Switzerland, Singapore and Stange: An interview with V.Sundramoorthy

FourFourTwo’s Shanjayan Muniappan catches up with local footballing legend V.Sundramoorthy, who discusses a possible return to Europe, winning the Malaysia Super League title and assisting Bernd Stange in the World Cup qualification.

This year has certainly been an eventful one for Tampines Rovers head coach V. Sundramoorthy, be it leading the Stags in the S-League, assisting national coach Bernd Stange in their qualification quest or rubbing shoulders with the likes of Arsene Wenger, Roberto Martinez and Mark Hughes during July’s Barclays Asia Tour.

Affectionately known as ‘the Dazzler’, Sundram has been heavily involved in football for more than three decades. That included a stint with Swiss side FC Basel in 1988-89, which would prove an eye-opening adventure and one Sundram wishes had been longer.

“It was totally a different experience – from what I had been playing here and what I experienced there,” says Sundram, who turned 50 years old on Tuesday. “Firstly the culture, weather and people around are different and you are left alone to swim by yourself.

“I should have stayed there longer, but decided to come back and play for other states in Malaysia. I took the easy way out but given the opportunity again, I would have stayed there longer.”

Despite his somewhat advancing years, the opportunity for Sundram to work with football in Europe may still be an option. When Arsenal, Everton and Stoke came to town, Sundram was asked by Everton’s Martinez to visit the club from Merseyside.

“He (Martinez) invited me to go to Everton for a stint,” he reveals. “So I’m just finding the right moment to go. I will go when the time permits.”

It’s not possible for Sundram to pack his bags for Europe just yet, however, as he has the responsibility of helping Stange, along with fellow assistant Fandi Ahmad, in the current World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Lions have put in some commendable performances so far in the three games they have played – notably the 0-0 draw against Asian powerhouses Japan, alongside a 4-0 away win over Cambodia and narrow 1-0 loss to Syria – and host Afghanistan on Thursday.

“They have done really well. (Stange) is the head coach and he calls the shots and I am here to help and assist him,” Sundram said.

After Afghanistan, Singapore will also host Cambodia next Tuesday as part of the series that doubles as qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup. Sundram fancies the Lions to do well against these teams.

“We have a very good chance with the two games and (have) put ourselves in a good position to qualify for the Asian Cup,” he said.

Sundram feels the national team is performing well under Stange

Back when he was playing, Sundram used to score goals on a regular basis, including the occasional spectacular bicycle kick or back-heel.

Although no one in the current Singapore team reminds him of himself, Sundram was full of admiration for veteran striker Khairul Amri, who will be leading the attack for the Lions on Thursday.

“I really like the way Amri plays. Hardworking is one thing but he has got something special, he is a good boy and always listens."

It is now more than a year since Sundram severed ties with Malaysia Super League (MSL) side Negeri Sembilan and returned to the S.League with Tampines. He has a clear standout when asked his coaching highlight to date, while admitting he feels he could have achieved more at Sembilan had he been given more time.

“Definitely a highlight (was winning the 2013 MSL title with Lions XII),” he said. “The title meant a lot to me as a coach.

“It was also good experience in Malaysia.  Like they say, you cannot build Rome in one day and I don’t want to give excuses but coaches say they must be given time.

“If Manchester United kept Louis van Gaal for one season or five seasons, which do you think will be better?”

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