A formidable partnership
A coaching tandem charged to steer Singapore's young footballers
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v WARRIORS FC
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Coming off their first victory of the season, Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar and his deputy S Subramani face arguably the biggest test of the 2014 campaign, when their young charges meet an in-form Warriors FC tonight.
The two men hope the Young Lions will draw on the confidence gained when the side defeated Harimau Muda 3-2 in Pasir Gudang on Sunday to collect their first win in this year's Great Eastern Yeo's S.League.
Injuries and suspensions are an issue for the side, who are second from bottom in the league.
The Under-23s will miss suspended centre back Sheikh Abdul Hadi and midfielder Ammirul Emmran, while captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman is also struggling for fitness.
But Aide, 38, and Mani, 41, who have been in charge of the Young Lions the past two years, are used to such challenges.
They are good friends and share the same football philosophy, but that does not mean they don't have arguments.
"We do disagree sometimes, especially when it comes to player selection," head coach Aide told The New Paper .
"It's important to have someone give a different perspective - but you have to trust that person first.
"Mani and I have trusted each other since Day One."
Day One was in 1995 when the two central defenders made their debut for the national team.
Back then, they were playing for Home United and Tiong Bahru, respectively, and very quickly, forged a formidable partnership with the Lions.
When Mani joined Home in 1999, the bond between the two players was established.
The pair went on to win two S.League titles and five Singapore Cups together. They were also part of Singapore team that won the 2004 AFF Suzuki Cup, when Aide captained the side.
"Our good chemistry on the pitch was because we had different qualities which complemented each other," Aide explained.
"And we had a telepathic understanding. There were times we didn't have to say a word to each other the whole game. We knew when to cover each other.
"Off the pitch, we get along very well because there's a lot of respect and loyalty between us. Our wives get along too - which helps."
As a footballer, Aide was a good reader of the game and marshalled the defence superbly. Mani was a tough-tackling marker who was indefatigable.
In the coaching department, they also bring different skill sets. Aide handles the tactical aspect, while Mani focuses on man-management.
"I went through all the processes as a player. I worked with many coaches who taught different things, so I try to impart all that to the boys," said Mani, who works with the Young Lions on a part-time contract as he is also a lecturer (P.E.) at ITE Central.
"I'm not very close to the players, but that's good because it allows me to be hard on them, when necessary."
Mani, who retired in 2009 after earning 115 caps, says that handling young footballers these days is a different ball game, with coaches unable to be as rigid as before.
"The hardest part about coaching young players is that they take things easy; they think they have time, but football will pass them by," Mani said.
"Their desire is lacking, and that is something you can't coach. The player has to have it.
"Problem is, it's too easy to get into the national team nowadays. During our time, it was so difficult just to get in, and even harder to actually play.
"So, these boys take things for granted. That mentality has to change."
Aide admitted he has endured some frustrating times the past two years, especially last season, when his team took 20 games to win their first league match.
Said Aide: "I always emphasise two things: a winning mentality and consistency. When these boys leave the Young Lions, they will need those two values even more.
"One thing I've failed to see is a player who can take ownership of the team, who can control the dressing room. When Mani and I were playing, even young players had that level of maturity."
The Young Lions will need more than maturity tonight if they are to stop a rampant Warriors side, who have won four of their last six, scoring 13 goals in that span.
"We will have to field a makeshift defence against Warriors," Aide said.
"But no one is surrendering. We have to at least give them a fight."
Playmaker Nicholas Velez scored all four goals in the Warriors 4-0 rout of Albirex last week, and should be as confident as ever heading into this game.
Ably supported by tricky winger Hafiz Rahim and the evergreen Shi Jiayi in central midfield, Velez and Miroslav Pejic have struck a keen understanding in the Warriors attack.
If either of them is in the mood, it could be curtains for the Singapore Under-23 side.
It's important to have someone give a different perspective — but you have to trust that person first. Mani and I have trusted each other since Day One.
- Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar, on his working relationship with his deputy S Subramani
THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES
- Courts Young Lions v Warrior (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Harimau Muda v Hougang United (8.45pm, Pasir Gudang)
- Tanjong Pagar v Tampines Rovers (7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Brunei DPMM v Balestier Khalsa (8.15pm, Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium)
- Geylang Int'l v Woodlands Wellington (7.30pm, Bedok Stadium)
- Albirex Niigata v Home United (7.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
- Rodrigo Tosi (Brunei DPMM)
- Geison Moura (Hougang United)
- Miroslav Pejic (Warriors FC)
- Goran Ljubojevic (Balestier Khalsa)
- Roy O’Donovan (Brunei DPMM)
- Miljan Mrdakovic (Tampines Rovers)