Stags chairman Krishna breathes life into local football, says Leonard Thomas
No one knows how intimately involved Gerard Houllier will be with Tampines Rovers football, after the S.League giants revealed on Monday that the former France and Liverpool manager had signed an agreement to be an ambassador of the club.
I get the feeling Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra will do his best to milk all the knowledge possible from the former France technical director in a bid to lift the standard of the Singapore club, and even boost the game in the country.
Krishna must be applauded for thinking big, and thinking out of the box.
He is a breath of fresh air as a chairman of an S.League club, and former Tampines chief Teo Hock Seng must be credited for spotting him and convincing him to join the Stags.
In an era where so many refuse to reveal what they actually think, Krishna is not afraid to say he wants to put Singapore football on the international map, and then acts on it.
The Stags signed former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant as a marquee signing ahead of this season's Great Eastern Yeo's S.League, revving up much-needed interest in the competition and making headlines across Asia, and in the UK.
Last December, Krishna raised eyebrows when he roped in Brazilian great Ronaldinho to launch a football academy here.
In the club's latest partnership, Tampines will be able to consult their international ambassador Houllier on anything football-related, from youth development to more technical aspects of the game like coaching strategies.
Houllier will also be in Singapore in the second half of the year to hold seminars for local coaches because Krishna also wants to raise the level of the national game.
V Sundramoorthy is lucky.
Krishna says he will not stand in the way if the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) asks for the Tampines coach to take the reins of the Lions for a mid-year international quadrangular in Myanmar, while they look to confirm a permanent replacement for Bernd Stange.
I know a few club chairmen who will bristle at the idea of their coach going away even during an international break.
The coach is being paid by the club and should focus all his energies on the team, they will argue.
The Tampines chairman, however, trusts Sundram can handle both portfolios, indeed he probably even thinks the 50-year-old former Singapore star will become a better coach as he steers the Lions on the international stage.
Krishna's stance could well mean Sundram will continue as assistant when the FAS names the next Singapore coach.
Sundram will be learning all the time and will surely be the next in line to take over the reins of the Lions.
I met Krishna at an S.League chairmen's lunch just before the season kicked off and the Tampines chief was full of ideas.
Financial muscle has always restricted Singapore football, so many continue to complain about the lack of funding, but never once did he join the bandwagon.
The 44-year-old corporate lawyer wanted a big-name to stir the football climate here, found the sponsors and signed Pennant.
Very quickly, he realised how well-connected FAS technical director Michel Sablon was on the international stage and asked the Belgian for help, and was soon hooked up with Houllier.
With Krishna bankrolling a side with top talent, Sundram's men are going well so far in the S.League and the AFC Cup (Asia's second-tier club competition) and Tampines are a rising force.
What must be exciting for the club and the personnel is that they have a young, ambitious chairman who does not seem like someone who will sit still.
The only quarrel I have with Krishna is that he seems to have an affection for Liverpool.