For The Record...
"In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Zainudin (Nordin, FAS President) reiterated that the S-league will not become a "poorer cousin" once the LionsXII start their Malaysia Cup campaign."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

[TNP League Cup] - Clubs urged to "youth-first" but Young Lions missed out (again)

Group photo at the end of the session
Perennial absentees Garena Young Lions will not be competing in this year's The New Paper League Cup for the third consecutive year after they last featured this tournament back in 2013 which they finished as “Plate Final Runners-up”.

This notion was confirmed when the de-facto national U23 squad was not on the drawing list with the remaining eight teams of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League had their fate in the competition decided in this afternoon at the News Centre.

Confirming another earlier report which was mentioned by citing unconfirmed sources a day before on this blog's Facebook page, was the omission of the amateur National Football League (NFL) sides from this season's edition, thus making this a genuine solitary League Cup contest.

S.League CEO Lim Chin
In his opening speech, S.League CEO Lim Chin thanks The New Paper (TNP) for their continuing support as tournament's title sponsors and lauded the Cup as a platform to allow clubs to expose their young players, an opportunity to be talent-spotted which he hopes the coaches will “embrace” such belief.

Concurring the thoughts of the former Chief of Artillery is Hougang United's Coach K Balagumaran.

Speaking to this blogger on the sidelines following the draw, the former Gombak United coach said:“I will use this tournament to try out some young players or players who have limited playing times (in the S.League) like Iqbal (Hussain) who is serving his NS (National Service) and Samuel Benjamin who just came back from an injury.”

TNP editor Dominic Nathan (left) drawn Albirex to Group B
The participating eight teams were drawn into two groups (Group A and B) of four by the various representatives from TNP, with a few of whom were asked to share their thoughts on the outcome while on stage.

Group A will see three-time winners Brunei DPMM, alongside powerhouses Tampines Rovers with Hougang United and Warriors FC. Defending Cup holders and league leaders Albirex Niigata (Singapore) found themselves accompanied by last season's runners-up Balestier Khalsa together with Geylang International and Home United.

After a “round-robin” stage, the top two teams from each group will proceed to the semi-finals with the bottom two of the each group will qualify for the “Plate” competition, whilst the actual dates of the fixtures are to be made known on a later date, it will be scheduled between 11th to 30th of July.

“Many said this (tournament) is about giant-killing, but in my opinion all teams in both Group A and B are all strong teams,” said Coach Balagumaran who shared his thoughts on the outcome.“So whoever plays well on that day will win the game and for Hougang, being underdogs (in Group A), we will have to work hard and qualify for the next round.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No Acclimatize Is Necessary for the "Dazzler" ...

Sundram (foreground) is set to take over Lions' job
So, if what was reported in the media that Tampines Rovers coach V Sundram moorthy (pictured foreground) is going to be the next Lions coach on a year deal, so be it.

As many argued a local coach like him should equipped with the essential knowledge of local scene, as compared to a raw foreign coach. Therefore, he should be ready for the grilling task ahead.

Not to forget the "Dazzler" had been assistant to former national coaches like Raddy Avramovic and the recent departed Bernd Stange on numerous assignments and even served as an interim national coach before the appointment of German Stange, so he should not be unfamiliar with the national team setup at all.

Sundram (third from left) was assistant to Coach Raddy (left) 
Added to the fact, he was once the coach of the disbanded LionsXII which boasted many of those top local players that formed the backbone of the national team in recent years and coupled to his present Tampines squad, which is filled with a number of those who used to play for the one-time Malaysian League champions, it is not exaggerated at all to say he IS the “Lions Coach In The Shadow”.

So when media projected the one-year proposed deal to the former national striker for the top job in recent weeks, I can't understand what was the hoo-ha about of claiming a twelve-month is deemed not enough?

Given those pointers highlighted earlier, Coach Sundram shall be ready to perform his projected new role (after his departure from Tampines was confirmed by the club chairman), without any honeymoon period, upon tidying up those loose ends following the AFC Cup match against Mohun Bagan.

Other than that, let's wait for the official unveiling which I doubt he, as a pragmatic tactician, would carry some pebbles in his pocket like Stange did in his introductory session.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

[AFC Cup] Stags Out of Group Wilderness After Five Years ...

Yasir Hanapi (middle) scored the winner
After seven five years in wilderness, Tampines Rovers finally made it out of the group stages of the AFC Cup tournament by beating Malaysian powerhouses Selangor FA one-nil at Kallang in front of a crowd of 11,875.

The solitary goal was a well-taken attempt from Yasir Hanapi in the 32nd minute that was deemed enough to pave the way for the Stags into the Round of 16.

“It was a great goal." said Tampines' coach V Sundram moorthy after the game of the match winner. "He (Yasir) took it well, bend the ball away and it's goal of a match winner."

