Fandi Ahmad: The Big Interview

Fandi Ahmad believes Singaporean football could “collapse totally” unless drastic changes are made to the way the sport is being run.

The Singapore legend and current LionsXII coach is optimistic new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon will have a positive impact.

But in a wide-ranging interview with FourFourTwo, Fandi expressed his concerns for the sport that made him a household name.

“It’s not easy to answer, but definitely if there’s no changes in the S.League or in the system for youth, we will collapse totally,” he said when asked where Singaporean football would be in five years’ time.

“We cannot depend on Young Lions or LionsXII or just the senior clubs in the S.League. We need more from the grassroots and we need good people who are passionate for the game.

“And the most important thing is the federation must start paying good money for the local coaches. Then they will be more interested, rather than just doing part-time.

“They must be committed, but the federation must start paying these people and then they will be there day and night to work and look for players.”

FourFourTwo sat down with Fandi ahead of an event where the 53-year-old presented an award to three young Institute of Technical Education (ITE) players that compete in the Ultimate Champions League.

With the new technical director we have some hope because he’s very well known

The youngsters – Kaviarasan S/O Jayatheran from ITE College Central, Mohamed Sabran B Abdul Rahman from ITE College East and ITE College West’s Tan Hoong Yuen – now have the incredible opportunity to spend time in Spain with footballing giants Real Madrid’s youth team.

Junior football is an obvious passion of Fandi’s and he refers to the importance of youth development regularly throughout our chat.

“I’ve been involved in football here for 30 years, 35 years, and I thought we were moving forward,” he said.

“At one stage we were moving very nicely, but every time we have a new technical director, they seem to change the system. Then we lost a lot of development of our youth.

“But with the new technical director we have some hope because he’s very well known, Michel Sablon. So far he’s been quiet, but I understand he’s been doing a lot of groundwork with the schools and the Ministry of Education. For us to move forward, I think it’s best to go back to the youth because we don’t have a big pool of players.”

One area Fandi is particularly optimistic about is the current national team. The Lions have commenced their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-0 away victory over Cambodia and then a famous 0-0 draw with Asian superpowers and World Cup regulars Japan in Saitama.

That has put Singapore on top of their group in the very early stages of a series which doubles as qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. Next up is a trip to Oman to face Syria on September 3 before home matches against Afghanistan and Cambodia the following month.