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 By Gabriel Tan

Fandi Ahmad turns down Pahang to become Singapore head youth coach

Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad has been unveiled by Football Association of Singapore (FAS) as their new head coach of youth after turning down a host of Malaysian offers.

The 54-year-old, regarded as the golden boy of Singapore football, has signed a three-year deal with FAS, with an option for a three-year extension, and will oversee youth development from the ages of 19 to 23.

Tuesday's announcement puts an end to long-running speculation over Fandi's future, with his existing deal set to expire later this year. He had earlier turned down a chance to take charge of S.League outfit Garena Young Lions at the start of the season.

According to Fandi, there were various options for him to continue his managerial career in Malaysia, including an extremely attractive offer from Super League outfit Pahang, but he ultimately chose to remain at home.

"I'm glad I'm staying put," said Fandi, who was a pioneer Singapore export to Dutch Eredivisie side Groningen in the 1980s. "All along I wanted to stay in Singapore to help with youth development and there was a lot of discussion with FAS.

"I had a lot of offers, especially from Malaysia and, frankly, the best deal was from Pahang.

Fandi Ahmad has signed a three-year contract with a three-year option, taking him to 2023.

"But they said to me: 'Fandi this is your project [and] you must do it for your country', so I respect that and I thank them for giving me an opportunity to stay in Singapore.

"I believe there can be a lot more opportunities for youth to come and that there's more talent than we've seen so far -- even if I have to conduct an open trial, I'll do it."

Frenchman Richard Tardy is currently the head coach of Singapore's national youth teams, and is at the helm of the Under-22 team preparing for next year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur. But, in the future, such tournaments will fall under Fandi's portfolio.

"We've agreed for Fandi to take on the role of head coach [of] youth, where he will oversee, nurture and identify future talent," said Edwin Tong, one of the four vice presidents of FAS. "This will be the platform that we use the make the bedrock for the [senior] national team.

"Fandi will also take charge of the teams that take part at the 2018 Asian Games, 2019 and 2021 SEA Games, as well as the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"We want to ensure the teams that Fandi build are allowed to continue [through the various age levels] so his contract is a long-term one.

Our coaches getting ready to depart for the Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium.

A photo posted by FAS (@fasingapore) on

"Signing him up with a three+three [year] deal takes us beyond [the Olympic Games] in Tokyo 2020."

Fandi's last head coach role was with the now-defunct LionsXII in the MSL from 2014 to 2015 and still harbours aspirations of being in charge of the national team. But for now, he is fully focused on succeeding in his new appointment.

"Definitely, any Singapore coach would dream of one day being charge of the national team," said the former national striker, who won over 100 caps for the Lions. "I believe, in four or five years, when all these projects that have just been given to me are finished and I've achieved my aim, then maybe I'll be ready.

"For now, I think can I do more to develop youth for the national team.

"There so many talented youngsters, especially from the Chinese majority of the population, who don't believe there's a career in football once they turn 16.

"We've got to help them and their parents believe there is."

Fandi will be in the Singapore dugout at the National Stadium on Friday as V. Sundramoorthy's assistant for the Causeway Challenge against Malaysia.

Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.



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