With the failure to qualify for the next round of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying, Singapore is left with the consolation of getting one step closer to qualifying for another elusive tournament, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
What to make after that, though? Regardless of eventual qualification success or failure for the Asian Cup, the Football Association of Singapore has to look ahead and ditch the foreign manager route, at least for the next managerial appointment after the end of current German coach Bernd Stange.
Who better to lead Singapore to a new era, and possibly the Asian Cup in 2019, than former greats Fandi Ahmad or V. Sundramoorthy?
The duo themselves, in the capacity of joint-managers – as equals.
sundram and fandi to replace stange as national team managers?
Many would say joint-managers never work in football. The most famous recent failure was Liverpool’s attempt with former player Roy Evans and French veteran manager Gerard Houllier at the helm in the late ‘90s. Evans eventually left after a season of joint-managing, leaving Houllier with sole control until 2004.
However, Fandi and Sundram could be a marriage made in heaven for Singapore football. Both were former internationals, former team-mates at club and country, and both have extensive managerial and coaching experience behind them.
Fandi is in his third spell as national team assistant coach, having started his managerial career as Singapore’s No.2 during the 1999 SEA Games, and then during the 2005 ASEAN Cup success. He won the local league title twice in three seasons during his first club position. He achieved two third-place league finishes with the Young Lions, previously literally whipping boys as this team only featured young local players.
After 2006, Fandi then ventured abroad, helping Indonesian side Pelita Raya to promotion and two mid-table finishes in the top flight. He was even a scout for Italian side Vicenza Calcio, with his most recent overseas stint with recent AFC Cup winners Johor Darul Takzim – also current home of Singapore skipper Hariss Harun.
fandi and assistant nazri celebrate lionsxii’s malaysia fa cup triumph
Besides founding his own academy and managing privately-owned football schools, Fandi returned to Singapore in 2013 and led the LionsXII to the Malaysia FA Cup within the space of two years.
Sundram too, was Fandi’s predecessor at LionsXII, winning the Malaysia Super League in his second season at the club. Before then, he also managed the Young Lions and previously held a long-standing position as a coach of the national side’s U18s.
His overseas stint with Malaysia side Negeri Sembilan was not as successful, but he has since returned as head coach of local side Tampines Rovers. On the international level, Sundram is also an assistant coach to Stange. He previously led the national U-23s during the 2013 SEA Games, while he did take charge of one sole senior international game against Jordan in February 2013 before the appointment of Stange.
Both Fandi and Sundram managed to inculcate a winning mentality in young LionsXII sides often deprived of star players, with both having Malaysian trophies to show. Both have a knack for spotting young talent and grooming them into first-team stars.
trophy success at club level for sundram too
Most importantly though, both are legends of Singapore football. Not only do they understand the passion within Singapore football as only locals can, both can simply use themselves as examples to inspire the current batch of Lions.
Their relatively long managerial careers thus far do prove their tactical knowledge and coaching abilities. Sundram managed to exploit his team’s superior height and set-piece deliveries during the LionsXII’s maiden title-winning season, while Fandi shaped his underachieving team into a quick counter-attacking side by utilising the raw pace of his wingers and frontmen.
Having played in forward positions during their playing careers, the two could combine their knowledge on offensive plays to improve Singapore’s long-standing problem of creating and finishing chances. The current lack of a truly great No.9 in the ranks could be solved should Fandi be able to spot potential strikers or refine the goalscoring abilities of current forwards.
could this duo bring singapore to the next level?
What then for the defence? They could turn to Fandi’s current LionsXII assistant Nazri Nasir, a former defender, to potentially sort out Singapore’s issues at the back, or even highly-rated coach Kadir Yahya, Sundram’s own assistant at LionsXII. They could even provide an opportunity for Sundram’s former 2013 SEA Games assistant and former centre-back Aide Iskandar back into the national fold, having resigned after a poor showing in the 2015 edition.
The managerial duo of Fandi and Sundram could provide the spark needed among the Singapore public and press to reignite the interest in Singapore’s football scene – especially at the national level.
As the only two Singaporeans to ever play in European top-flights – Fandi with Dutch side FC Groningen and Sundram with Swiss side FC Basle – the duo could even motivate the likes of Hariss, Safuwan Baharudin, Izwan Mahbud, even Faris Ramli among others to secure lucrative, long-term moves abroad to leagues of much superior quality to the ASEAN region.