Fandi leads LionsXII by example to give them extra bite

Fandi leads LionsXII by example to give them extra bite

SINGAPORE - Cushioning the football with his chest, swivelling on his left ankle and volleying with his right foot into the top corner in one fluid motion.

A great goal but just another one from Fandi Ahmad, one of Singapore's greatest players.

The new LionsXII coach and former national captain was demonstrating the finer art of scoring to his charges on the first day of training at ITE Ang Mo Kio.

It was also meant to ram home the key points of his philosophy.

"If you know me, I'm all about attacking football. Win, lose or draw, my team will attack," the 51-year-old told The Straits Times.

With 14 of his squad away on SEA Games duty, Fandi was left with just nine players, including senior internationals Isa Halim and Khairul Amri, for his inaugural session. But he made the most of the 90 minutes by polishing their finishing skills and working on their fitness.

Wearing a broad smile and engaging in banter with the team, Fandi cut a happy figure, which was a far cry from events back in February when he called the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) "incompetent" owing to the protracted search for a new national coach to succeed Raddy Avramovic.

On his past friction with his current employers, Fandi replied: "Work is work. I am not a person who bears grudges. There is no problem.

"Right now, I feel on top of the world. I'm happy to get the job and I want my family to settle down after coaching abroad for seven years. The fans have always been behind me and I cannot disappoint them."

Fandi has not coached locally since leaving for Indonesian Super League club Pelita Jaya in 2006 and, subsequently, Johor Darul Takzim last year. Assisting him in the dugout next season will be former national captain Nazri Nasir, whom FAS confirmed as the new No.2 yesterday.

Nazri, 42, said: "It's a dream to work with Fandi. He has a bundle of experience and I want to learn as much from him as possible.

"I want the players to be serious in training but I also hope there won't be any barriers between coaches and players so that we are friends off the pitch and not just talk about football."

But, right now, the priority is to assemble a squad capable of defending the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title won last season, when V. Sundramoorthy was in charge.

Sundram has since joined second-tier outfit Negeri Sembilan.

Fandi, who has signed a three-year contract with an option of a two-year extension, believes his men can at least finish in the top three of the 12-team league and reach a cup final.

The MSL deadline for registering players is today and Fandi intends to field a squad of 25-26 players. He is hoping to be able to name midfield cover for Isa and Zulfahmi Arifin.

Bustling striker Sufian Anuar has rejoined the LionsXII after a season in the S-League with Warriors FC while Amri has also returned from Tampines Rovers. Also joining yesterday's training was Syafiq Zainal, who was retained.

But all three players looked rusty during training and Fandi drilled them in the fine art of finishing and even rolled back the years to demonstrate some of his killer moves.

He said: "They must have a feel of the ball. They must know the technique and execution of knowing when to shoot and when to place the ball. It's a split-second decision but one that can mean missing or scoring."

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