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'I will give my all': New Lions head coach signs 2-year deal, readies for Asian Cup qualifiers

SINGAPORE — With slightly over a month before the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers in June, the newly appointed head coach of the national football team, Takayuki Nishigaya, is confident he can hit the ground running. 

A 2017 photograph of newly-appointed Lions head coach Takayuki Nishigaya.
A 2017 photograph of newly-appointed Lions head coach Takayuki Nishigaya.
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  • Takayuki Nishigaya’s appointment was unveiled by the Football Association of Singapore at a press conference on Monday
  • FAS said Nishigaya will assume his new role in May and is in the midst of finalising the necessary paperwork to travel to Singapore
  • He will be assisted by Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir and staff coach and analyst Koichiro Iizuka

SINGAPORE — With slightly over a month before the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers in June, the newly appointed head coach of the national football team, Takayuki Nishigaya, is confident he can hit the ground running. 

The Japanese national, 48, will assume his role in May after finalising his paperwork to travel to Singapore. His appointment follows news in December that his compatriot, former head coach Tatsuma Yoshida, was cutting his contract short by a year to return to Japan to be with his family.

Speaking from Japan via videolink on Monday (April 25), Nishigaya said that he is already working with the current coaching team to analyse the Lions' strengths and weaknesses. 

“Yes, we do not have much time until the Asian Cup qualifiers but we will do our utmost, including preparation," he said.

"First, is to assess our current situation and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the team and we would like to take on the mission of qualifying for the Asian Cup.”

Together with the strong support from the fans and other stakeholders, I will give my all to help bring Singapore football forward.
Newly appointed Lions head coach Takayuki Nishigaya

Nishigaya will be assisted by Young Lions coach Nazri Nasir and staff coach and analyst Koichiro Iizuka, both of whom were part of former head coach Yoshida’s backroom staff. 

His appointment was unveiled by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) at a press conference. FAS said he has signed a two-year contract.

Nazri coached the national team during international friendlies last month, where the Lions won 2-1 against Malaysia and 2-0 against the Philippines. 

FIRST INTERNATIONAL GIG

Like his compatriot Yoshida, this is Nishigaya's first international gig. He was a player under legendary coach Arsene Wenger, of Arsenal fame, when the Frenchman coached Nagoya Grampus in Japan's J1 league.

Nishigaya later went to England to take his first steps as a coach by learning from Wenger, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said in a media release.

As a player, Nishigaya was a defender who made 100 J-League appearances.

He started his coaching journey in 2004 as a youth coach in Tokyo Verdy. He later became youth head coach before leaving in 2009.

Since then, he has taken up stints as assistant coach at Tsukuba University, Tokyo Verdy, Chukyo University, Albirex Niigata and Mito Hollyhock, before becoming Mito's head coach in 2015.

Newly-appointed head coach of the Lions, Takayuki Nishigaya, appearing via videolink from Japan at a press conference in Singapore on April 25, 2022. FAS president Lim Kia Tong is in the centre of the photograph.

FAS president Lim Kia Tong said Nishigaya was highly recommended by the Japan Football Association and was appointed after a rigorous recruitment process. 

In response to TODAY’s question on whether it was a last-minute decision to appoint a new head coach with the Asian Cup qualifiers around the corner, FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari said: “We were in no way pressured to make a decision just because the qualifiers were coming. We did have the timeline in place right from the start when Tatsuma decided to step down.”

Nishigaya, who has remotely kept tabs on the Lions’ recent performances, such as the current AIA Singapore Premier League campaign and the Asean Football Federation U23 Championship 2022, said he is confident in the preparation for the Asian Cup qualifiers, even under a tight timeline. 

The Lions will face Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Myanmar at the Asian Cup qualifiers in June. The playoffs will be held in the Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek ahead of the main tournament in China in 2023.

Nishigaya said he is aware of the high regard in which his predecessor is held by the Lions and their fans. 

“It is my aim to build on the progress that he has made and, in that regard, the expertise and knowledge of Nazri — a former Singapore captain who commands the respect of the team — and Koichiro will be key to helping us achieve that. 

“Together with the strong support from the fans and other stakeholders, I will give my all to help bring Singapore football forward.''

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