Fandi wants to fix Lions' lack of desire
Newly appointed interim national coach to take charge for AFF Suzuki Cup
Singapore's football woes in recent years go deeper than the players' abilities.
Newly appointed interim national coach Fandi Ahmad believes that the Lions' slump is largely due to a lack of drive and has made it his mission to change that.
Speaking at a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) press conference where he was unveiled as the man to lead Singapore's national football team at the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup, Fandi said: "They must have the desire and passion to play for the country.
"We haven't been doing well in the last few years, it's not only about football, it's about the desire, which I think is lacking.
"I think I can motivate them, I've done it many times, I know that these boys, if they put their heart and soul to it, they can do it. Technically we might not match (our opponents), but discipline, dedication and determination are what I'll focus on."
With just five months left to the tournament and the next Fifa international window only in September, it will be an uphill battle for Fandi - who will remain in charge of the national Under-23 squad-and his charges against their strong opponents in Group B: five-time champions Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines.
While Fandi acknowledged that, he refused to write his side off, remaining optimistic that they can spring a few surprises.
The 55-year-old said: "This is a tough group but I believe that we have our abilities and trust our players, it's important that we have home support.
"I love this format because it gives any team a chance. If the players give their heart and soul, which I believe they will, they can fight anybody.
"This is the time the players have to wake up and the fans have to be behind us."
The Lions will start their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign at home against Indonesia on Nov 9.
Fandi's appointment fills the post that had been vacant for over a month, after V. Sundram Moorthy stepped down. Singapore did not win a competitive fixture during Sundram's two years in charge.
A 1-0 loss to Taiwan in a deadrubber AFC Asian Cup tie served as the indication for FAS to end Sundram's tenure.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong said: "In 2016, we offered him a one-year contract. Before the end of the contract, we thought that we should give him more time... by extending a contract of two years which will end in 2019.
"(But) the inability to produce results that the public and fraternity look so much upon... we had to make a very objective decision on Sundram."
The FAS felt that Fandi's involvement and knowledge of local football made him the most suitable candidate to oversee the AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
FAS vice-president Edwin Tong said: "Fandi is immediately familiar with the boys, and he's in touch with the younger players. We see him as the perfect candidate for the short term and for the longer term, ensuring that there is greater synergy in gelling the youth projects and national team."
The FAS is still looking for a permanent replacement to helm the national team after the tournament, but made it clear that Fandi will work closely with his successor to groom the football talents in Singapore.
On the type of coach they are looking at, Lim said: "We are actually looking for a coach who can bring a different vibrancy, landscape. (He) must be someone who shares this type of philosophy and sentiment and work closely with Fandi who is in charge of the youth development project."
Fandi's appointment as the interim coach was well-received by former internationals.
Former national striker Aleksandar Duric said: "It's a great move because Fandi knows the players. If a new national coach comes, it will be too late."
Former goalkeeper Lionel Lewis agreed, saying: "It's a great appointment. He understands the culture and a lot of players look up to Fandi."
But they feel that the interim arrangement could cause some issues.
Ex-international R. Sasikumar said: "He's the coach and they should just go out there and say he's the coach.
"Singapore football has been plagued by this thing of interim coaches. It sets the wrong mindset, gives the wrong intention to everyone involved."
Duric added: "I think he deserves to stay, we need some stability in the national set-up."