Duo in the running to be FAS gen-sec
Singaporean deputy CEO of Thai league and FAS deputy gen-sec in contention
Following the resignation of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) general secretary Winston Lee, the search is on for a successor who can haul Singapore football out of the doldrums in the day-to-day running of the national football body.
When Lee's deputy Yazeen Buhari was appointed as the acting general secretary last Friday, the FAS said it will conduct a "deliberate search process encompassing internal and external candidates" for the top post.
The Straits Times understands it is currently a two-horse race, with Yazeen the internal candidate and Premier League Thailand deputy CEO and director of club licensing Benjamin Tan the external contender.
Yazeen Buhari, 39, was a Fifa referee from 2011 to 2013, and worked as a relationship manager with RHB Bank from 2006 to 2008 after pursuing sports management studies in Perth, Australia, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Western Australia.
He was general manager of Singapore Athletics for a year from 2014 before becoming a Sport Singapore assistant director from July 2015 to February 2016.
He then joined the FAS as head of development and planning before moving to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to head its planning and strategy department. He then returned as the FAS deputy general secretary.
Tan, 41, also had a stint at AFC as a competitions manager.
After graduating from the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, he worked in the FAS competitions division from 2000 to 2008 before joining the AFC.
He then rose through the ranks to become AFC's head of club competitions from 2010 to 2014 before returning to the FAS as a deputy director of development and planning from 2014 to 2016, after which he was poached by the Thailand FA.
Typically, the FAS general secretary deals with the strategic planning of the association and its implementation, stakeholder engagements and creating a revenue-generating model, among other responsibilities.
Both men declined to talk about their possible candidacy but, in his current capacity, Yazeen told ST: "At this critical juncture, I am thoroughly focused on implementing the many changes that will be taking place in the FAS over the next few months.
"Our football needs to be future-ready for desired outcomes and I'm happy to note our engagements with relevant stakeholders have been positive for that to materialise."
It has been a rough few years for Singapore as the Lions crashed out during the group stage of the last two Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championships in 2014 and 2016.
Under national coach V. Sundram Moorthy, they have not won for more than a year, stretching to 13 matches and will finish last in their Asian Cup qualifying group.
The Young Lions were also eliminated at the group stage at the last two SEA Games in 2015 and this year, while Singapore's youth teams have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats.
The FAS management was also embroiled in a saga involving Lee, former president Zainudin Nordin and Tiong Bahru Football Club chairman Bill Ng over a $500,000 donation made by Tiong Bahru to the AFF via the FAS.
Sport Singapore filed a police report over suspected misuse of funds and a purported attempt by a senior officer of the club to obstruct the completion of audits into the S-League sit-out clubs.
The trio and Ng's wife were arrested and released on bail, and are still assisting with police investigations.
Hougang United coach Philippe Aw feels that the new FAS general secretary must first set the house in order.
"Both exude good vibes, they are young and enthusiastic. As long as their hearts are in the right place, both men have the capabilities to improve Singapore football," he said.
"In fact, it would be better if they work hand in hand.
"But whoever takes on this role must be empowered and trusted to do the job.
"He will have to ensure a good ecosystem is in place, and must unite all partners, namely the FAS, Ministry of Education, People's Association and Sport Singapore.
"He also needs to ensure a stringent process of quality checks on the people the FAS is employing.
"This is definitely the right time for a change as we are in bad shape, so we might as well give it a good shot."
While FAS president Lim Kia Tong did not give a timeline as to when the new general secretary will be appointed, he told ST: "The executive committee has to decide.
"The post will probably be advertised and the criteria should be revealed therein... we have to cast our net."