Zainudin ‘realistic’ about Singapore’s Suzuki Cup defence

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin is keen to temper expectations of the Singapore national football team achieving an unprecedented fifth AFF Suzuki Cup crown this year.

Speaking at the FAS’ 32nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) last night, the 51-year-old tried to put things into perspective as he brought forth comparisons of the 2012 Suzuki Cup-winning team and the current squad.

“I know everyone is expecting Bernd Stange and the team to perform (at the Suzuki Cup), but let’s be realistic,” he told assembled media.

“There has been a rather vigorous renewal process put in place by coach Bernd and it’s literally a new team now! Let’s go through details; you have about six to seven players who have stepped down since – Aleksandar Duric, Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett, Indra Sahdan, Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li.

“Practically the spine of the team, who had been around for the last few years, is no longer there.

Although players like Mustafic and Indra are still turning in sterling performances at the S.League level, Zainudin believes their non-inclusions are in the best interests of the national team.

“You must understand about moving forward,” he said.

“I can always go backwards, but if you want a team that is sustainable moving forward, we need to bite the bullet and change. These youngsters must be given the opportunity.”

With 20 players making their debuts under Stange since the latter took over the national hot seat in June last year, Zainudin believes the German’s philosophy will eventually rub off on the players.

“Bernd has been around for the last two years or so, but to develop and groom a team, it really takes time,” he said.

“He has his principles and methodology, which he is trying to make into a national philosophy. This has been introduced and with so many young players, it will take time for the time to gel.”

Image: Amirul Asyraf/Football Association of Singapore