Singapore: Swandi Ahmad Dismissed By Gombak

Swandi Ahmad has been relieved of his duties as head coach of Gombak United with immediate effect, according to a statement released by the club.

The announcement comes just 24 hours after the club’s 0-0 draw with Albirex Niigata (Singapore), which saw them miss out on a chance to break into the top half of the S.League table.

Swandi, who was installed in the role at the start of the season following Salim Moin’s move to the FAS National Football Academy, thus becomes the league’s first coaching casualty this year, although he will remain at the club as a staff coach.

Assistant coach A. Shasi Kumar has been appointed as the acting head coach in the interim, the club is understood to be looking for candidates to fill the post on a permanent basis.

Gombak announced the news on Monday evening through its official website, releasing a statement signed by club chairman John Yap.

“With immediate effect Mr. Swandi Ahmad will relinquish his duties as the Head Coach of Gombak United Football Club,” said the statement.

“With immediate effect Mr. Shasi Kumar, our current assistant coach of our S.League team, is appointed as the Acting Head Coach. Gombak United Football club will be actively looking to secure the services of another head Coach for the S.League team.

“In the interim period, Mr. Swandi Ahmad will continue to work with Mr. Shasi Kumar, the Acting Head Coach, as a staff coach for the current S.League season until the reappointment of the new Head Coach.

“Mr. Swandi Ahmad will remain in his employment with Gombak United Football Club till the expiry of his current contract,” the statement also noted.

“In addition, Mr. Swandi Ahmad is also assigned to work with the Prime League Team, School Outreach Programme and duties involving general football administration of the club.”

When contacted by sleague.com, Yap explained that the decision was made only very recently, after taking a careful look at the club’s progress in the season so far.

The Bulls had finished fourth in the league in 2007, the club’s highest ever placing since it was formed in 1998.

Gombak also claimed their first piece of silverware this year, beating the Super Reds in the Avaya-J&J League Cup final to cap a dream run that also saw them upstage Home United in the quarterfinals.

But they were eliminated in the RHB Singapore Cup at the first hurdle, and have won just four of their 17 league matches so far, leaving them stuck in mid-table, 25 points behind title holders SAFFC.

That failure to make bigger strides comes despite the collection of talent available at the club, including Singapore centreback Precious Emuejeraye, recent internationals Faizal Abdul Hamid and Jaslee Hatta, and effervescent attacker Ojimi Gabriel Obatola.

Yap has thus decided to jumpstart the process of gaining the services of a coach better suited to the challenge, although he admitted he has yet to identify any likely candidates.

“The decision was primarily tactical,” he said in an interview with sleague.com.

“We thought it was time for us to move on and have a coach who could bring more success to the club. Considering where we were last year, while it was good to have won the League Cup, we could have done better.

“It was a decision we have just made in the last couple of days. Having made it, we will of course be drawing up a shortlist of people we think suitable for the job.

“We’re hoping to secure a coach who can give us more success. But honestly, I do not have any specific names in mind yet.”

In the meantime Yap has stated he will not be placing any pressure on Shasi, who was appointed as Swandi’s assistant at the start of the season.

The former midfielder will formally assume his new role on the bench this Friday, when Gombak take on fellow mid-table side Geylang United in the week’s televised S.League clash at Jalan Besar Stadium.

His main brief is expected to involve steadying the boat in the dressing room, a job Yap believes will not be a problem given the former’s familiarity with the players.

“Shasi has been with us for many years, first as a player, and then as a COE coach,” he noted.

“He is definitely not new to Gombak United. And I think Shasi has done well in his coaching duties, including his work as assistant coach for the S.League team this year.

“That’s why we are confident he can do the job for the time being. If we brought in a new coach, he would have to take time to get to know the players, but Shasi has been with the senior team for half a year already, so his relationship with the players is not a problem.

“As for Swandi, I will be sitting down with him soon to discuss about what we want him to achieve in his new role. As a staff coach, he will be helping to cover many duties related to the club, and we have identified some new targets for him to work on.”

Gombak captain Sevki Sha’ban admitted that it felt ‘strange’ to learn of the development, but indicated that the team will carry on with their work under Shasi.

“The chairman addressed us on the issue a few days back, and Coach Swandi has also talked to us about it,” said the Singapore international.

“The players know what they should do, and will just concentrate on the football. This is also what Coach Swandi wants; he told us not to lose focus because of this, and we have to move on.

“At least everyone seems quite relieved it’s Coach Shasi who will take temporary charge. He has been with us since the start of this season, and since he’s not a total newcomer, it should not be a problem for us.”

Swandi was not available for comment.

Tam Cheong Yan

www.sleague.com