SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Thursday (1 February) announced the appointment of Tsutomu Ogura (小倉勉) as the new Director for both Singapore’s senior and Under-22 men’s teams.
Ogura’s selection as the Singapore national coach has garnered attention, marking the third consecutive Japanese tactician at the helm after the removal of Takayuki Nishigaya from the post.
In a press release, the FAS highlighted the 57-year-old Japanese coaching veteran’s extensive experience and notable achievements with various clubs as part of the Japan Football Association.
“In a strategic move aligned with the Post SEA Games Football Review 2023 recommendations, Ogura will lead the Men’s Senior Team while also overseeing the performances of the Under-23/22 team and its coach.”
The FAS emphasized that this organizational shift reflects its commitment to the holistic development of football in Singapore, ensuring seamless coordination and synergy between the Men’s Senior and Under-23/22 squads.
Bernard Tan, FAS President, expressed satisfaction in convincing Coach Ogura to undertake the challenging role of Singapore’s National Team head coach.
“Ogura has had a very diverse career in football, which will no doubt be helpful not just in helping improve our senior national team, but also the entire football ecosystem. ”
“He might not be as well known to local fans as some of the other candidates that we had spoken to, but I am confident that he will soon win over both the players and the fans, as well as the larger footballing fraternity,” said Mr Tan.
Some in the local football fraternity have raised concerns about a perceived agenda to exclusively hire from Japan, given the existing memorandum of understanding between the FAS and the Japan Football Association (JFA).
The memorandum, initially signed in April 2011 and renewed twice—in 2015 and 2022 for another three years—has prompted scepticism among certain stakeholders.
FAS president emphasizes “deliberate manner” in coaching hires
During a press conference on Thursday, Mr Tan clarified that, unlike Yoshida and Nishigaya who came with recommendations from JFA, the JFA had no involvement in Ogura’s appointment to Singapore.
Mr Tan defended the association’s decision-making process, asserting that coaching hires are made with careful consideration.
He stated that the choice was not influenced by nationality but rather by the global demand for Japanese coaches.
Tan said: “No, there is no agenda to exclude any nationality or to pick any nationality. ”
“We interviewed people from multiple nationalities. That shows that we tried to be as broad as possible, but 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 the media pressed for details about the hiring process that led to Ogura’s appointment, Mr Tan remained discreet, stating, “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 do 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.”
Mr Tan also said that the FAS does not “take joy from sacking coaches”.
“I don’t think the FAS is in the business of sacking coaches and they say taking the fall.”
“A parting of the ways and disappointing performances affect everybody. It is not as if we take joy you know in doing what we did.”
“I don’t think that’s the way you (media) phrased it, as if we’re rubbing ourselves. No, it hurts the country, it hurts the team, and it hurts the association. We do want every appointment to be a success.”
He underscored the FAS’s commitment to conducting thorough evaluations of appointments rather than making frivolous decisions.
“I’d like to assure that we took a lot of pains to uncover what we think is suitable.”
“Obviously there is a range of coaches that will consider doing the job here and many who will probably not consider doing the job here. There’s a pool of coaches that are available, and we’ve looked at quite a number of them.”
“I just want to assure you that the process is quite deliberate, ” Mr Tan told the media.
Ogura prioritizes player’s input before deciding on future playing philosophy
Mr Ogura’s coaching journey began at JEF United Ichihara in 1996 His coaching acumen was further demonstrated during his tenure with various levels of the Japan National Team from 2006 to 2012, playing an integral role in shaping the team during this period.
In 2010, he was part of the coaching staff during the Guangzhou Asian Games Championship and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where Japan reached the Round of 16.
From 2010 to 2012, Mr Ogura served as the Second Head Coach for Japan’s Olympic National Team, achieving a commendable fourth-place finish in the 2012 London Olympics.
Subsequently, he continued his career with successful stints at Omiya Ardija, Ventforet Kofu, JEF United Chiba, and Yokohama F. Marinos, where he secured the club’s first J1 league title in 15 years in 2019 as its Sporting Director.
Mr Ogura in recent years served as the assistant coach for Tokyo Verdy, contributing to their promotion to the Japanese top tier last season.
Holding the Asian Football Confederation professional diploma, and the highest coaching accreditation issued by the continent’s governing body, Mr Ogura brings a wealth of experience to the role.
During a press conference, Ogura remained tight-lipped about his playing philosophy when asked.
However, when pressed further by the media, he expressed his preference to engage in conversations with his players before finalizing any decisions.
Describing the job as a “big challenge,” Ogura emphasized the significance of results and the need to fight for the fans and the country.
“I want our fans to feel the urge to go and watch the team play or even watch the team train or perhaps even travel and watch the team playing away. We want to give fans this feeling.”
According to FAS, Ogura will initiate preparations for Singapore’s upcoming matches in the second round of qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 against China in March.
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