Stange hits back at criticism over non-selection of older players

Singapore National Team coach Bernd Stange was keen to clarify his position on older players after previous comments had stoked debate among the football community.

“I’ve heard some horrible things in the newspapers saying that Bernd Stange does not like players over 30; I don’t know who are the journalists who wrote that,” the 66-year-old said at Changi Airport on Tuesday afternoon after returning from the Singapore National Team’s three-week training tour to Austria.

Stange had previously spoken to FourFourTwo about his desire to see top teams in the S.League bring down their average age to widen the pool of young players available for the National Team.

This time though, the former Belarus manager was keen to clarify that he had nothing against older players.

“All my teams in the past 20 years are full of players over 30,” he pointed out.

“There are players like Alexander Hleb and Vitaly Kutuzov; they are all running in my teams.

“There are some young coaches who say we don’t have balance, I don’t know what that means.

“We have Hassan (Sunny), Baihakki (Khaizan), Shahril (Ishak) and (Khairul) Amri; that’s four of them.

“There’s a couple of guys around 25 like Hariss (Harun); we have a fantastic balance for this team, so I cannot understand the discussion that we’re having. It’s wrong.”

Stange had previously handed call-ups to veterans like Indra Sahdan and Qiu Li during his first few games in charge of the National Team, but a failure to produce results meant he eventually made the decision to start afresh with a younger squad.

“All journalists know that when I started a year ago, I played with these players around the age of 33, 34 and 36 against China and Hong Kong,” he said.

“Just check the newspapers to see who played; we lost and that’s why we made this cut.”

While he had previously mentioned that the bulk of the AFF Suzuki Cup squad would come from the 41 players (including the U23s) who were called up for this training tour, he insisted he was still keeping his eyes open for possible new additions.

“I can only say that the door is wide open,” the German-born coach said.

“They have to perform and show something special; not in just one game or one half.  I’ve said that again and again.”