Better resources needed for Singapore football, says Stange
National coach Stange says more resources are needed to raise local standards
National coach Bernd Stange firmly believes it is crucial that football facilities here are improved for S.League clubs, if Singapore are to become a force on the Asian stage.
The 68-year-old German recalled what it was like when the national team experienced the world-class facilities at the Al Saad Stadium and the Aspire Academy, when they were in Qatar for a friendly last August.
Nearer to home, on a site visit, a Football Association of Singapore technical team left Johor Darul Ta'zim's Padang Seri Gelam Training Centre earlier this year suitably impressed, after noticing the indoor synthetic field, outdoor cow-grass pitches, a comprehensive gym, recovery and rehabilitation centre, plus cafes for both players and fans.
Stange has urged the football authorities to capitalise on the momentum generated by the signing of the world-renowned technical director Michel Sablon, as well as the resurgence of the S.League this year.
BUILD ON IT
He said: "The S.League has started promisingly and is moving in the right direction now with encouraging sponsorship deals being brought in this year, but the S.League needs more resources to become a more professional league.
"Our clubs are established in community stadiums used by the public and the goal for Singapore football has to be that our six clubs in the next few years have at least a training centre like the one at Geylang Lorong 12.
"The shared stadium concept is a good step forward as it would mean better facilities for everyone, including professional footballers.
"At the minimum, there must be a good grass pitch, a functional room where you can have player meetings, video presentations area, a tactics board, a physio room to treat players and at least a gym to build players to a higher professional level.
"At the moment, I am pleased that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is trying to help the players by providing the gym under the supervision of a fitness coach and football science and medicine staff."
Stange made the call to convert the rundown Geylang facility and, with Sport Singapore's assistance, the training venue is now a decent training centre.
Having coached for almost half a century and helming teams in East Germany, Oman, Iraq and Belarus, Stange says modern football requires players to absorb the physical demands of the game, with no compromise on fitness.
He is adamant players should hit the gym more.
"Take for example (Lions' star player) Safuwan (Baharudin), whom I believe is of international standard," said Stange.
"At 65kg, you cannot be a defender in a professional league in England, Germany or Italy. You have to do much more with your body, you have to build your body, you have to work on it, this is a gap and players have to know that.
"I had a two-hour presentation with coaches here where we showed pictures of Lionel Messi when he was 18 and 28 and Gareth Bale, 18 and 26, of the transformation of their bodies.
"And we showed photos of Faris Ramli when he was 18 and 23 and there is no change.
"We have to convince coaches to get players into the gym, but they don't have a gym in their facilities."
While he acknowledged that the FAS and Sport Singapore have worked hard to provide good training facilities for the national team, he would like to see local S.League clubs enjoy the same trappings.
Stange said: "A rich and proud country like Singapore should desire to succeed and improve in professional football. You have the best MRT system I have ever seen, the best shopping streets in the world behind Fifth Avenue.
"We need to prepare top-class professional facilities for all professional football clubs.
"That's a gap we have to work on. It is not a complaint, it is just putting my finger to the right place. We all have a vision for our football... I have always said in a billion-dollar football business, it is very, very difficult hunting Ferraris with bicycles."
He challenged the various stakeholders to work together to help raise the standard of Singapore football.
"During the past few years, the FAS was not provided with the necessary amount of resources, but we did well in several areas, including youth development," he said. "However, the FAS needs the right amount of support for its next strategic plan.
"I'm confident that more young players will make it to Europe if we receive the necessary level of support and resources.
"We need to invest more in football and all partners - the government, clubs, sponsors, fans, and the media - must work with us and charge towards this common goal.
"Our technical director Michel Sablon is doing hard work, preparing a pyramid of youth development from grassroots level to the junior centres of excellence, club COEs, the National Football Academy, up to the professional league.
"We have to make the next step.
"It means we have to make decisions and now is the time because the FAS is working on a strategy for the next five years that should lead to a bright future for Singapore football."