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The LionsXII and Singapore U23 coach brought an end to a memorable reign on Monday and Goal Singapore's Bhas Kunju recalls what made the Dazzler tick

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By Bhas Kunju , Chief Editor
Sundram's departure from the LionsXII to Malaysian Premier League side Negeri Sembilan was of little surprise to those in the media, with the alleged departure having been decided months ago.

Still, the news did bring a tinge of sadness to those who have become acquainted with the man's affable presence with the LionsXII. LionsXII was Sundram and Sundram was LionsXII, at least for the duration of the Malaysian Super League team's existence.  It's safe to say that it will be awhile before Singapore football fans will be seeing him again, given that he will be with a second-tier side.

But the ambitious move is synonymous with Sundram, for those familiar with the man's long and storied career that has endeared him to fans wherever he goes.

As much as he was known as the 'Dazzler' during his playing days, Sundram, a mercurial forward, was an enigma.

Bursting on to the football scene as a teenager with Singapore FA, he moved on to FC Basel in Switzerland before returning to Kedah FA where he had his most successful spell as a player, winning the Malaysia Cup. Unsurprisingly, upon returning to Alor Setar as a coach with the LionsXII at the start of the 2012 Malaysian Super League campaign, Sundram received a warm standing ovation from the home fans prior to kick-off.

At the peak of his playing career in the early 90s Sundram spent most of his time with Malaysian sides safe for a short spell with Singapore FA in 1993 when he most memorably scored a bicycle kick goal that is still replayed endlessly when the subject matter of Singapore football arises.

Moves to Pahang FA and Kelantan FA followed before he made a long overdue return to Singapore with newly restructured Woodlands Wellington FC, in time for the launch of the brand new S.League in 1996.

It was then when I first met the legend in person as a young schoolboy. Woodlands Wellington who were based in the north came calling one sunny day, and in that travelling circus was V.Sundramoorthy himself.

I was one of the lucky few, or if my memory serves me right, the only one, who managed to land his signature on my football I had dragged to school. I was 11 and having grown up on a healthy staple of homegrown football, it was a special moment of my hitherto short life, to not only have met a Singaporean legend but to have had him pick me out for an autograph.

It will be well over a decade later before my next personal encounter, but this time there was no room for clamouring. I was a student reporter covering the S.League and Sundram was past his playing days and serving as Head Coach of Courts Young Lions, with whom he served from 2007 to 2010, before being earmarked to lead Singapore's first team in the Malaysian domestic competitions since 1994.

Sundram's coaching career has been marked by two key characteristics, a competent ability to nurture young talents, perhaps borne out of his own experiences as a reputed troubled young player with a penchant for bending the rules, and a strong streak of competitiveness which he utilised and imparted to success in two short seasons with the LionsXII.

The former skill set has made him a wanted commodity and the latter has instilled a subconscious desire for challenge; both combined will see the beloved coach depart on a new adventure in Malaysia.

Although Sundram's exact length of stay with Negeri Sembilan has yet to be revealed (with some quarters placing it at 2 years), one thing does seem certain, it will be a long while before Singapore will see the enigmatic star return to our shores, and that was even more evident in his statements explaining his departure.

"I regret that I am not able to lead the National Under-23 team at the upcoming SEA Games," said Sundram.

"But I do not dismiss the possibility of returning someday as Singapore football will always hold a very special place in my heart.”

It will be hard to doubt Sundram's affinity for Singapore, and his record speaks for himself. He will return one day but it will take something special, until then, farewell and good luck to one of Singapore football's prodigal sons.

*Catch Sundram in action for Singapore at the Indoor Stadium on October 20 at the IG Football Masters Singapore Cup 2013

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