Rafi takes over at Tampines as Salim resigns
All is well at Tampines Rovers, suggests Rafi Ali, who was named interim head coach on Sunday evening following the Salim Moin’s sudden resignation.
This came after the team failed to advance from the AFC Cup group stages, despite needing just a draw in their last group match game against Myanmar club Nay Pyi Taw.
A wretched run in the S-League seems to have contributed too, as the Stags picked up only four points in their last four games.
Team manager Clement Teo, who joined the defending champions along with Salim from Woodlands Wellington at the start of the year, admitted that it was not a surprise.
“I’m not shocked, to be honest. I’ve seen it coming in the recent weeks," he told FourFourTwo.
"It’s sad, because he has given his best shot."
Despite being S-League champions for three years in a row, Salim Moin completes a trio of head coaches to have left Tampines in mid season.
Both Steven Tan and Nenad Bacina were replaced by general manager Tay Peng Kee in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
In Rafi though, they have a head coach who knows the club inside out, having donned the yellow jersey for six years until his retirement as a player in 2008.
At his first training session at Clementi Stadium on Monday morning, he praised the players for being sharp although not everything went smoothly.
Former Singapore international Noh Alam Shah was missing through illness, while veteran striker Aleksandar Duric and Japanese defender Norihiro Kawakami had to be separated following a heated exchange towards the end.
“That’s what I like to see – that players have the heart and passion,” Rafi said, showing off a humorous side as he brushed off suggestions that players would be unsettled by the constant coaching change.
“It’s good that they fight, because it shows they want to win games and do well; I'd rather have the kind of players that fight.
“I was waiting for them to throw a punch as well, but it's too bad they didn’t."
Rafi's time at the helm might be a short one though as he admitted doubts over whether the club would be looking to make the appointment permament.
“I’m just an interim (head coach)," he said.
"Who knows, tomorrow might be my turn (to leave).
"I’m just gonna continue, and every game will be a cup final for me."