SINGAPORE – The Goal 2010 project — which aimed for the Lions to reach the South Africa World Cup — might have failed, but that has not stopped the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) from embarking on yet another ambitious campaign: To qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
And the man entrusted with the project? None other than local football icon Fandi Ahmad.
The 54-year-old former national skipper was unveiled as the FAS’ new Head Coach, Youth, during a press conference at Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday (Oct 4), and will take charge of the youth teams headed for the 2018 Asian Games, the 2019 and 2021 SEA Games, as well as the 2020 Olympics. All these tournaments are for under-23 players.
National Youth Teams head coach Richard Tardy, who will still take charge of the 2017 SEA Games team, will continue to look after the National Football Academy (NFA) setup and his attention will be on developing players aged 13 to 18, while Fandi will focus on players who are within the 19 to 23 age bracket. Both coaches report to FAS technical director Michel Sablon.
Fandi, whose previous contract as an FAS staff coach would have ended in December, will assume his new role with immediate effect, after agreeing to a three-plus-three year deal.
This means that Fandi will have an option to extend his contract for another three years in 2019, provided both parties are happy with the progress that has been made by then.
Expanding on Fandi’s new role within the FAS, the association’s vice-president Edwin Tong said: “Fandi will oversee, nurture, develop and identify youth talent and use that platform as a basis to then make the bedrock for the national team.
“He will also play an ambassadorial role to engage our various stakeholders in the football ecosystem and bring them on board our vision, because we feel that only with everyone aligned can we bring Singapore football forward.
“Overall, we’re looking at how we can improve Singapore football. The starting point we felt was to look at the youth programmes. So one of the reasons behind the length of the contract is because if you want to try to reach the Asian Games and Olympics, you will need a stable platform and continuity.”
Fandi, who revealed that he had received many other job offers, including one from former club Pahang FA, said that it was always his aim to stay in the country and help Singapore football move forward.
“I had a lot of offers, especially from the Malaysian clubs and, frankly, I was made a very good offer by Pahang,” said Fandi. “But I’ve wanted to stay in Singapore all along to help with our youth development, and my target now is to develop more players for the national team.
“I’m glad I’m staying put, and I believe the future is bright.”
Tong declined to reveal how much budget the FAS would assign to Fandi’s project, although he promised that they would “continually review the needs and the resources we have at our disposal to meet their targets”.
However, TODAY understands that FAS will reallocate the budget they had set aside for the now-defunct LionsXII to Fandi’s project, which will be at least S$4 million per year.
Fandi identified the small size of Singapore’s current footballing talent pool as one of the reasons for the country’s recent poor results on the international stage, which includes group stage exits at the Suzuki Cup in 2014 and last year’s SEA Games.
It is why he is determined to address this issue by providing more opportunities for youth players in Singapore to join the national setup, as well as convincing them, and their parents, that there is a viable future in football.
“At the moment, you see the results (at age-group levels) are not that encouraging,” Fandi explained.
“Our target is to develop more youngsters to be part of the national youth teams to consider them for the future. A lot of players quit football at the age of around 18. This is where we need to educate them and their parents that there is a future and career in football, and that we can help the kids harness their talent to help the country.
“I believe there should be more opportunities for the youths to join the setup, and even if I have to do an open trial, I’ll do it, because we need to get a bigger pool of youth players.”
Fandi, who will continue to assist current Lions head coach V Sundramoorthy, added that he still harboured hopes of one day taking charge of the national team.
“Any coach would want to coach their own country,” he said. “I believe that one day, maybe four to five years later, once we’ve achieved our project, that I’ll be ready. But for now I’m just focused on my new task.”