Fandi wants young talents to stay on
New FAS head coach (youth) wants to keep talented young players in the game
Singapore football cannot afford to keep losing talented young players, who drop out of the sport in their late teens.
Local football icon Fandi Ahmad wants to change this after he was unveiled as the head coach (youth) of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) at a press conference at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
With his previous contract with the national football body due to expire next month, the 54-year-old inked a three-year contract - with an option to extend a further three years - focusing on the development of players aged between 19 and 23.
According to FAS vice-president Edwin Tong, who made the announcement, Fandi will "identify and nurture youth talent", and also lead Singapore teams at the 2019 and 2021 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, the 2018 Asian Games, and qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Fandi will also double up and assist national coach V Sundramoorthy in the senior national team that will compete at next month's AFF Suzuki Cup, and take on an "ambassadorial role" for the FAS to engage stakeholders.
His appointment comes after 10 months of discussions with the FAS had reached an impasse.
An exit looked on the cards as reports emerged last month that Malaysian side Pahang FA were keen to hand their former player a technical role.
But Fandi and the FAS eventually reached an agreement, and the former national striker, who scored 55 goals in 104 appearances for Singapore, is now fully focused on his new role.
"It has always been my dream to develop youngsters and, to me, this is history repeating itself," he told The New Paper.
"Back in 2003, we did not have an Under-21 team, so Raddy (Avramovic, then national coach) asked me to come up with a group of players who can later on make it to the national team.
"I did that and also took charge of the Young Lions team that played in the S.League.
"Juma'at Jantan is the best example of what I want to do.
"He quit football at 19, but I encouraged him to play on. Now, 13 years later, he is still in the national team."
Fullback Juma'at - who is in the Lions squad to take on Malaysia in Friday's Causeway Challenge match at the National Stadium - quit the game after his club, the now-defunct Sembawang Rangers, sat out the S.League in 2004.
He took on part-time jobs to make ends meet before Fandi managed to contact him and convince him to return to professional football.
"Singapore football needs all the talented youngsters we have," said Fandi.
"I have seen so many talented players drop out over the years, for different reasons. I hope I can help to change that.
"This is where we have to educate them and their parents, that football is a viable career in Singapore, and their talent can help us.
"If they stay away, that's a big problem for us."
Fandi has been working the ground long before he came to an agreement with the FAS.
TNP understands that he is working on building a group of about 40 players to groom over the next three years, and has already identified two players who are currently not in the FAS' National Football Academy system.
This group of players will comprise boys born in 1997, 1998 and 1999, and will likely include his sons, 19-year-old Irfan and 17-year-old Ikhsan.
The exact details of his training schedules, and how he plans to coordinate it with clubs, will be discussed with FAS technical director Michel Sablon, and national youth teams head coach Richard Tardy, who oversees the development of players aged between 13 and 18.
FAS vice-president Tong explained that it took time to reach an agreement with Fandi because of factors such as the FAS focusing on a search for a national head coach to replace Bernd Stange in June, and also Fandi's frequent overseas trips since then with the Lions on training stints and matches overseas.
"I know there was a lot of speculation," said Tong. "We had to know what Fandi had to offer, and Fandi wanted to know if the FAS was prepared to stand behind his project.
"So that's why it took a lot of time. While this went on, of course the offers for Fandi came pouring in.
"What I can say is, in all the discussions we've had with Fandi, he's been very clear his heart was always in Singapore."
Fandi is delighted that his future has now been sorted out, and is also looking forward to leading Singapore at the SEA Games, Asian Games, and Olympic qualifiers.
"I was assistant coach at two SEA Games, with Vincent Subramaniam in 1999 and then Raddy in 2005. I also assisted Raddy at the 2006 Asian Games," he said.
"But this will be my first time in charge of a (age-group) national team at a major competition.
"So I'm very happy and I'm looking forward to it."
What they say
It's a clear additional value that Fandi's on board. He brings a lot of knowledge to our group - him, (national youth teams head coach) Richard Tardy and myself. We have had many discussions. Of course, we don't agree on everything, but every discussion I have had with Fandi is interesting. He knows a lot about the different levels of Singapore football, and I don't know anyone else who can do this.
- FAS technical director Michel Sablon
He's an important staff for us. He's well respected, and his presence will be good news for us ahead of the Suzuki Cup (next month). I'm very happy he'll be here for the long term. If anybody deserves something (like this), it's him because of his contributions to Singapore football.
- National coach V Sundramoorthy
Now it's about the FAS backing Fandi and his plans and also making sure the system is right, because youth football is still a problem. While it's great Sundram is the national coach and Fandi is now (head coach (youth), they can only play with the cards they are dealt with.
- Former national player R Sasikumar
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