Farewell, Sundram

Even in the midst of a mix of foreign faces, excited friends, family groups and harried travellers, V Sundramoorthy felt the need to stay hidden from public view at Changi Airport's Terminal 1 on Friday.

The former LionsXII coach had taken great pains to keep the details of his departure a secret.

He left town on Friday for Negeri Sembilan, via Kuala Lumpur.

The 48-year-old begins pre-season training for the next Malaysian Super League (MSL) season with the Seremban-based club on Dec 1.

He left two weeks earlier to sort out housing and transportation issues.

Sipping on a latte with LionsXII assistant coach K Balagumaran at the corner table of a cafe, Sundram shook his head and buried his face in hands when he saw this reporter.

"How the hell did you find me?" he muttered, as he pulled up an empty chair.

There was no fanfare.

His former players were not there.

There were no football officials, friends or family members around to see "The Dazzler" off.

It suited Sundram just fine.

"It's better this way. I prefer to keep a low profile. Anyway, it's no big deal - I'm only going as far as a three-hour drive away," said the fiercely private Sundram.

His wife, Prema, who left for Seremban with him, had entered the departure lounge earlier.

She knew Sundram wanted to discuss football matters with Balagumaran, who will join him as assistant coach at Negeri Sembilan at the end of the month.

Sundram graciously afforded The New Paper five minutes to chat.

"Just don't ask me who I think should be the LionsXII coach," he quipped.

The Football Association of Singapore is in the midst of finding a replacement for Sundram, who guided the LionsXII to the MSL title earlier this year.

It is understood that local legend Fandi Ahmad and former Warriors coach Richard Bok are the two front-runners.

Sundram, who is reportedly on a monthly salary of US$20,000 ($25,000), is solely focused on his new adventure.

Negeri Sembilan, who were relegated to the second-tier Malaysian Premier League (MPL) this year, have set a clear target for the Singaporean coach - promotion is a must.

"I'm not nervous, I'm confident of building a good team," said Sundram.

"I've already seen most of the locals in my squad; with the inclusion of good foreign imports, we will have a good team."

First signing

Sundram has already made the first of his allotted four foreign signings - Geylang International's Slovakian midfield star Jozef Kaplan.

Given a free rein at Negeri and a generous budget to sign top players, he plans to add two Australian centre backs and a target man. Promotion from the MPL will not be easy, though.

Negeri will battle the likes of Felda, Kedah and Johor FA, who have signed Singapore star duo Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak.

Sundram will also face another familiar adversary in Dollah Salleh, who will be in charge of PDRM. Dollah had guided Pahang to the Malaysia Cup this year.

"It will be tough and if I don't achieve promotion in the first year, we'll see what the club do to me," Sundram said, with a wry smile.

"But I'd love to face the LionsXII in the Malaysia Cup. What a game that will be, especially at Jalan Besar."

One suspects there would be a warm welcome for him at home.

Did he at least have a few words for his successor?

"Good luck."


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