On the go off the pitch

On the go off the pitch
NEW ROLES: V Sundramoorthy (near left) joined the national team’s training session for the first time yesterday.

The Geylang Field in Lorong 12 has seen assemblies of some of the biggest names in Singapore football.

The legendary Rahim Omar, Majid Ariff, Ali Astar, Sahar Hussein, Samad Allapitchay, Matthew Chin and the likes have paraded their skills on the lush surface in the heyday of the Sixties and Seventies.

Yesterday, on that historic ground, there was another gathering, but of a different kind.

For once, the focus was not on what was happening on the pitch, but off it.

National football coach Bernd Stange was flanked by two popular coaches, probably the two best players Singapore has produced.

Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy were reunited, for a national cause, as the duo helped Stange conduct the training session for the 21-man squad.

Gray was the dominant colour, as the three officials wore the national training attire.

But sunshine was the mood as the national players had not experienced such a distinguished combination putting them through their paces.

As professional players, Fandi once plied his trade in Holland (FC Groningen), Sundram in Switzerland (FC Basel).

And with a well-travelled German veteran coach in Stange, whose career has seen him lead a myriad of club and national sides across three continents over four decades, in the equation, the national team cannot but count their blessings.

They stood at the side of the pitch, constantly chatting about tactics and players, while sharing a joke every now and then.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) recently roped in Fandi and Sundram to assist the 67-year-old Stange for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia and Japan.

But the pair's duties as assistant coaches were already in motion ahead of Saturday's friendly away to Bangladesh, and a June 6 fixture against Brunei in Singapore.

The national players were drooling at the combo.

Lions new boy Izzdin Shafiq, who has played under both men in the LionsXII (Sundram in 2013, Fandi this year) said: "Having Fandi and Sundram around is a blessing, because they are both excellent coaches with different strengths.

"Fandi's given me plenty of pep talks and sat me down to motivate me, while Sundram is pretty meticulous about positional play and technical skills. It can only be a good thing for the team."

Nazrul Nazari agreed, saying: "It feels good to have the both of them around.

"We all know that Fandi and Sundram both have their different styles of coaching and playing, and I think that is beneficial to the team.

BENEFITS

"The two men can really help coach Bernd out, on and off the pitch, and that's good for Singapore football."

As of now, the duties of Fandi and Sundram are yet to be defined, and yesterday's training session was used as an opportunity for the duo to familiarise themselves with the players and Stange's system.

The real work starts today, when the team fly to Bangladesh for a friendly, and Stange will use that time to evaluate Fandi and Sundram before delegating more specific roles to each of them.

Reflecting on his first day at training, Fandi, 52, said: "Today, I'm here to just watch on, and contribute as much as I can.

"We'll get to work in no time, and our specific roles will be given to us soon but, for now, I'm enjoying myself."

But Stange did reveal that he does intend to tap on the duo's more intimate knowledge of the local game, while maximising their status as local footballing icons in the dressing room.

"What they bring to the table is very valuable. These are two of the top coaches in Singapore, and everyone knows how exemplary they were as players back then.

"This is what you need in the dressing room. People look up to them. The players respect them. They have the ability to rally the troops.

"But more than that, their ability as coaches is without doubt. The three of us can work together and discuss things like the team's playing philosophy."

However, Sundram was quick to point out that Stange would remain the man in charge.

"Mine and Fandi's duties are purely to assist Stange's preparations for the World Cup qualifier," said the 49-year-old.

"We have frequent meetings once a week for discussions, but as always, the head coach is the one who commands."


This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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