Noh Rahman (5) denied R Gopinathan (25) from advancing
Little much were said by the shy 27-year-old midfielder who was also named Man-of-The-Match at the post-match media gathering when asked on his thoughts for scoring that all-important goal.

"I am very happy to score that (winning) goal and I can't describe my feelings now." replied Yasir who only joined the big-spending Stags this year after two seasons with Home United.

Shahdan Sulaiman (8) tussled with Mauro Olivi (16)
Much were said (source:1,2) during the building up of this Group E match between the two sides at the National Stadium which should be enough to entice fans to turn up at the game, despite the early kickoff of 7pm for one fact being this was a groundbreaking move to see staging of a match of this tournament for the first time in this 55,000-seated arena.

However, due to some peculiar arrangements only the lower-tier of the stand facing the grandstand was filled up with scattered fews spread out behind the goal-posts facing the CBD skyline and strangely, the visiting Selangor supporters known as the "UltraSel Curva" only made their entrance to the game minutes before the interval to back their heroes in the sector normally reserved for away fans.

It was later informed via various sources the group was held up at the checkpoint when entering the Republic.

Skipper "Fara" headed to defuse a crisis in the box
Despite the late appearance, it did not deter the Klang Valley folks from whipping up the fervour support with their usual routines of chants and stomping on the stands that were sporadically countered by the local fans from their end.

But sadly, such a passionate display on the terraces by the "Merah-Kuning" fans was not complimented by those Selangor players on the field which still bore the visible markings of a rugby field, as they struggled to break down the stubborn defence marshalled by Tampines' skipper Fahrudin Mustafic.

He did not go in depth when deciphered his opinions on his team's performance, as Selangor's coach Zainal Abidin Hassan provided straight-to-the-point replies to questions from the floor.

Contrasting feelings after the game
Said the one-time goal machine of Malaysian football:"Bad luck to Selangor when we gave away one goal and we tried to (get) the equaliser before half time."

"We got our chances in the game but couldn't score and we started to attack, we missed those chances we created, that's it." before hurriedly left the room.

At the meantime, Coach Sundram, his counterpart and former team-mate in Pahang FA back in the 1990s, lauded the result as a positive one for Singapore football.

Selangor fans registered their unhappiness over team's display after game
Said the former national striker:"I believe we are in the right direction and it's good for Singapore football."

"It shows that S.League is as good as the Malaysian League and quite even on its day, it would be another plus point for us to make it the quarter-finals and hope more fans will come to support us like today."

The "Dazzler", however, did not comment on the sending off of Billy Mehmet in the second half.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tigers Bagged Three Points, Finally ...

He was shouting at the top of his voice whenever his team failed to string up some decent passes and would gesticulating frantically at any moment his team gave the ball away cheaply in the match.

However, at the end of the day what really matters to Coach Marko Kraljevic is the first three full points safety in the bag for his Balestier Khalsa side who prior to this match was the only team in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League without a victory to their name.

Miroslav Kristic (extremely right) opened the account of the night
When asked after the two-nil win over the cellar-dwellers Garena Young Lions at their Toa Payoh base if his side would have scored a few more to make the win a more comfortable one given how the possession was dominated by their opponents, the former midfielder opined it's about the number of goals scored that win the games not the numbers of passes and possession hold by a team.

Said the Croatian coach:"Young Lions kept the possession in the game but it's not about how many passes you made to win, it's the number of goals you scored to win the game."

Adam Swandi (17) was replaced before the break due to injury
"It's not easy to play under this kind of pressure and I hope with this victory tonight, we will start to climb up." he added.

Despite two goals conceded, it was fair to say the visiting Garena Young Lions were the better side for the first half of this opening second-round fixture against their hosts, in term of possession holding.

Ironically, it was the mainly youth-based squad that caused an upset by beating one of the Republic’s AFC Cup representative back in February when the two first met.

Another Balestier's attack foiled by the Young Lions in second half
Khairul Amri's (19) free-kick ricocheted off the Tigers' wall 
Croatian striker Miroslav Kristic opened the account in the fourth minute before Fadli Kamis added on the second in the 38th minute to boast the buffer before the break, which in between that gap saw the Young Lions strung up passes and making runs around the Tigers' domain that only to find themselves clueless in making what it matters most - putting the ball to the back of the net.

To make things worse for the youngsters was the exit of striker Adam Swandi minutes before the interval following a knock on his face that saw him stretchered out of the game for treatment, late introduction of national striker Khairul Amri to beef up the visitors' firepower proved futile as well given his recent return to action after a lengthy injury.

Garena Young Lions' Coach Patrick Hesse talks to the media
Facing the media after being the only team that was beaten once by the rest in the league, Young Lions coach Patrick Hesse rued at those missed opportunities to score.

