Football: Let Aide be his own man

Footballers from the Singapore Under-23 team lifting their coach Aide Iskandar into the air after winning the match against the Malaysia Under-23 team in the third/fourth placing match at the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.

Bernd Stange came to Singapore - thanks to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) thorough search - with impressive credentials.

The 66-year-old German had coached the national teams of East Germany, Oman, Iraq and Belarus and an array of clubs with some distinction.

But, after 18 months in Singapore and in his vast travels with the Lions abroad, he has not impressed.

Certainly not at the recent AFF Suzuki Cup where the Lions failed to get past the group stage despite playing at home.

Following that debacle, he says that he should have communicated better with the players.

Mea culpa or mitigation, that is not acceptable for a coach who has so often been painting a bright picture of his teams to the point that fans had reasons to be optimistic about an ASEAN competition Singapore had won four times.

Stange, for all he is worth - understandably costing the FAS $500,000 (S$668,000) annually including allowances - simply has not delivered. Period.

Even on many of the promises he made at his first press conference in May, 2013.

Just to recap, these were some of his ambitious plans.

On tapping networks: He had said that he had plans to tap on his network of contacts, the likes of luminaries Fabio Capello and Guus Hiddink, to come and conduct coaching workshops here.

Verdict: We're still waiting for that.

On roping in foreign assistants: He had said that it was very popular with coaches from Germany and Spain to take their whole staff with them wherever they go, adding that with Singapore, he believed in the potential the country had.

He had said: "I cannot imagine that I would need a doctor from Germany, or a physiotherapist or a fitness coach. You have all the resources here."

Verdict: How come even the longstanding local goalkeeping coach Lee Bee Seng has been sidelined by a foreigner, former EPL player John Burridge?

On helping local coaches: He said that it was important to build a coach and support, and he hinted that his friends could arrange for such a coach to Arsenal for a week, or Moscow to see how Capello works.

Verdict: Not too late to arrange a stint for Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy or Aide Iskandar.

On arranging high-profile friendlies: "We have to improve a step as soon as possible. That's why we are looking for strong opponents; maybe in the future to play friendly matches away to China or South Korea."

Verdict: Did he mean Macau, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong?

On his brand of football: "I want results and close the gap on the international standard. That's what we have to do and that's my job."

Verdict: When Stange first arrived, Singapore were ranked 165th, now we are 157th. Is that his idea of closing the gap...?

This is no witch-hunt of the stoic Stange, whose overall record with Singapore stands at eight wins, two draws and 10 losses.

NO INTERFERENCE

But food for thought for the FAS to digest upon while I make the case for Aide to handle the South-east Asia (SEA) Games team without Stange's involvement and input.

Communication is key in any project and, when a coach admits that he had misplaced it, he has no business in a team.

And while I take Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson's logic of living or dying by the sword (see right), I would not want Stange to lead the SEA Games team purely because he seems to lack chemistry with our players. And Aide is no spring chicken, having led Singapore to the bronze medal at the last SEA Games (missing by a whisker to enter the final after losing to eventual champions Thailand 1-0 from a penalty and then beating Malaysia 2-1 for the third spot).

In Stange's absence (the German was indisposed), Aide helmed a Singapore side that just lost on head-to-head for a spot in the next round of last year's Asian Games.

Singapore beat Palestine 2-1, drew 3-3 with Oman and lost 1-0 to Tajikistan by a late goal to just miss out.

As a national player from 1994 to 2007, five years as captain, I believe that Aide, 40, is capable of handling the Singapore side without a mentor.

Also he knows the psyche and mentality of the local players and would be a perfect fit for the team.

And he can speak the right language and be on the same wavelength with the players.

As it is with Kiatisuk Senamuang in Thailand and Ong Kim Swee in Malaysia.

I would not want Stange to lead the SEA Games team purely because he seems to lack chemistry with our players.

- Godfrey Robert on national head coach Bernd Stange

(Let him) take responsibility of the squad, give him the sword, and he'll live or die by it. If he was an adviser, for example, how do you assess him?

- S Thavaneson, on giving Bernd Stange full authority for the SEA Games


This article was first published on January 04, 2015.
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