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FAS denies agenda behind hiring another Japanese coach

Tsutomu Ogura’s appointment as the Singapore national coach has raised eyebrows as he is the third consecutive Japanese tactician at the helm.

The 57-year-old former Japan national assistant coach, who was unveiled as the Lions’ tamer on Feb 1, follows in the footsteps of his compatriots Takayuki Nishigaya, who was fired on Jan 29, and Tatsuma Yoshida, who quit in 2021.

Some in the local football fraternity are frowning at a perceived agenda to hire only from Japan, as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has a memorandum of understanding with the Japan Football Association (JFA). It was first signed in April 2011 and renewed twice – in 2015 and again in 2022 for another three years.

But unlike Yoshida and Nishigaya, who came with JFA’s recommendations, the Japanese governing body was not involved with Ogura’s Singapore appointment, said FAS president Bernard Tan.

Insisting that there was no agenda behind picking another Japanese, he defended the FAS’ decision, saying that “Japanese coaches are well-sought after globally”.

Tan said: “No, there is no agenda to exclude any nationality or to pick any nationality. We actually interviewed people from multiple nationalities. That shows that we tried to be as broad as possible, but obviously there are certain criteria you need to match.

“Was the JFA involved? No, the JFA was not involved but obviously before Ogura signed, we did reference checks and he passed with flying colours.”

When pressed for details behind the hiring process that led to Ogura’s appointment, Tan was coy, saying: “Sorry, today is about Ogura, so I’d rather not really speak about the process. But let me just say that we had interviewed quite a significant amount of coaches.

“We found Ogura to be the most suitable candidate and I think his CV (curriculum vitae) and his record does show that he’s a coach of certain repute. I believe that he has all the qualities to bring Singapore football in the right direction.”

Some members of the local fraternity are not as convinced, though.

Former Balestier Khalsa coach Khidhir Khamis called it a “budget hire rather than the best hire”.

He said: “When the last three coaches come from the same country, it is hard to believe that the MOU has not played a part.

“You can have an MOU in place but if there are better candidates who had applied for the job, then you cannot be afraid to look away from the MOU and go for the best hire available.”

Former Singapore goalkeeper and youth coach Yakob Hashim said that while the public deserves to know why the FAS has gone for a Japanese coach again, Ogura should be afforded a chance to prove himself.

Yakob said: “I do think he seems to have better calibre than the two previous coaches and we must give him a chance to show what he can do.

“He must be a hard taskmaster to the players but most importantly he needs to be equipped with a local coach who knows the football scene here well, someone like Noor Ali.

“And Ogura must be humble and take in the views of those around him. As fans, we want the national team to start performing again, so we can only wish him well.”