Coach wanted: Fandi turns down Young Lions job

PHOTO: The New Paper

The identity of the man who will pull the strings of the Young Lions when they kick off their Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season against Balestier Khalsa on Feb 14 is still very much up in the air.

One thing's for certain, though, it will not be Fandi Ahmad.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has made it clear that the 53-year-old was its first choice for the post, with president Zainudin Nordin describing Fandi as a suitable candidate because he has "very good experience grooming talent".

But, yesterday, Fandi told The New Paper that he has turned down the Young Lions coaching position.

The former national skipper did not want to dwell too much as his immediate position with the FAS was still being deliberated by its executive committee (Exco).

But he told The New Paper: "I have informed the FAS senior management of my decision, and how I wish to contribute to Singapore football in other ways."

Fandi, who handled the LionsXII side in the Malaysian Super League the last two years, declined to go into any further details.

The FAS Exco was understood to have considered Fandi for the role of full-time assistant national coach to Bernd Stange - whose contract ends in mid-April - before deciding it still preferred him to coach the Young Lions and assist Stange part-time.

YOUNGER

The Young Lions have already been tweaked from an Under-23 developmental side to one comprising mostly Under-21 players, and the boys are now under the scope of technical director Michel Sablon.

The Belgian, who came up with the blueprint that produced his country's current "golden generation" of players, will likely tap on his extensive list of contacts from Europe to rope in a coach to lead the Young Lions and, ostensibly, the team for the 2017 SEA Games.

The FAS will have to work quickly and unveil the full Young Lions coaching team and playing squad by the end of the month.

This includes a new fitness coach, who will also take Aleksandar "Sasha" Bozenko's place in the national team, and a goalkeeper coach, who will take the place of John Burridge in the Lions set-up.

Bozenko left last month to join Thai club Chonburi FC after 11 years working for the FAS, while Burridge left earlier this month.

The incoming Young Lions coach could be assigned a local deputy in the form of V Selvaraj.

The former Warriors FC head coach, who was originally pencilled in to lead the National Football Academy Under-16 team this year, is understood to have been picked for the role of assistant, instead.

This looks very likely, as former Lions skipper Nazri Nasir has been handed the reins of the NFA Under-16 side.

The Young Lions were coached last year by Aide Iskandar and then German Juergen Raab, after Aide resigned following the Under-23 team's failure at June's home SEA Games.

Raab's contract with the FAS has since expired, and he has returned to Germany.

In line with the FAS' plan to inject more youthfulness into the S.League, the Young Lions will feature mostly Under-21 players, although national team striking ace Khairul Amri, 30, has been confirmed as an overaged player.

With most of the squad comprising S.League rookies, though, the season ahead looks tough.

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 17, 2016.
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