"We had the opportunities where we couldn't score." said the Frenchmen. "I think we made some good possession in the game, having 70 percent of the time and played two touches but was disappointed at how the crosses were delivered."

"Amri has not been playing for the past five months due to the injury, we hope to see him fit into the team as his experience is what we needed." added Coach Hesse on the 31-year-old star whose late introduction in the game saw his effort from a free-kick ricocheted off the Balestier's wall shortly before the game was over.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

End of #TheBerndStangeShow

One would recall how Bernd Stange - the former Belarus, Iraq, East Germany national coach was affable and approachable when he first took over as Singapore national team head coach back in 2013 from Serbian Raddy Avramovic for not refusing any "selfie" or photo request from anybody.

Such a demeanor would perceive he was then ready to adapt and assimilate into the far-from-desirable footballing infrastructure offered by the island republic when he mentioned he would make do with it when shown the rustic, run-down Geylang Field facilities stated he had seen worse cases in Iraq.

The first words I heard from him personally
Soon after which, he declared his intention to see the four-time Asean champions to play the "pass-and-move" game which he insisted it's how football is being played by many top sides in the world and quashed any thought that it's “Bernd Stange Football” when this blogger first met him in person months after he took the hot seat.

Despite the difficulties that waiting for him soon after he took over the reins, Coach Stange painstakingly tried to keep the morale high by constantly insisted things are on the path and controversially put a premature end to international careers of several established names like Daniel Bennett, Shi Jiayi, Fahrudin Mustafic, etc. stated that his team will be focusing on younger players as the base of the Lions in years to come.

Never short of telling us the young players is the future
Such a confidence shown by the man when he declared the players of Singapore Selection he chosen that faced Italian giants Juventus in the first-ever match played at the new National Stadium as the “future of Singapore football”.

Unfortunately, not many were convinced or shared that same confidence when there wasn't much to cheer about whenever the Lions took onto the field in recent years and saw the Republic ding-dong around the FIFA ranking of between 140s to 150s, in spite of those astronomical figures spent on programs like the “mass-mobilization” that saw the unprecedented combination of both Lions and Cubs touring Austria for the tuning up for both AFF Suzuki Cup or the SEA Games.

Thus, it wasn't a surprise to see many to call for the resignation of Coach Stange after the humiliating defeat by Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup that knocked Lions out of the tournament they tried to defend as reigning champions on home turf.

Some pointed out if the lack of quality sparring opponents, which he promised to bring at the start of his reign, for the team being one of the stagnancies not allowing Singapore football to break out of Asean level.

On the controversial remarks on the National Stadium
"No top teams want to play on artificial surface (of National Stadium)," lamented Coach Stange in response to that during the pre-match press conference of the friendly against Guam.

Such a response immediately drawn a strong rebuttal from SportsHub, the operators of the 55,000-seater stadium and had the German claimed he was misquoted in the earlier session after the came-from-behind draw against the Pacific Islanders.

Save for the gratification of that 0-0 draw against the mighty Japanese in the ongoing Asian Cup qualifiers, there are not many positivities to talk about for the rest of Coach Stange's tenure which also saw the acrimonious public spat between him and former Courts Young Lions coach Aide Iskandar following the disastrous SEA Games campaign last year.

One of the fiery exchanges with the media
As his days are numbered at Jalan Besar Stadium, the 68-year-old eventually admitted he “might have underestimated the challenges facing Singapore football” in a recent interview.

Fair to say both Stange and his predecessor Avramovic were let down by an inadequate youth development system that failed to churn out players for the national team given the lack of pluralism in the existing framework? Up to individual to decide on that.

However, it doesn't matter who is the next Singapore National coach, be it a local or a foreigner again, what is essential to have someone who can fit into the current system seamlessly to work alongside FAS Technical Director Michel Sablon to revamp and kick start the conveyor belt for producing players for the Lions.

Must be one of his biggest regrets
For Football Association of Singapore (FAS), it's also important to lay things clear on the table to whoever is going to replace Coach Stange as the next Singapore national football team coach the genuine circumstances facing the local game, in order to avoid the same “underestimation” admitted by the former Perth Glory coach mentioned earlier.

The next man at helm must avoid making any bold statement we are accustomed to for the past three years, stay firm on the ground.

Meanwhile, the rest of the stakeholders must be patient and realistic of the current doldrums we are in.

Coach Stange's stats for the Lions
After all, like many said Alex Ferguson revived the famed Manchester United youth academy to build on and enjoyed those successful years on the later stages. Likewise, Singapore football must have the same mindset and patient to see us harvest the crops in years to come.

With the result in Tehran saw Singapore lost 2-1 to Afghanistan, it's time to see the Saxony native penciled another name on his CV and also signalled the end of "The Bernd Stange Show" by this blog as well.


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