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Fitting farewell for Raddy

Players Raddy kept faith with desperate to win for departing coach. -ST
Fabius Chen

Thu, Dec 20, 2012
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - His injuries were varied but one thing has remained constant for Khairul Amri over the last four years - the unwavering faith of national football coach Raddy Avramovic.

"He always made me feel like I was in his plans, that there was hope for me," the Lions striker told The Straits Times.

"He helped me regain my confidence and I'll always be grateful."

Now back at full fitness after a four-year injury nightmare, Amri is desperate to fire Singapore to Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup glory - and to give his coach a fitting farewell.

Avramovic, 63, is set to step down from his post at the end of this tournament.

Since taking over in 2003, the Serb led the Lions to successive AFF Cup victories in 2004 and 2007 and took them to the third round of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers for the first time.

And, after nearly 10 years on the job, almost every member of the Lions squad has a story to share about their coach.

"When I first started out, I wasn't that confident," recalled attacking midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, who was handed his first international cap by Avramovic in a friendly against Thailand two years ago.

"But he gave me confidence by telling me to believe in myself, that I could contribute more to the team."

Likewise, Safuwan Baharudin has Avramovic to thank for his promotion to first-team centre-back, having made his international debut as an 18-year-old in the 2010 King's Cup.

"I have to thank him for having the trust in me and giving me the opportunity," said the LionsXII man, now 21.

"I may be one of the youngest players in the squad but he has always treated me like the rest of the senior boys. That is something I will never forget."

Safuwan, Shahdan and Amri know that the best possible going-away present for their coach would be to complete a hat-trick of AFF Cup victories.

"I've been playing under him since I was 19 so, of course, it'll be sad when he does leave," said striker Amri, whose goal against Thailand secured the 2007 success.

"For him, I will give everything in this final."

Safuwan, who will partner Baihakki Khaizan in central defence as the Lions attempt to deal with tournament top-scorer Teerasil Dangda, agreed.

"The boys all want to win the Cup for the coach," he stressed.

But trophies would not be the only measure of Avramovic's success in his time in charge. The coach's willingness to blood a new generation of stars will be part of his legacy.

"For the past few years, he's been encouraging me to step up and get ready to fill Bai or Daniel's (Bennett) boots," Safuwan said.

"They're still playing so there is a lot for me to learn; maybe in two or three years I'll be ready to take over from them.

"But, for now, the only way I can repay the coach for everything he has done for me is to win the Cup for him."

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