News • January 12, 2014
Looking back, looking forward
By Kenneth Tan
SINGAPORE, 10 Jan 2014 – 2013 has been an arduous yet exciting journey for Aide Iskandar. The former national skipper took over as Courts Young Lions coach at the start of the season; was appointed Singapore National Team assistant coach midway through, before succeeding V. Sundramoorthy to lead the Singapore Under-23 Team at the 2013 SEA Games.
Describing the year as one filled with ‘ups and downs’, Aide reflected on his experiences – starting with club level.
Courts Young Lions
“I was really privileged to be appointed as Young Lions coach,” he said.
“I had to help to develop a very young team, possibly the youngest ever Young Lions team.
It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride and there were many challenges which I faced. But I’m happy that the management gave me the best support along the way, our technical team and support staff worked really hard to make sure that the boys were always ready to give their best. the availability of the boys.”
After a tough start to the season where his side struggled to pick up points, things gradually improved and they eventually finished the season with a flourish – picking up maximum points from the last three league games.
“I still remember the beginning of the season,” Aide shared.
“We could not secure many players due to several commitments until the second half of it. That’s where we started picking up points and we eventually finished the season strong.
Apart from winning the last three games, we also did pretty well at the League Cup where we ended up as losing finalists in the Plate Final. We did not have some key players available for that match due to their participation in the Merdeka Cup tournament.”
At National Team level, Aide had the privilege to understudy new gaffer, Bernd Stange, who has a reputation of working within minimal resources. It is certainly an invaluable chance to further develop his burgeoning coaching career as he looks forward to more upcoming working opportunities with the experienced German.
“It was a great honour to be appointed as assistant coach of the National Team,” he said.
“Bernd comes with a wealth of experience and I’m glad to be under his wing. I’ve learnt a lot under him and he is always enhancing and increasing my knowledge about football.”
Of course there is one experience which he will never forget – leading the Under-23 side to a bronze medal at the recently-concluded SEA Games.
“It was definitely the highlight of my coaching career,” he said with a smile.
“I’m very thankful for the vote of confidence from the management to appoint me, even though my team finished bottom in the league. I grabbed that opportunity and the boys tried their best at the Games – we could have set foot into the final if not for the unfortunate penalty which we conceded against Thailand (in the semis).
What was eventually sweet was that we beat the defending champions, Malaysia, in the Bronze medal playoff, and managed to get the bronze.”
What was more admirable about this achievement was that the 38-year-old had minimal time to assemble the squad after Sundram’s departure.
“Time was my biggest challenge,” he reflected.
“I only had three weeks with them. Furthermore some players were carrying injuries while three of them were down with dengue fever. That really affected our preparations. In the end we tried to cope and eventually came out with the best 20 players for the team.”
Things did not look positive for his side after a disappointing opening-day draw against Laos, but in hindsight, it was something which Aide was glad happened.
“It was a good wake-up call for us,” he said.
“In fact, we dominated and created a lot of chances in that game, but in the last five minutes we gave away a silly free kick – from there we slept and did not concentrate which led to the goal. Honestly if you ask me, luckily this happened in the first game.
Credit to the boys, they bounced back straightaway and responded well by beating Vietnam in the next game.”
It was particularly pleasing for Aide to see his Young Lions duo of Sahil Suhaimi and Afiq Yunos producing standout performances in the tournament.
“I’m really proud of the both of them,” he shared.
“They worked really hard and were really hungry (for success) – they actually missed a year of football in 2012 due to National Service and only started playing regularly last year from June onwards.
A lot of teams could have taken Sahil lightly due to his small build, but I knew that he will do well at the Games because he has been building up very nicely during the preparations. I’m happy that he scored three – in fact he could have scored more, considering the chances he had.
For Afiq, I can see that he wanted to do well as it was his last SEA Games. He wanted to step up and be noticed as the next centre-back pairing with Safuwan (Baharudin) for the National Team.”
Looking forward to 2014
After an exhausting 2013, there was no time to rest on his laurels. The national legend delved himself straight back into work in preparations for his second year as Courts Young Lions coach.
Players like Afiq, Emmeric Ong, Ignatius Ang and Samuel Benjamin moved to the LionsXII, while the likes of Sahil, Syazwan Buhari, Fareez Farhan and Anumanthan Mohan Kumar are retained.
There are also exciting new additions in Delwinder Singh, Faris Azienuddin, Amy Recha, Shameer Aziq, Hazim Faiz and Ammirul Mazlan.
“I’m happy with the squad right now,” assessed Aide.
“Delwinder, Amy, Shameer – these boys are exciting talents. I wanted to get both Del and Amy since last year, while Shameer is a raw talent who has a lot of potential to go further. Hopefully we can also get Safirul (Sulaiman) available.
Another one to watch out for is (right-back) Fadli Kamis – he was out of football for a while due to NS but we managed to track him. In fact he did very well with the Under-21s at the Thanh Nien Newspaper Cup in Vietnam last October.”
With the new-look squad taking shape nicely thus far, Aide is optimistic of a better showing in the S.League this year.
“I’m pretty excited for 2014 actually,” he shared.
“I’ve challenged my players that we do not want to finish as wooden spoonists this year. There’s still a lot of work to be done but I believe the boys have matured over the past year.”
Syazwan put up a number of splendid performances (in goal) last season. Now I’m hoping players like Anu, Iqbal (Hussain), Stanely (Ng), Fareez (Farhan) and Al-Qaasimy can step up – these are the players who can grow further and become better. I’ve challenged them to play more consistently this year so that they can get call-ups to the National Team.
This year (apart from development), we will definitely go for results although other S.League teams are also beefing up their squads. Hopefully, we gel as soon as possible.”
The Courts Young Lions will depart for Turkey on Saturday, 11 January, for a month-long training tour before returning for the upcoming S.League season. FAS wishes them all the best for their tour!