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Singapore’s Coach PN Sivaji Opens his Heart for JPF’s Questions

  Singapore’s famous coach, PN Sivaji, was back in town for a short break and Junpiter Futbol (JPF) managed to catch up with him at his most comfortable neighbourhood coffee-shop! So what did the former Singapore


Singapore’s famous coach, PN Sivaji, was back in town for a short break and Junpiter Futbol (JPF) managed to catch up with him at his most comfortable neighbourhood coffee-shop! So what did the former Singapore National Team’s coach, FAS Technical Director and S-League clubs’ coach shared with JPF over a cup of coffee? And what are the kind of players and coach he admired? Coach Sivaji opened up and shared with all… 

JPF: You have finally achieved your dream of coaching oversea (Myanmar), so how was it like to coach an oversea team? What are the challenges you faced?

PNS: I knew there would be many limitations and shortcomings such as language barrier and poor training facility as compared to coaching in Singapore. My team, Okkthar United, trained at Insein (pronounced as In-Saint) Training field, Singapore’s version of Geylang field, which was sandy and not really an ideal place for training. I made the decision to train the team early in the morning when the ground was still moist to avoid sandy condition. Next, the team was made up of nobody as these players was picked and meant to be trained, to be built up in the next few years. Technically, these players were not outstanding but they wanted to play.

Faced with so many unexpected challenges, I was questioning myself at one point did I made the right choice by taking up this job. The thing which kept me going was I knew I could help these players. Secondly, I had a fantastic Club Chairman, Aung Moe Kyaw (not pronounced as Ang-Mo-Kio but pronounced as On-Mo-Jo!). He literally just informed all, including the Club General Manager, not to get involved in my tactics and trainings. The kind of hospitality which I had received there as an expatriate was something which I had not experienced before too.

JPF: Singapore is back to the Malaysia Cup, what do you think of that?

PNS: This returning to the Malaysia Cup has already gotten a lot of attentions from the media and also from the fans out there. Even for World Cup qualifiers, Newspaper only had 1-2 pages report on the game but with the Malaysia Cup, now I am seeing 3-4 pages of report. However will the respond (from the fans) be the same like your time or my time, I doubt so. Youngsters are into European futbol these days unless we can win them over. If you ask me, is it (returning to the Malaysia Cup) good, I say it’s good. Anything which can create a positive hype or impact on our local futbol is good. Our local futbol needs a shot in the arm. On the same note, how is this going to affect our domestic S-League? That is the biggest challenge for us now.

JPF: You lead Singapore to the Malaysia Cup final in 1993 but eventually lost to Kedah 2-0, how did you feel back then?

PNS: That was a difficult period for me (after the lost). I would have lost it, gone into depression if not because of my family and friends’ support. The media was harsh and I almost did not dare to step out of the house. There would be news articles on me almost everyday! Singapore was actually winning games but I think the fans were expecting us to win by bigger margin instead. I gained lots of experience and I hope Sundram and Kadir can do an even better job than I did.

JPF: As an AFC coaching instructor, you have been to many countries for coaching stints and courses; which country’s futbol system do you think Singapore should model on?

PNS: It has to be Japan’s. From their grassroots, youth development to the J-League and their coach education programme, Japan’s futbol system is the model Singapore should follow. The continuity of their futbol programme and module follows through from below to the top. J-League is also financially sound because of their GLC (Government Linked Corporation)’s support, for example, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Konami. The rivalry between the clubs is strong. Supporters’ sense of belonging could be seen in their matches’ attendance. They do not mind traveling island-wide just to cheer for their hometown team.

JPF: What is your biggest achievement in your coaching career?

PNS: One has to be the FA Cup win with Okkthar United in year 2010 where we played in front of nearly 10,000 crowd. That is only trophy which I have won as a coach and especially with a team with no big names, I am extremely proud of it. The second one has to be the time when I’m with Balestier Central Utd, especially year 1999 where we reached the semi-final of the Singapore Cup.

JPF: As a professional coach, is there a coach whom you look up to?

PNS: Seak Poh Leong, he was the one who gave me the break in National youth coaching in the mid-80s. And also Trevor Hartley, director of coaching in the 70s, who was my coaching courses’ instructor then, drafted me into the Milo Soccer School scheme as a coach.

JPF: We heard that you are also inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson?

PNS: Well, I have never had a chance to meet up with him personally, I do not agree with some of his coaching methods, but what he has achieved as a coach over the years is amazing. His achievement is an inspiration and he sets as a role model for all young coaches. I do read up on Jose Mourinho too.

JPF: As a coach, what is the type of player that will capture your attention?

PNS: Player with technique. Sometimes when a ball goes that player, everything stop. People won’t rush into tackling him because they know that he’s very good. Technique is the most important quality to me. Next is tactical awareness – we don’t need players run for the sake of running, every run should have its objective and purpose.

Well, of course my requirement will be different if I am talking about the U-12. We can develop U-12 players to do better crosses, better strike at the balls and etc… but there are something which comes naturally for them such as speed or attitude like rebounce-mentality/action!

JPF: Care to elaborate more on rebounce mentality/action?

PNS: For example, if a player loses a ball, he will chase and recover the ball back without telling him to do so. Players with this mentality will not give up and will chase all the way back just to get back the ball. To them, these type of players do not like to lose the ball cheaply.

JPF: Any such player whom you have worked with possesses (rebounce mentality/action) attribute?

PNS: Ah Beng (Tan Sio Beng)! Sio Beng was not one of the most technical players but he made up with his strong mentality where he would always wanted to win. In fact, I even gave him his first NT’s called-up. I knew people were questioning my selection (Sio Beng’s called-up) but I wanted to show people we did not necessary need to have flashy player, we need team player too. At times, a team needs to have workers and Sio Beng is one of them. From a futbol point of view, we would need somebody like Sio Beng in the team.

JPF: Currently, what is the type of player which Singapore needs now?

PNS: Duric is doing a great job in the front but we would need younger player like Khairul (Nizam) to step up. Hopefully, he will get more quality playing time to improve as a forward in this new M-League campaign.

Generally, we need a great finisher in the front, a midfielder who can create and a solid defender who can lead at the back, to form the spine of the team. At the same time, we will need the “workers” for the team too. Year 2004 and 2007, we had the right mix of foreign neutralized players and the local players in the team when we won the AFF Suzuki Cup. Singapore needed some success at an international level to create an impact on our local futbol scene. And what does success breed? Success breeds more success.

JPF: Lastly, any advice for Junpiter Futbol followers who wants to be a professional futbol player?

PNS: Most importantly, you will have to enjoy futbol. Understand futbol is a game of opinions, futbol is a game of different opinions, futbol is a game of challenging opinions, keep an open mind, don’t ever say that you are totally wrong. Read up on Junpiter Futbol’s JPF BLOG, watch JPF VIDEO & various interviews on JPF TALK, get the correct ideas, understand it and work hard. These are my humble advices.

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