It’s bad timing really, for news of Singapore head coach Bernd Stange leaving his post to be reported now ahead of the crucial match against Afghanistan.
The World Cup / Asian Cup qualifier match stands in Singapore’s way of making it to the third round of the Asian Cup and they only need to avoid defeat to ensure so.
With regards to the players, they have a job to do and they know it, so it’s unlikely they will be severely affected by this news.
But for Stange himself, it raises the question of how focused he is, given that this will be his last game in charge as he will be leaving when his contract expires on 15 April.
Hopefully, the German will be professional enough to get the squad mentally and physically prepared, and that he will be able to leave on a ‘high’ of sorts.
No disrespect to the 68-year-old, but I am glad he decided not to stay. Heck, I am even surprised he received a six-month extension. You judge coaches by their results and frankly, Stange has failed to deliver on his promises to make Singapore a strong footballing team.
Sure, there were some good moments. The 2-1 win over Syria in 2013 and the massive 0-0 draw against Japan comes to mind when you think about the good times.
But then you look at the overall picture, and these rare ‘feel-good’ results go right out of the window.
Stange’s very public spat with then-Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar and the nation’s SEA Games failure was one that left a bad taste.
Aide had left Iqbal Hussain out of his final squad list as he had deemed the striker to be surplus to requirements for the tournament, only for Stange to call the youngster up to the senior team days later.
Whatever Stange’s reason was for this, it did not matter as it led to a very public disagreement that was lapped up by the media after Aide had stepped down from his post.
A backroom in disarray does not help a team, and Stange could have dealt with the aftermath a little more delicately.
Then there was his claim he made on the day he was unveiled as the Lions new man-in-charge: “While I recognise that the task ahead will not be easy, I am confident and I believe my experience at the international level and contacts in the game will be an asset to Singapore football.”
So far, his contacts have seen the Lions sparred against the likes of Guam, and now Myanmar in the lead up to the game against Afghanistan.
The biggest disappointment of all was the early exit at the group stage in the 2014 Suzuki Cup. As hosts, we could not even make it into the next stage of the tournament and that is not easy to swallow.
Now, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have got to do the right thing: Give the hot seat to our local boys, instead of paying top dollars for someone who outside.
Stange never understood how ASEAN football worked and now he probably will never figure it out. He tried to incorporate a style of football that was pleasing to the eye without realising our players were not suited to it, just yet.
And that’s why we need local coaches like Fandi Ahmad and V.Sundramoorthy to take up the job. If that’s the standard a foreign coach brings, then I don’t see how our local coaches are any different or inferior.
Fandi and Sundram are also very familiar with how football works in Southeast Asia, thus allowing them to put in place a strategy that suits our team’s strength.
A bonus is that the current and upcoming crop of players know them well too, as both were in charge of developmental sides Young Lions and LionsXII.
Make no mistakes, this position is not a walk in the park. I was on the national team under ‘Raddy’ (Radojko Avramovic) and I have seen the scrutiny and stress he had to handle.
But these men are some of those who were under Raddy’s tutelage; they learnt from one of the best coaches Singapore ever had, the man who built up a formidable outfit and brought us to a Fifa world ranking of 92, compared to the 148th place right now.
The two are just some of those groomed for the future, and if the time isn’t right now to employ them, then when is it ever going to be a good time?
Do the right thing FAS. The ball is in your court FAS. Don't make the same mistake again.
The fans want it, the players will love it. Now do the right thing FAS, give football back to those who care.
Photos: Football Association of Singapore