Football: Players overweight, says coach Stange

Body fat monitor (above, Hassan Sunny). Players are weighed on a machine which also calculates their Body Mass Index (BMI), body fat percentage (overall and in each limb) and percentage of visceral fat, which is mostly found in the abdomen.

SINGAPORE - An ominous-looking speaker by the side of the pitch, infrared scanners, heart-rate monitors lying in a pile... it certainly wasn't a normal training session that awaited the national players on Monday evening at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

On the first day of their week-long training camp under national coach Bernd Stange, the Lions were put through a series of physical fitness tests, as the German attempted to get a gauge of their speed, jumping and stamina levels.

All in a bid to whip his players into shape.

Speaking to The New Paper before the session began, Stange said: "In my view, we have many players who are overweight.

"But, if I have a fit player who cannot kick the ball, and a fat player who can play well, I will take the fat one, because we can work with him and train him.

"But, at the international level, all the players are fit and can play well."

Stange expects his players to carry 10 per cent body fat or less, and it is understood most members of the current national team exceed the mark.

Monday's tests represented the beginning of the team's preparations for their crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Oman on Aug 14.

"We decided to have these tests for two reasons," explained Stange.

"The first is for us to compare the standards of our fitness base to those at the international level.

"We will put all the results together and compare to data that I will get from teams in Europe, and we will try to close the gap.

"The second is so we can start to make individual programmes for our players, the younger ones especially."

The German is keen to tailor specific nutrition and exercise programmes for the players.

When TNP pointed out how previous coaches found it difficult to make sure players adhere to such individual programmes, Stange shot back: "The player must have his own discipline, his own control.

"He should be thinking: In a few weeks' time, when I take the test again, maybe I will lose my place if I put fat on."

Stange wants to conduct the tests four times a year to keep the players on their toes. He also wants the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) two developmental teams, the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions, to adopt them as well. 

There are also plans to expand them to the FAS's National Football Academy (NFA) age-group teams, from the Under-14s through to the Under-18s.

On Monday, national team manager Azrulnizam Shah and Lions fitness coach Aleksandar "Sasha" Bozenko were out on the Jalan Besar pitch at 5pm to start setting up the equipment.

Ribbing

Azrul, formerly a sports psychologist with the Singapore Sports Institute, is also the FAS's head of football science and medicine. He measured the players' performance at each station.

In the dressing room, some of the Lions who arrived early took turns having their body fat percentage measured by physio Nurhafizah Sujad, ribbing each other whenever an unflattering result cropped up.

But the players were not laughing when they ran the Yoyo test, which left most of them gasping for air.

"The Yoyo test is my most hated thing in football," said fullback Faritz Hameed, half in jest. "But it's good to have these tests. It keeps us on the ball.

"Plus, when you go on the weighing scale the next time, you don't want to hurt your own ego by getting a bad percentage."

Lions skipper Shahril Ishak said: "It's good to get a gauge of our fitness levels so we can work on it, as opposed to trying to do something last minute.

"Now, we have a few weeks to work on different areas before the Oman game."

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