Balestier Khalsa coach Akbar Nawas set to leave SPL club for 'unique' Thai challenge
Less than a week after Balestier Khalsa recorded their biggest winning margin in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), the Tigers announced on Thursday (Aug 18) that they will part ways with head coach Akbar Nawas at the end of the month.
In a statement, Balestier, who are second-last in the eight-team SPL, said that they had reached a mutual agreement with Akbar, 46, after he tendered his resignation.
The club added that Akbar will join Thai second-tier side Udon Thani. There, it is understood that he will initially act as the club's technical director, while also serving as an assistant first-team coach.
Just last Friday, the Tigers registered an emphatic 6-1 win over Hougang United. It was the first time they had scored six goals in a single match in the 27-year history of the SPL (previously known as the S-League).
Akbar, however, will leave after taking charge of two more SPL matches - the Aug 21 game against Geylang International and the Aug 28 fixture against Tampines Rovers.
In their statement, Balestier said: "Everyone at the club would like to thank Akbar for his hard work, commitment and service to the football club and we wish him all the best in the next journey in his managerial career.
"Our plans and ambitions to progress remain unchanged and will continue under new leadership of the team."
The club added that they are looking to appoint Akbar's replacement "as soon as possible". In the meantime, The Straits Times understands that an agreement has been reached with a former technical director of a South-east Asian nation, as an interim appointment.
Akbar told ST: "I've enjoyed my experience with the club this season. There have been some difficult moments but I had said that this would be a process and that it would always take time before results can be seen.
"While I want to see through this process, the Udon Thani offer came at the right time and I discussed with the club that this is a unique opportunity and challenge for me and one that I wanted to embrace.
"As a team, we have shown some progress along the way and I'm especially proud of the growth of some players who had not been seeing sufficient game time at their previous clubs. I hope they continue this in the years ahead. "
Akbar was appointed at the end of 2021 on a two-year contract worth more than $170,000, and took over from long-serving Marko Kraljevic, 56, who had been head coach in two separate spells from 2014 to 2021.
Under the Croat, Balestier played an old-fashioned direct, physical style.
Akbar, who in 2019 was named the I-League's best coach after leading Chennai City to their first Indian league title, had promised to instill a possession-based, attacking philosophy but has had a tough time doing so this season.
The Tigers have been goal-shy despite their recent big victory, having netted only 28 times in 20 matches this season. Only developmental side Young Lions who have five fewer goals and have played one game fewer, have a poorer return.
The club currently have 20 points with six wins, two draws and 12 losses, compared to 19 points from as many matches last season.