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Fandi named interim Lions head coach as FAS continues search for main man

SINGAPORE — Local football legend Fandi Ahmad was named Singapore’s national coach for the 2018 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup on Tuesday (May 15).

Fandi Ahmad at the FAS press conference to announce his appointment as head coach of the AFF Suzuku Cup team.

Fandi Ahmad at the FAS press conference to announce his appointment as head coach of the AFF Suzuku Cup team.

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SINGAPORE — Local football legend Fandi Ahmad was named Singapore’s national coach for the 2018 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup on Tuesday (May 15).

However, fans hoping for a permanent appointment will be disappointed to learn that 55-year-old’s tenure will only last till the end of the year, even if the Lions do well in the regional tournament where they have been drawn in the “group of death” featuring five-time champions Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei or Timor Leste.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will continue in its hunt for a new Lions head coach, and it expects to appoint someone by December.

Former Lions captain Fandi will balance his new duties with his current role as head coach of the national under-23 team and Young Lions in the Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League.

He succeeds former international V Sundramoorthy, who stepped down on April 9 after almost two years at the helm.

Fandi’s coaching and support team will include some familiar faces: ex-national defender S Subramani has been appointed assistant coach while former star striker Nor Alam Shah will also join the backroom staff.

The FAS said Fandi will return to his under-23 project after the AFF Suzuki Cup to prepare the Young Lions for next year’s SEA Games, and the 2020 Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship qualification.

“Since it’s been difficult to find a coach that we (FAS) wanted, I volunteered and spoke to the executive committee and team manager that, maybe, I should try,” said Fandi at a media conference on Tuesday. “They are keen and I am willing to sacrifice.”

The former SAFFC (now Warriors FC), LionsXII and Johor Darul Ta’zim coach added: “I’m experienced enough and I know the players well, I’ve coached most of them before. It’s a big challenge for me.”

FAS president Lim Kia Tong said that Fandi’s appointment would give the executive committee more time to search for a new head coach.

He said: “We do not want to hurry the appointment of the coach because we want the next coach to be able to bring the national team to the level we so desire.”

Mr Lim also confirmed that the FAS had received applications for the head coach post from former England players Terry Butcher and Tony Adams.

Other names reportedly keen on the position include former Manchester United assistant manager Rene Meulensteen, ex-Bradford City defender Ashley Westwood, and former Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang.

The football chief told TODAY that the FAS is likely to appoint a foreign coach as there are “very few good local coaches in the form of Sundram and Fandi”.

The new Lions’ head coach has to be “in line with our philosophy”, said Mr Lim. “We want the game to be played at a higher intensity, higher tempo, we want one touch style of football.

“Ultimately it’s not local or foreign, it boils down to who is the one who can bring changes to (the football) landscape, bring up the level of Singapore football.”

For now, Fandi’s immediate goal will be for the Lions to survive the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Currently 172nd on the Fifa rankings, Singapore will kick off its AFF Suzuki Cup campaign against Indonesia at the National Stadium on Nov 9, before facing the Philippines away on Nov 13.

The four-time champions were eliminated at the group stage in 2016 after a draw and two losses.

While neither Fandi nor the FAS have set a target for the AFF Suzuki Cup, Fandi said: “It’s about fire and desire, which I think is lacking. I know these boys. If they put their heart and soul into it, they can do it.

“Tactically we’ve got to be smart. We are not the best team in the region anymore, but we will capitalise on our strengths… our determination, teamwork and our fans.”

FAS vice-president Edwin Tong insisted on Tuesday that Fandi would return to the under-23 team regardless of the AFF Suzuki Cup results, as the under-23 team project is his “primary passion”, and that “his role is to make sure that the scaffolding and pipeline is established” for the national team.

While Fandi may be adamant that his sole focus is on grooming young players for Singapore, fans will be happy to hear that Fandi could make a return as national head coach in the future.

“Maybe in the future, yes… I hope there’s another chance for me to become the national coach in the future,” he said.

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