Tampines launch Pentagon Football Academy
Stags look to allay cash-flow fears with launch of Pentagon mentorship programme for children
Tampines Rovers are an institution in the local football fraternity, with several players from their stable donning the red of the Republic's Lions over the years en route to five S.League titles, three Singapore Cup wins and victory in 2005 in the now-defunct Asean Club Championship.
And now young aspirants can learn to play the Tampines way, with the Stags launching their Pentagon Football Academy designed for children aged between five and 12.
"We have taken a different approach to youth development, we've put together a curriculum based on what we've seen as a gap in the market and we will implement individual training," said Stags' chairman Krishna Ramachandra yesterday.
"The programme is tailored to the skillsets of the individual player, it's not a one-size-fits-all type of programme that is designed to capture the discerning student."
Tampines have been in the news recently after seeking help from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to allay cash-flow issues, and Krishna believes this academy is a step towards the club helping themselves.
"This is a revenue generating venture that will be helpful to the club not just for this year, but also for subsequent years, a revenue model that sustainable in the future as well," said the 44-year-old lawyer.
"This does involve capital expenditure on our part, but we also have a third party investor whose involvement has defrayed some of the cost as well," he added without revealing the identity of the investor.
The Pentagon programme provides a pathway for youngsters into the Tampines Centre of Excellence (COE) that develops talents from the age of 15 through to 21.
This gives the club direct access to a pool of players who have already gone through technical and tactical development programmes in their pre-pubescent stage, and should be better equipped to handle the more advanced training sessions in the COE.
But, contrary to the COE programme that does not require payment, the Pentagon Academy remains a commercial venture that will charge $400 per player for a 10-week term, working out to $40 per session held at the premises of St Joseph's Institution International School along Thomson Road.
V Sundramoorthy has agreed to be a consultant despite being poised to sign a one-year contract as Singapore's national coach, with the Stags' first-team players involved in coaching sessions at least once a month.
Tampines had, in December, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Brazilian star Ronaldinho to run his academy alongside theirs and, while it will run parallel to the Pentagon Academy and Tampines' COE, they are still some way away from launching that initiative.
"We are awaiting permission to stitch it in with the other programmes that we have. But this will be focused on outreach programmes that are available to the masses, with a curriculum that is different from that of the Pentagon Academy, and we are finalising that curriculum now."
In February this year, Tampines signed a seven-year lease with the Singapore Land Authority to take over a field on Harding Road, in the vicinity of Dempsey Road, costing $18,888 per month.
It was believed that the Stags would utilise the venue for their academy, COE, as well as Ronaldinho's academy, but Krishna hinted that Tampines will be taking a different approach with their newly acquired asset.
"We're in the midst of finalising a deal (for that pitch) with a third party operator," was all he would reveal on the matter.
Despite the shift in stance on the Harding Road field, the Stags are poised to roll out another programme centred on the community.
They are in talks with a former American international to kickstart a mentorship programme aimed at an all-round programme to help marginalised children re-integrate into society.
"It is a programme which will be backed by sponsors, and we will be working with Beyond Social Services to build an all-round programme that doesn't only help develop football skills in our academy, but also one that also features mentorship and counselling so that disenfranchised kids can be helped to reintegrate into society," said Krishna, who added that further details will be revealed as the programme starts to take shape.
"Our finances are quite confidential, but we are still playing in the league," said Krishna on Tampines' cash-flow issues.
"And we are trying to install a diversified revenue generation model, so we don't rely on any single source of income, be it the clubhouse, or even sponsors."
We are trying to install a diversified revenue generation model, so we don’t rely on any single source of income, be it the clubhouse, or even sponsors.
— Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra (above)
Mustafic to assume player-assistant coach role
PHOTO: TNP FiLE
I’ve been with Tampines for 13 years now, and to move into coaching here is just brilliant.
— Mustafic Fahrudin (above)
They smirked as they walked past Mustafic Fahrudin at the Decathlon store in Bedok yesterday, giggling to themselves.
Every one of Mustafic's Tampines Rovers teammates offered the same greeting to their captain: "Hello, coach."
Cue more giggles.
On the sidelines of the Stags' launch of their Pentagon Football Academy, club chairman Krishna Ramachandra revealed to his charges that Mustafic, a 79-capped Singapore international, will assume the role of player-assistant coach to Akbar Nawas when Stags' coach V Sundramoorthy departs to take charge of the national team.
Herman Zailani, a former youth coach at Warriors FC, will be Akbar's other assistant coach.
Krishna said the move was six months in the making.
"We spoke about this in January, and Fara is a stalwart of Singapore football, who has loads of experience under his belt. He will assume his role after (Tuesday's AFC Cup Round of 16 away fixture against) Mohun Bagan, which will be Sundram's last game in charge," Krishna told The New Paper.
Sundram is poised to be named as the Football Association of Singapore's replacement for Bernd Stange.
He was expected to be unveiled as the national coach on Friday with the Lions flying to Yangon for a quadrangular tournament from June 3 to 6. But, it appears that his appointment will take place this week after Tampines return from India.
Despite Sundram's imminent departure, the Stags were out in force teasing the newest member of their coaching staff.
"They are starting to tease me, and I have to get used to this 'coach' thing that will go on for a while, but I'm really excited, this will be something new for me, and maybe a new beginning," said Mustafic, who obtained a Uefa B coaching papers in 2014 when he returned to his native Serbia in the post-season.
"To have the time to get experience in something I can do after I finish playing - I maybe have a year, maybe two left - is brilliant and, for this, I'm very thankful to Krishna, not many players get this opportunity."
Former Tampines forward Aleksandar Duric spent a season as their fitness coach after he hung up his boots in 2014, but Mustafic believes his will be a completely different experience.
"Aleks was a fitness coach, and not still playing when he started that. For me, I'm still going to be a player, so it's a little different," said the 35-year-old, vowing to spend time learning from more experienced coaches in the fraternity, and studying.
Sundram was believed to be the last player-head coach in the S.League when he assumed those roles for the now-defunct Jurong FC between 1999 and 2003.
Another former Singapore international, Noor Ali, came out of retirement to lace up his boots in the second half of the 2013 season, to help Geylang International through an injury crisis.
Aged 38 then, Noor was the assistant coach of the Eagles under V Kanan.
"I've been with Tampines for 13 years now, and to move into coaching here is just brilliant," said Mustafic.
"I will talk to all the experienced coaches around me, and learn, invest in myself. I look forward to starting in this role, it's exciting."
- SHAMIR OSMAN