Don't lose our talent to Malaysia

Malaysia Super League match between ATM FA and LionsXII in Selayang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Last year, his CV read "guided the LionsXII to second place in the 2012 Malaysian Super League (MSL) and the Malaysia Cup semi-finals", but some questioned V Sundramoorthy's ability as a coach at the end of the season.

Leading a team packed with Singapore internationals and playing home matches on an artificial pitch, the detractors felt the LionsXII should have done better.

After losing a host of stars, Sundram led an outfit with only five players over the age of 23 in the following campaign, and the LionsXII vintage of 2013 stormed to the MSL title.

It was an ideal counter-argument. His CV now also reads "MSL-winning coach", but the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has lost Sundram to Negeri Sembilan.

Singapore football will miss the 48-year-old. As it stands today, Malaysian states and Indonesian clubs easily outmatch the FAS in paying for top talent.

It is time the FAS come out of its slumber.

It is time the FAS come up with a battleplan to staunch the flow.

Any budding ecosystem needs to keep its key pieces in place to continue to progress.

Quality coaches are even more crucial than talented players, and Sundram is gone.

For a country with a limited talent pool, it is a big loss. Already, a clutch of the LionsXII stars are set to follow Sundram across the Causeway.

Some may say the experience will do them a world of good, arguing the pressure to perform and deliver will make them better footballers.

I believe playing for Malaysian clubs will not improve the quality of our footballers. The standing of the game among the top footballing nations of South-east Asia is similar, even if the Lions are the record four-time winners of the ASEAN championship.

Singapore football shouldn't be losing talent to Malaysia, especially when the S-League is crying out for better players. The way the FAS deals with talented local coaches and players needs to be addressed.

Admittedly, it has a limited budget. I know FAS general secretary Winston Lee is constantly striving to attract sponsorship into the local game.

STRATEGY

Perhaps one strategy could be to marry football-friendly companies with our players to boost individual salaries. Having signed Memorandums of Understanding with the French Football Federation and the Japan Football Association, maybe the FAS should work to attach Singapore coaches with the two countries for a lengthy period.

One of the country's most promising youngsters, Adam Swandi, is already attached to French club FC Metz on a twoyear stint.

More of our young talent need to go on such prolonged stints with clubs in Japan or Europe.

Only playing in top-ranked football nations will make Singapore's talent better.

And losing our talented coaches hurts Singapore's cause badly. Despite his comments in the FAS press release issued last night, I know Sundram has not been happy with the FAS over issues like his long-term future.

Fandi Ahmad has hit out at the FAS. So has Terry Pathmanathan.

Perhaps Singapore's most gifted young coach, Kadir Yahaya, 44, Sundram's assistant last year, also quit because he was unhappy with the national association.

The FAS must be quick to act when dealing with our coaches and players and ensure their lines of communication are clear.

Many will speculate over who will take over the LionsXII.

Fandi will be many people's favourite. I would do all I can to try and convince Kadir to take over.

Sundram won't complain. Born with football gifts that eventually thrilled a nation, he has studied, observed and listened in a bid to become a good coach.

He has pondered tactics endlessly. He has watched hours and hours of videos.

Armed with that work ethic, he has now chosen to go to unfashionable Negeri. For the sake of Singapore football, this cannot go on.

leonardt@sph.com.sg


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