Football: Stange wants to stay on

Football: Stange wants to stay on
Lions Football coach Bernd Stange.

HONG KONG - No national team can be rebuilt in one or two years and Singapore football coach Bernd Stange wants to stay beyond his current contract, which ends next May, to carry on the work he has started.

"My way is the right way," the 66-year-old German insisted, when he sat down for a chat with The New Paper, as the Lions continue their preparations for the defence of their ASEAN crown on home soil next month.

"It's part of the strategy of the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) to blood youngsters.

"I think it's early days in such a (rebuilding) process. National teams are grown over four to six years. You see how Germany were down, and they are now on top. France broke down after 1998 and took time to rebuild.

"No country can rebuild in one year. You need a structure and players who are 30 now can play three or four more years if they are healthy and they can combine with younger players like Safuwan (Baharudin) and Hariss (Harun), who will be at their peak, to deliver results.

"What I expect in the next five years is a bigger boost from the authorities to support a fully professional way."

Hurdles

After more than a year on the job, he has discovered the obstacles Singapore football faces.

Lack of proper facilities, young talent wrestling with school commitments, the need for up-and-coming stars to juggle between football and National Service and the dominating presence of foreigners in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League have led him to brand Singapore's footballers as semi-professionals.

Said Stange: "It's very difficult to achieve something with semi-professionals at the highest level. It means we have to increase training times, with more practice and more training.

"It's also very difficult to understand how the cow grass in Hong Kong (Mongkok Stadium) is perfect - it's a carpet - but in Yishun, in Jurong, it's a goat field... and nothing has changed in one year, nothing.

"We have to deliver more sport facilities for youth development. I have youth coaches complaining to me that they have only a track to train on at stadiums, they have no pitches.

"The future of football is youth development and, if we can't deliver facilities for our youth, it is very difficult to grow into a full professional system."

Since taking over, Stange has led the Lions from a low of 165th in the Fifa rankings to 149th, but he's not entirely pleased.

"If I judge myself, the progress is not big enough," he said.

"In my previous jobs, I have had bigger and faster progress. Here, it is not good enough. We have to improve in the next five to 10 years."

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