Kelvin Leong highlights five insights from the Football Association of Singapore’s decision to appoint Fandi Ahmad as Lions head coach.
The rumours were flying around in the past fortnight that Singapore’s legendary football icon Fandi Ahmad was set to be announced as the next Lions head coach.
That move was made official on Tuesday, 16 May when the FAS called for a news conference to unveil their new Lion tamer in front of a packed room.
Here are five takeaways from the news conference
- Fandi stepped up to the plate on his own
It was made clear by FAS president Lim Kia Tong, vice-president Edwin Tong and Fandi that the latter initiated his desire to lead the Lions into battle.
With frustrated fans wanting to know who the next national team coach was, FAS were under pressure to announce a name and it was Fandi who stepped up and volunteered for the role because there was little time to spare in preparation for the Suzuki Cup.
What Fandi Ahmad said: “It has been difficult to find a coach in such a short time for FAS in time for the Suzuki Cup and I volunteered and spoke to the FAS executive committee and national team manager that I can try. After discussions, they were keen for me to take the role and I am willing to sacrifice for the sake of the team.”
Sundram’s exit and the Suzuki Cup draw thrusted the spotlight on the national team and the Lions were in need of a chief. Fandi’s patriotism was enough to see him volunteer for the tough challenge ahead and Singapore should applaud his bravery and lend our support to his project.
- Neighbouring countries have surpassed Singapore
The previous regime refused to mention it and kept churning out repetitive statements about how Singapore football is developing so when Fandi bared his chest out with a no-holds barred admission that we were not good enough, it was bold and refreshing.
What Fandi Ahmad said: “No disrespect to them (the other countries), yes, they are better than us. The last few years all the teams in the region have passed us but I think now is the time where players must wake up, the fans must be behind us and we have to do a good job.”
Now that we are clear where we stand, it is important to remember how we became four-time ASEAN champions. It was by allowing the coach to select his players and playing to our strengths.
Singapore went into the 2012 tournament under Radojko Avramovic with critics claiming that they were not title contenders and the Lions came back with the trophy. 2018 could go down in the same vein.
Now let the man get on with his job and hope that we can reignite the fighting spiriting that has been missing in the last few years.
- Bringing legendary inspiration to the bench
The players who will represent the Lions at the Suzuki Cup all grew up hearing stories about Fandi’s playing career and when he walks into the room, they will more than likely be respectful of the legendary figure.
But Fandi knows he alone cannot inspire change in his team, and so the enlistment of former Lions S. Subramani and Noh Alam Shah is aimed at boosting the squad’s morale.
What Fandi Ahmad said: “At the moment we have our former player Subramani as well as one more who we are still negotiating, we cannot mention his name. I think our famous footballer Alam Shah will be part of the team. He will play an important role for us, he has matured so much and can give a lot of advice to these youngsters. We got him, we got Mani, and I think we have a good setup for the challenge.”
Anyone who follows Singapore football would have heard of Alam Shah’s infamous goalscoring exploits. His addition to the backroom staff will definitely help bring out that fearless attitude that will be crucial to the Lions’ title chances at the showpiece event.
- Lions need the fans to bring the roar back to Kallang
It is an outright priority for FAS to tackle the issue of dwindling fan support at the stadium and with Fandi stepping up to the throne, Singaporeans are now more inclined to rally behind their favourite footballing son, especially after his Zlatan-esque statement.
What Fandi Ahmad said: “The Lion is there but without the roar, there is no Lion. The Lions must be roared by the whole of Kallang. I believe we have a fighting chance even though they are favourites but I think with my experience with these players before from the Young Lions of 2000, we have to hear from them on the 9th and I hope the fans will come and really rally us for a win.”
To start the Suzuki Cup campaign at home is a huge bonus for the Lions and a win against the Garudas could spark a run to the final. Fandi wants Singapore to carry his team with their chants, will Singaporeans respond?
- Lions’ next coach likely to be from Europe
The FAS were quick to state that the decision on whether to hire a local or foreign coach for the long-term future is undecided but it seems that the Association are leaning towards a European hire.
FAS Vice President Edwin Tong said: “We are intending for Fandi to be part of the team and help us as we narrow down and eventually identify the national coach. I have spoken to Fandi and he has agreed to do that and after Suzuki, he’ll go back to his role in development and that is really his primary passion as he wants to see us through the Southeast Asian Games.
“Even if we found someone tomorrow and we were happy with that someone, we would still have gone with Fandi for Suzuki Cup. So in a sense it gives us some leeway and the ability to cast the net wider. As you know, many clubs in the Western hemisphere, their seasons have come to an end and it gives us more opportunities for prospects… we haven’t set ourselves a timeline but I suppose you can be sure, the moment Suzuki Cup is done, by that time, we will have someone in place.”
With all that said and done, Singapore now have a head coach to prepare them for the biennial showpiece tournament.
The desire and passion from Fandi is obvious, will Singaporeans come out in full force and reclaim Kallang as their own come November?