The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Monday (29 January) announced the removal of Takayuki Nishigaya (西谷隆之) from his position as head coach of the Singapore men’s national football team.
FAS said the decision to part ways with 50-year-old Mr Nishigaya, appointed less than two years ago, was made “after careful consideration.”
The governing body expressed dissatisfaction with the national team’s recent performance and results, stating they were “below expectations.”
“FAS believes that an early transition to a fresh successor would re-energise the team and allow a longer runway for the National Team to prepare for important matches in the next few months and the year-end AFF tournament.”
FAS expressed gratitude for Mr Nishigaya’s contributions to Singapore football and wished him success in his future endeavours.
FAS said a new successor would be revealed in due course.
Netizens looking beyond the coach to revamp Singapore football
Analyzing the online communities’s responses, there is a dual sentiment. While some anticipate a capable coach to enhance the national team’s performance, others assert that reforming Singapore football requires accountability beyond the coach, emphasizing the need for changes in the entire FAS team management.
Former sports journalist Jose Raymond emphasized that Mr Nishigaya was appointed as the Lions’ head coach by FAS, despite lacking any prior international experience.
He asserted that blame for the failure should not be placed on Nishigaya but rather on the individuals responsible for his appointment within the FAS.
Commenting on Singapore’s sports and lifestyle blog TMSG’s Facebook post, one netizen emphasized that the responsibility for transformation extends beyond the coach, urging a comprehensive overhaul of the entire FAS team management.
Expressing a pessimistic viewpoint, another comment suggested that even with an experienced coach, the situation will remain unchanged as long as those in top positions remain comfortable.
A corresponding sentiment was echoed in a comment found on CNA’s Facebook post, emphasizing that the root of the issue lies in the top management and the vision for Singapore’s football culture.
The commenter highlighted a perceived shift from the passion of the past, particularly during Fandi Ahmad’s era, lamenting the current state and comparing it unfavourably to the nation’s former status as football titans.
Nishigaya’s departure seen as a scapegoat move
Opinions surfaced asserting that blaming Mr Nishigaya is unjust, with some suggesting that the decision by FAS to part ways with him merely serves as a scapegoat for the top management, attempting to salvage face amidst ongoing failures.
A netizen dismissed the outgoing coach as the root problem, sarcastically remarking, “Even we pay Klopp to come, we still cannot roar. SG Football is on life support with a bunch of clowns leading the treatment. Eventually, the patient will die of slow and painful death.”
Jürgen Klopp is a German football manager and former player who manages the Premier League club Liverpool. He is considered one of the world’s top football managers.
Another netizen expressed disappointment, pointing out the recurring trend of blaming the coach whenever the team faces a setback:
Netizens suggest comprehensive overhaul for Singapore football beyond coach replacement
Some comments argue that the issue extends beyond the coach, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the entire infrastructure.
The suggestion is to prioritize development, focusing on a robust national feeder program for the team. Advocates propose the appointment of a football director instead of a coach, stressing the importance of reevaluating the structure for sports development in Singapore.
Echoing a shared sentiment, a comment stressed that the issue extends beyond the coach to include players and higher-ups managing team budgets and coaching decisions.
Another netizen highlighted the complexity of the situation, noting that the coach is just one factor among many. Factors such as the talent pool, sports culture, passion, and community support also play crucial roles.
The comment draws attention to the perception that football in Singapore is treated as a “nice to have” rather than an integral part of the sports culture.
A netizen raised a crucial point, emphasizing the need to question the practice of solely blaming the coach.
The remark suggested that this approach overlooks the players’ responsibility for their performances and challenged the notion of placing blame on the coach unless there is clear evidence of gross incompetence.
Additionally, the comment questioned the FAS’s competence in the hiring process if the coach’s alleged incompetence is indeed the case.
Then-FAS president welcomed Mr Nishigaya as “best candidate” to lead the national team
Mr Nishigaya, a former J-League player with 100 appearances, transitioned to coaching in 2004 as a youth coach at Tokyo Verdy.
In April 2022, he joined as Lions Head Coach on a two-year contract, succeeding Tatsuma Yoshida.
The decision sparked questions, as it marked Nishigaya’s first international role.
Reportedly recommended by the Japan Football Association technical committee, his appointment involved a panel featuring then-FAS president Lim Kia Tong, current president Bernard Tan, vice-president Teo Hock Seng, council member Goh Tat Chuan, and general secretary Yazeen Buhari.
In April 2022, Mr Lim in a press statement, welcomed Mr Nishigaya as Lions Head Coach, stating, “We are delighted to have Nishigaya on board after a rigorous recruitment process.”
“We knew that Tatsuma had left some big shoes to fill, and it was imperative that we found the best candidate who had the required character and attributes to succeed him. ”
“We believe that Nishigaya is exactly that and we are confident he can take on the challenge of continuing to make our Lions roar.”
Mr Nishigaya’s tenure as Lions coach ends with eight wins, eight losses and five draws in 21 matches.
A particular low point of his spell was in January 2023, when the Lions were trounced 4-1 by Malaysia before a meek exit in the group stage of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship.
While there were three straight wins – over Guam, in a two-legged World Cup qualifier, and Chinese Taipei – last September and October, the Lions have largely looked dismal under Nishigaya.
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