From Pasir Ris to Thailand: S'porean Firdaus joins Chainat FC as first-team coach

From Pasir Ris to Thailand: S'porean Firdaus joins Chainat FC as first-team coach
Chainat FC first team coach Firdaus Kassim.
PHOTO: The New Paper

It was at Pasir Ris where his love for the sport first came to life.

Far away from the bright lights of professional football, it was fanned by library books and a video game, and on bumpy public pitches where the sport - unadulterated - was played with sticks and strings as goal posts.

Firdaus Kassim preferred the unconventional path, and it also applies to his coaching career.

With an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) B coaching badge in hand, he worked his way through the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) coaching network in the Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) programme and the National Football Academy (NFA).

The 28-year-old has now leapt ahead of several more prominent names, joining Chainat FC in the Thai Premier League (TPL).

Firdaus, a former Hougang United Under-18 coach, has signed a one-year contract as first-team coach of Chainat, a club based some two hours north of Bangkok.

Although former Singapore assistant coach Robert Lim is now technical director at Chiang Mai FC, Firdaus is believed to be the first Singaporean to hold such a role in Thailand.

P N Sivaji (Myanmar), Vincent Subramaniam (India), Mike Wong (Brunei) as well as Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy are other notable coaches who have flown Singapore's flag abroad.

And all this went into motion when Firdaus was taking his AFC "A" badge in Thailand two months ago in a course conducted by Lim, who is also an AFC instructor.

"I signed up for the course and paid for it myself, because I was under the impression that an S.League club were going to sign me for the 2016 season," he told The New Paper before he departed for Thailand on Jan 2.

"While I was doing the course, I found out that I wasn't getting that contract.

"Of course I was completely lost when I found out, but the offer from Chainat came just a few hours later that day.

"I was told that the club wanted me to come in as a first-team coach, and of course I was shocked to see the kind of trust they were willing to put in me," added Firdaus, who revealed that he also received offers from other Thai clubs, along with a Malaysian third-tier side.

Chainat finished 12th in the 18-team TPL last year, two spots behind Army United, where Singapore international goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is plying his trade.

Behind Chainat manager Issara Sritaro and his assistant, Firdaus is the third most senior technical official at the club.

Over and above coaching responsibilities, he will be in charge of analysing both Chainat and the opposition, and play a key role in player recruitment.

NEW TPL SEASON

The 2016 TPL season is about a month away. With Chainat reportedly pursuing a player from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, Firdaus has gone from fretting over his team in the computer simulation game, Football Manager, to being directly involved in the possible signing of big-name players.

"One of Chainat's coaches was at the course with me, and I guess he was impressed by the reports and analyses of games that I did during the course, and recommended me," he said.

"I submitted some other reports (of matches in ASEAN) I did in my free time, but doing analysis isn't new to me, I've been doing it since I was 14," added Firdaus, who gave up on a Mathematics degree course at SIM University as well as a tuition-centre business to focus on his first love, football.

"I understand that I'm young, I don't have much of a playing background, or have any connections in Singapore football, but I do have tons of notes that I made when I was younger," he said, smiling as he recounted coaching a 12-year-old Faris Ramli.

"I definitely can't claim any credit for the player that Faris is today, he was already a great talent when he was 12."

Speaking to TNP again a week after his arrival in Thailand, Firdaus revealed how he has been blown away by the facilities and sports science know-how at Chainat.

The club also boast a full-time chef to ensure players are on a nutrition programme worthy of the sport's elite.

"I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far. Chainat is a small town, not very modernised, but the club is a completely different world," said Firdaus, who still dreams of one day being involved in Singapore's national coaching set-up.

"The target is of course to come back and coach and do something for Singapore football. But in my role here, I am keeping an eye on the Singapore market (and maybe to bring) outstanding players here," he added.

"I am sure the experience at Chainat will be a steep learning curve for me, with a lot of bumps and bruises.

"Ultimately, Singapore is my home and I would love nothing more than to help change the football landscape."

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 11, 2016.
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