president Lim Kia Tong last night, as the next set of dates set by Fifa for friendlies will be from March 19-27.

He said: "We hope that everything will be finalised soon. We did indicate that we would like the coach's position to be known at the end of the AFF Cup. Maybe by January.

"We have interviewed at least six (candidates)."

The lawyer added that up to three more suitable applicants could be interviewed by the FAS in the coming weeks before a final decision is taken.

He noted the new man would not just be assembling a team to "play and win glory for Singapore".

"We also need a national coach who has the tenacity to build up our youth so that eventually, we will replenish the national team," he said.

Another key performance indicator, he revealed, was that "the team must now be able to play high-intensity, hard pressing and a fast-moving game".

Lim spoke on the sidelines of a dinner at the Copthorne King's Hotel hosted by the FAS for stakeholders, fans and the media in appreciation of their support for the national team during the AFF Cup.

The Straits Times understands that 35 coaches had applied for the job. Interim national coach Fandi Ahmad had been appointed in May with the intention of guiding the team for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup. The post was left vacant when the Lions' campaign ended on Nov 25 with a group-stage exit.

But time is also of the essence as the Lions, ranked 165th in the world, need to continue playing international friendlies to rack up ranking points as well as continue their rejuvenation process.

Apart from the March friendlies, they are also expected to play in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers next year.

The qualification process for the tournament, with its Finals hosted in Qatar, has yet to be announced by Fifa.

Although the Lions failed to reach the AFF Cup semi-finals, Lim noted that Fandi did a good job in raising the players' morale, rallying the fans and dishing out positive, attacking football.

However, the 56-year-old coach will return to his role as the FAS' head of youth, where he will lead the Under-23s at next year's SEA Games in the Philippines.

Lim said: "There is no dispute that Fandi has done a good job. He has demonstrated that he can turn the team around to play entertaining, fast-moving football.

"It's a logical and natural question (on Fandi continuing as Lions coach). But we (the FAS executive committee) are extremely mindful that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, (national sports agency) Sport Singapore and the whole of Singapore want the football team to make a strong impact at the next SEA Games.

"Fandi will now go back to build the (U-23) team for the SEA Games and hopefully, we can look at a gold medal."

He also defended the FAS' position on this, saying: "In order to do this (coach the SEA Games team), can he also double up as the national coach?

"We would be happy if he could do both but, when we analysed the calendar, it is very stressful for a national coach to also double up as the SEA Games coach.

"The coach cannot be carrying these two babies as each baby will have its own problems and one baby might be crying louder than the other baby. We cannot put a bag full of burdens on his shoulders."