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Fandi v Sundram

As coaches, they have similarities and also differences, -TNP
Kadir Yahaya

Sun, Mar 25, 2012
The New Paper

The two legends of Singapore football have a few things in common.

Ask Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy to sit in an office and stare at a computer for two hours.

They can't do it.

Ask them to be on the field for six hours straight and they'll tell you: "No problem."

You see, Fandi and Sundram can live without money, maybe even without friends.

But not without football.

To say they are passionate about the game is an understatement. And it is that very enthusiasm that makes them two of the best coaches I've worked with.

It's why players respond to them, and are willing to die for them on the pitch.

Both coaches love to show rather than tell.

In training, Fandi demonstrates his famous volleys and shows his boys how goals are scored.

Sundram would do the same at LionsXII training sessions if he wasn't carrying an old injury at the moment.

Aside from that, their coaching styles and tactical approaches are very different.

Fandi's coaching style is simple. When I was with him at Indonesian club Pelita Jaya from 2007 to 2010, regardless of the opponents, home or away, the approach would be a standard one - get out there, attack and get the first goal.

To Fandi, scoring first and early is very important, for it gives the team a psychological advantage and allows them to dictate the tempo.

He loves it whenever his players do something out of the blue, something audacious and risky. Sundram, on the other hand, is a lot more cautious.

He assesses the opposition's strengths and considers the players he has available before going out for battle.

If he doesn't have his full team, he won't take risks, as you saw in the last match against Selangor.

Every detail is carefully considered.

During corner kicks, he gives specific roles to each player.

During the match, he would often call a player to the touchline to give quick instructions.

Most importantly - and Fandi shares this trait as well - Sundram knows his players very well tactically.

Because of this, he is able to rotate and switch them around successfully before and during a match. Sometimes, I even question him: "Are you sure? Can this player do the job?"

But he's always assured.

So far, in the Malaysian Super League, we have seen how his tinkering has worked.

Even the Selangor coach commended Sundram on his shrewd tactics.

Man management is crucial, especially when you're in charge of a young team.

Fandi is a real player's coach.

He would always be jovial with his charges, sometimes even joining them outside of football for outings.


As a result, the players trust him. They'd go to him with any problems they have. Sundram is a little more reserved.

He cracks jokes as well, of course, but he knows how to keep his privacy.

He knows how to motivate his boys - he just does it in a different way.

When Hariss Harun made the mistake against Terengganu which led to their goal, Sundram was upset as it was a schoolboy error.

I expected him to lash out at the boy, but he didn't. Instead, he called him in the next day and spoke to him. He encouraged him.

Sundram puts a lot of faith in whoever plays for him. And having been a player himself, he's got a lot of heart for them.

When he was in charge of Jurong FC, he gave opportunities to players like Gusta Guzarishah, Rafi Ali and R Sasikumar, who had been released by their previous clubs.

And each of those players repaid the coach's faith in them on the pitch.

Perhaps that type of faith, and the charisma he has with his players, explain why the LionsXII are doing well at the moment.

You can have all the talent at your disposal, but getting your team to give you 200 per cent every game is not something every coach can do.

Someone asked me once who I prefer as a coach, or rather, who I prefer to work with. It's a tough one to answer. So I replied in jest: "I hope one day, both of them will work, together, under me."

Kadir was talking to Ali Kasim

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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