Lions stay focused despite Stange speculation
News of coach Stange's impending departure won't affect players' approach to games
There have been no meetings called to address the matter, and it was training as usual for the Lions yesterday at the Geylang Field ahead of what is by all accounts national coach Bernd Stange's final month in charge of the team.
Indeed, many of the national players first heard of Stange's impending departure from newspapers and social media sites in the wake of The New Paper's revelation of the matter last Thursday.
They also remain in the dark over the situation surrounding the German's assistant, Fandi Ahmad, who is also set to leave the Football Association of Singapore next month.
Despite the latest developments surrounding the national team's backroom, the Lions remain focused on getting results, even if there appears to be nothing much to play for, as they line up against Myanmar on Thursday in a warm-up match at the Jalan Besar Stadium, ahead of their final Group E World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan next Tuesday in Teheran.
The Lions' position in the group - third, behind Japan and Syria - is all but cemented and with it comes entry into the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
Hariss Harun is adamant that whatever goes on off the pitch, there will be no compromises when the players step across the white line.
"There may not be much at stake, but we are playing with the flag on our chest, and we will give our best every time we get the privilege to do that," said the Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder.
"(Stange) is still the head coach, and whether he is staying or leaving is insignificant. We will still work hard to try to play the way he wants us to play to get a result for the country."
Stange, who had previously guided East Germany, Belarus and Iraq, was appointed Singapore coach in May, 2013.
Baihakki Khaizan has been training under the watchful eyes of Stange since Sunday and he has not noticed any change over the way the 68-year-old has conducted his sessions.
"Even if he knows he's going, there has been no difference in his mentality, he still gives his best and that's exactly what we players are doing, too," said the 32-year-old.
"We are professional enough to know that he's still our coach at this point in time and we will give of our best till his last assignment.
"It's the same in clubs and for the national team - coaches come and go. Their contract issues and targets are matters for the FAS to deal with, not us players."
Hariss paid tribute to the effect that Stange and Fandi have had on the Lions.
"Fandi is a big character in the history of Singapore football, everyone respects him, and it's always positive to have him around," said the 25-year-old.
"Bernd's football philosophy is a positive one, but we still need to work a lot more on it. And whether they stay or leave, we should just take the positive elements that can only be good for the team," he added.
For both Stange and Fandi yesterday, it was business as usual.
Stange did speak freely, addressing team issues, revealing that a groin injury will see fleet-footed winger Faris Ramli play no part in both games.
He revealed that Fandi's eldest son, 18-year-old Irfan, will join up with the senior team if he does well with the national Under-21s, who will also be on duty in Teheran at the same time.
Led by Richard Tardy, the U-21 side will face their Iranian counterparts in two fixtures on Saturday and Monday.
But Stange clammed up the moment the issue of his future was raised.
"I speak only about the team and only about the preparation for the game," he said. "Let's be focused on who's here, I'm not important, coaches are always coming and going."