Asian Football

The Search For Tatsuma Yoshida’s Successor Needs Time. But Will Singaporeans Be Patient?

Tatsuma Yoshida resigned, and his departure means that Singapore is now missing a national team head coach in addition to a permanent technical director. If the local football fraternity isn’t concerned, it better be. For one, if we really want to transform the dream of reaching the 2034 World Cup into reality, we need competent personnel helming both positions. A competent Technical Director (TD) that genuinely cares about Singapore’s development would ensure a long-term plan is put in place.

The TD is, after all, responsible for developing, executing, and supervising initiatives to develop both players and coaches alike. The TD is also in charge of a nation’s vision for the next decade or so. That means that the appointment of a national team head coach also comes under the TD’s purview. In an open sea of potential managers, the TD needs to find the right individual who can play the brand of football envisioned, achieve the goals set out and bring the national team to the next level. It is precisely this reason why, instead of rushing into a head coach appointment, the careful selection of a Technical Director needs to take precedence.

Who could that be? Well, at this point, it’s anyone’s guess. After the relative inaction of Joseph Palatsides, we cannot repeat mistakes. Expediting this appointment is obviously what everyone thinks is important. However, we should not compromise due process for time, lest we swiftly waltz into the same pitfalls of the past decade or so.

Yet, time is the issue here, isn’t it?

Time always has been the issue in the realm of football, but even more so in the results-oriented Singapore society. Many Singaporeans simply focus on the outcome of proceedings as a measure of success. Perhaps this is due to the expectation of producing immediate results that permeates every inch of our social fabric. We expect instantaneous results from others and we are likewise expected to deliver immediately – an expectation that can come from our parents, teachers or employers. Thankfully, the situation seems to be changing, with more people caring about the process and taking away positives even when the outcome isn’t the best.

How does this apply to football in Singapore? Allow me to explain.

After Singapore progressed to the semi-finals of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup, and especially since the semi-final second leg fixture against Indonesia, there is substantial buzz surrounding Singapore football right now. The Lions may have had three dismissals and eventually succumbed to a 4-2 defeat, but their fighting spirit won the hearts of the nation. For most parts of the past decade, it was cool to hate on local football. After this AFF Suzuki Cup, a good chunk of the nation seems to be willing to give Singapore football another shot.

However, in this state of limbo, results are bound to turn south. It will take time for any incoming manager to effectively instil their philosophy into the team. Unlike the club level, where you meet your squad every day, the national team head coach only trains with his squad of players a few times each year. While the FAS has stated that they would be in the hunt for a coach that shares Yoshida’s philosophies, there is but one Tatsuma Yoshida. It will take time for the players to get accustomed to the new coach whose personality may be a stark contrast to their former head coach. Should results go awry during this transitionary period, would the Singaporean masses rally behind the team or abandon ship?

The FAS also needs time to recuperate. Following the conclusion of the 2021 Singapore Premier League campaign, the FAS has had to deal with hosting the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup Group H fixtures and the subsequent 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup. I can imagine that most FAS staff have been unable to take a proper break due to the hectic schedule. Even though the search for the head coach has presumably begun, they should prioritize appointing a TD after a well-deserved break.

For the rest of the year, we may very well have an interim manager in charge – that selection is equally as important – before we appoint someone on a permanent basis. We are faced with an uncertain year ahead when it comes to the national team as many questions remain unanswered. How do we then retain the support from the Singaporean bandwagoners?

The Singapore Premier League needs to step up. If the hype train chugs along till March (and I hope it does), many would turn their attention to the SPL to satiate their hunger for local football. If fans come in droves to matches, every single SPL stakeholder needs to put in their best performance.

No more schoolboy errors. No more sub-standard officiating. No more unnecessary scandals.

The 2022 season would potentially commence in late February and there is sufficient time for everyone to be ready to do their part. Who is everyone? I’m talking about: Players, club management/staff, FAS officials, fan and mainstream media outlets, the existing SPL fan base, player agencies, sponsors, and other entities.

Let’s work together and give what the fans want – exciting football of the highest standards (both on and off the pitch).

As a parting comment, I think we also should be appreciative of what Tatsuma Yoshida

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