Will Fandi be Courts Young Lions' head coach?
Delay over Fandi's role in FAS set-up, but several alternatives if he doesn't accept
The S.League is set to kick off on Feb 13. But the Courts Young Lions, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) developmental team competing in the tournament, still do not have a head coach.
The club started pre-season preparations on Monday, with national Under-16 coach V Selvaraj and head of national youth teams Richard Tardy filling in and putting the players through their paces.
The New Paper understands the delay was because of deliberations over Fandi Ahmad's role in the FAS this year.
The FAS has made it clear that the football icon, who handled the LionsXII side in the Malaysian Super League the last two years, was its first choice for the post.
On the sidelines of the FAS' annual general meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Dec 29, FAS president Zainudin Nordin had told TNP that Fandi was a suitable candidate as he has "very good experience grooming talent".
But it is understood that, at the request of national coach Bernd Stange, the FAS executive committee (Exco) considered Fandi, 53, for the role of full-time assistant coach for the Lions.
However, the Exco has since decided it wants Fandi to handle the Young Lions, in addition to being assistant national team coach.
In response to queries, an FAS spokesman said: "We are finalising the appointment of the Young Lions head coach.
"Most of the backroom staff have already been confirmed, and we will be making an announcement in due course.
"Pre-season training has just begun under national youth teams head coach Richard Tardy and staff coach V Selvaraj, who will be assisting in the meantime."
Should Fandi not accept the offer of coaching the Young Lions, there are several alternatives.
When TNP spoke to Tardy at a training session on Wednesday, the Frenchman said he was not interested in the role, and was hopeful an official announcement would be made by the end of next week.
Another former Lions skipper, 44-year-old Nazri Nasir, meanwhile, told TNP two weeks ago that he was keen on taking up the vacant post.
Moroccan Karim Bencherifa, who earlier this week parted ways with S.League club Warriors FC after just 10 weeks, is also understood to be a possible candidate.
The Young Lions, an age-group developmental side, were coached last year by Aide Iskandar and then German Juergen Raab, after Aide resigned following the Under-23 team's failure at June's home SEA Games.
Raab's contract with the FAS has since expired, and he has returned to Germany.
In line with the FAS' plan to inject more youthfulness into the S.League, the Young Lions will feature mostly Under-21 players, although national team striker Khairul Amri, 30, has been confirmed as an overaged player.
With most of the squad comprising S.League rookies, the season ahead looks tough.
The Young Lions have also failed to keep hold of several players.
Midfielder M Anumanthan was believed to be a player the FAS was keen to keep, but has since joined Hougang United.
It also wanted Fandi's eldest son, 18-year-old Irfan, to line up alongside Amri, but the 1.88m-tall youngster has joined Home United.
Home have also signed Fandi's second son, 16-year-old Ikhsan, from the National Football Academy, for their Prime League side.