FAS has back-up plan if Sundram leaves

FAS has back-up plan if Sundram leaves
Bernd Stange (right), newly appointed coach of the Singapore national football team, talking to reporters during a press conference on 15 May 2013. Looking on is Mr Zainudin Nordin, president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

SINGAPORE - The future of Singapore Under-23 coach V Sundramoorthy is still up in the air. This came to light after the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) annual general meeting yesterday.

With the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games set to kick off in Myanmar in December, the uncertainty over who will lead the team in their quest for gold is unsettling.

When asked by The New Paper if there was a contingency plan if Sundram does move to coach M-League side Negeri Sembilan, FAS president Zainudin Nordin shot back: "If you look at me, you think I don't have a back-up plan?"

"I cannot tell you this (who's in line to replace Sundram if he does leave). It's not fair to him, he's a professional, he's a coach of a high calibre."

With a team featuring national stars like goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, defender Safuwan Baharudin, midfielder Hariss Harun and striker Khairul Nizam, many believe the Singapore U-23s are contenders for the SEA Games gold.

Sources had earlier told TNP Sundram, the LionsXII coach who guided the team to a historic Malaysian Super League triumph this season, was set to join Negeri, although the FAS continues to hold out hope the 47-year-old will perform a U-turn and lead the Young Lions in Myanmar.

"Sundram has done well and we want to keep him," said Zainudin. "There is no uncertainty for us, we have started negotiating with Sundram very early.

"The decision still lies with him and we have to wait for him." Sundram's LionsXII play the first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarter-final at home against ATM FA on Saturday and FAS general secretary Winston Lee revealed that the former Singapore star had agreed to give his decision by the end of this month.

It is believed national football coach Bernd Stange and assistant Aide Iskandar will take over coaching responsibilities of the U-23s if Sundram leaves.

The 65-year-old Stange said: "I am called the national teams coach, which means I have a lot of responsibility on my table, even for the planning of SEA Games.

"This is how it is around the world. Coaches are coming and going... that's not a big problem.

"Sundram is part of our team. He did a great job, he is doing a great job. He was very successful with the LionsXII. If FAS wants to keep him and he says no, we have to respect his decision."

The Young Lions' preparations for the SEA Games could well be disrupted. The bulk of the team play for the LionsXII and, if they go all the way to the Malaysia Cup final, they will be occupied until Nov 3.

After that, the national team will head to Iran to take on Syria in an Asian Cup qualifier on Nov 15, with Stange insisting on bringing the best players.

Yet, Stange remains confident of their medal hopes. "In our last two matches, we had six players from the SEA Games squad in the national team," he said.

"Against Laos (international friendly on Oct 11) and Syria (Asian Cup qualifier on Oct 15 and Nov 15), there will be 12 players from the SEA Games squad.

"It means we are planning for success at this year's SEA Games... they will have about 10 days to prepare.

"The players are ready. We know their names, we know the tactics, we know how to play and that's why we are optimistic we can take something in Myanmar."

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