Local coach for stags

Local coach for stags
S-League: Home v Tampines

SINGAPORE - Assistant coach Rafi is a candidate, Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng tells ALI KASIM after third straight title win.

1. You were overseas on Sunday when the team won the title (courtesy of an Albirex defeat by Balestier). How did you hear the news, and what were your first thoughts?

TEO: A reporter called me to tell me when I just arrived home in the evening. I was a bit surprised that Albirex lost, but good for us, of course.

I sent a text message to my good buddy (Balestier chairman) S Thavaneson and said "Thank you very much".

2. Does winning ever get old for you? What was particularly satisfying about this season?

If you want to get involved, it's to win, isn't it? I never believe in participating for participation's sake.

So my job as club chairman is like a producer, and I have to find good actors and a good director.

Structuring all that successfully is always a satisfaction for me.

3. Your big target at the start of the year was the AFC Cup, but the team faltered at the opening group stage. Will success on the Asian stage be the No. 1 priority next season?

When we play on the Asian stage, we are representing Singapore. If we are competing in the lower-rung AFC Cup, instead of the AFC Champions League, we must get through to the next round, at the very least.

But we have to go step by step.

4. Why did your marquee signing Martin Wagner flop? Will you still make another star signing next year?

To begin with, it's not easy getting a marquee signing off the cuff. The European and South American leagues are still ongoing when S-League clubs shop for players, so availability is a factor.

We will be looking for a marquee signing next year, but it must be a forward, and he has to be half the age of Aleksandar Duric (43 years old).

5. Your interim coach Tay Peng Kee is returning to his role as general manager next year. Are you looking to promote assistant coach Rafi Ali, or are you scouting for someone else?

I believe in giving people a chance, especially those who have been part of this club over the years.

No decision has been made, but it won't only be down to the management committee - the senior players will have a say, too.

It could be an in-house change, but I will also scout.

What I will say is that it won't be a foreign coach. We have enough talent in our backyard.

6. You look set to lose some players to the LionsXII. How do you plan to replace them?

As of now, it's unlikely that Shahdan Sulaiman and Shaiful Esah will leave. You can speak to them, but they have told me they plan to stay.

Only Khairul Amri looks set to go. So I'll need two strikers to help Duric next year, one of them a marquee player.

7. Regarding the ASEAN Super League (ASL), would you prefer if your team finished champions next year and qualified for the ASL, or, failing which, will you bid to lead a new franchise team in the tournament, which is scheduled to take off in 2015?

How (Singapore football) prioritises the ASL is up to the FAS (Football Association of Singapore). It is not an issue for Tampines Rovers. Of course, if we won and were asked to take part, I'd be elated. But if it were a newly assembled team, it's really up to FAS. I will say that if we enter the ASL, we should be proud of it and embrace it.

8. Any thoughts of retirement?

I wanted to quit some time ago, but then I went for a player's wedding. I got a whole different feeling when I was there. I asked myself, "Can I continue to help them?"

If business is good, I do try and help my players beyond football. I run a club the way I want, but I don't strive to be a benevolent despot. I like to see in the eyes of my players that they appreciate (my support).

As for retiring, well, my vice-chairman (Murali Krishnan) is interested in taking over, and we need to infuse new blood into the club. So let's see.

For me, honestly, if I still have two legs to walk and I'm still enjoying it, I'll keep going.


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