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THE NEW PAPER Wednesday, March 2 2011 ●

Sports

59

Hockey FOOTBALL

Casoojee marks new hockey era

ALI KASIM aakasim@sph.com.sg

C

OACH Soloman Casoojee interrupted the interview on more than one occasion to yell instructions at the National Under-16

team. “Guys, I want more intensity over there. Change the defender. Anyone. Quickly,” he yelled to his charges. “You see that,” he said, turning to me. “That’s just lazy hockey. There’s no purpose to it; they’re just having fun. You can have fun when you’re 13, but at 16 you should be paying a bit more attention.” Yesterday was Casoojee’s first day as the new head coach of the men’s national team. But he wasted no time in getting down to business at the Sengkang Sports and Recreation Centre. The 38-year-old South African, known as “Solee” to his peers, excused himself for the second time before grabbing his hockey stick and saying: “They don’t seem to believe me about something, so I have to show them.” Running onto the pitch, he played a quick one-two with one of the boys in front of a defender, and ran into space to receive a pass. He turned around to the rest of the trainees watching on. “See, am I in the game now? There is always a two-versus-one if you support the other player. You have to go nearer to him,” he yelled out. Yes, Casoojee sees himself as a serious coach. He said: “I do have fun with the boys sometimes; they also have to enjoy themselves.

“I can’t just bark orders and talk down to them all the time. They have to be comfortable with me. There must be two-way interaction. “But if they’re mucking about, I’ll crack the whip. But they haven’t seen that side of me yet.” Appointed by the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) early last month, Casoojee arrived in town last Friday. He brings 18 years of experience with him, having begun his coaching career as an assistant coach of a women’s provincial club team in South Africa in 1992.

Highly recommended He moved on to coach a club side in England for two years before moving to Australia, where he spent 10 years at the New South Wales (NSW) Institute of Sport. New SHF CEO, Mark Chay, said that Casoojee will be helping out with the developmental programme here, like he did in NSW, where he developed several Australian national players. Said Chay: “Soloman came highly recommended by our hockey friends in the International Hockey Federation. We were looking for a high-performance coach with great experience in development...and this is our guy. “He’ll be involved with the U-16, U-18, and U-21 teams in view of the 2020 Olympics, but he’s primarily the men’s team coach.” Here on a two-year contract, Casoojee made no secret of his plans for Singapore hockey. He said: “The long-term goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. “Short term, it’s about working on the players’ fitness, intensity and education. The players need to have better game intelligence.

OLD HAND: New men’s hockey coach Soloman Casoojee has 18 years of experience. TNP PICTURE: CHOO CHWEE HUA

“I’m also looking towards educating the coaches on tactics and teaching the basics to the young players.” Casoojee hasn’t seen too much of local hockey yet, but was encouraged by some of the talent from the boys’ team at the Youth Olympic Games. He said: “We need to work on some basic things, and also on the strength and conditioning side. We need to be tougher. “My impression of Singaporeans is that everyone’s so friendly, there’s a lack of killer instinct on the field.” Casoojee takes on the role of head coach knowing little about the problems which have plagued the SHF in recent months. The federation came under fire on the back of the men’s team’s dismal showing in November at the Asian Games in Guangzhou. Shortly after the tournament, team coach Gerard Danker reportedly went missing during the first match of the Milo U-14 Cup in Penang due to “transport problems”, prompting the SHF to demand a written explanation from Danker. But the new coach says he’s “not interested in looking backwards”. “I’ve purposely not asked about any of those affairs. My job is to take the team forward from here,” said Casoojee. “The one thing I’d like to get up and running is a centre of excellence for hockey, and also more regionalised training. This will help with the lack of depth in talent over here. “Of course, it all comes down to who’s going to fund everything, but it’s what I’d like to see in the long term.”

Fandi’s academy to launch next week AFTER months of preparation, the Fandi Ahmad Academy (FAA) is set to “kick off” on Saturday week. And the football school, a collaboration beween local legend Fandi and two partners, will start the ball rolling with the inaugural FAA Youth Challenge Cup. The one-day, five-a-side futsal tournament will see 48 primary school teams taking part in four different age categories. Participating teams include last year’s junior division inter-school champions Tanjong Katong Primary and runners-up Yio Chu Kang Primary. Fandi, 48, will also be on hand to pick the best player from each age group, who will each receive a year’s coaching at the academy for free. He said: “I am very excited. This is what Singapore football needs. “I’ve waited a long time to do this, and I feel that now is the right time.” The former Singapore captain will also conduct four football clinics over two Sundays – March 13 and 20, with each session lasting 90 minutes. All these will be held at the academy’s new home at Safra Tampines, which boasts of a full-sized football pitch and four futsal pitches.

Presence Fandi also promises to be around for the academy’s first semester, which runs from April 1 to end-June. “For now I will be commuting between Italy and Singapore. At any one time, I will be stationed in Italy for only two to three weeks and will return back to Singapore regularly,” said Fandi, who is also Italy-based Genova International Soccer School’s project manager in Asia. Veteran Tohari Paijan will serve as the academy’s head coach, with 16 coaches assisting him and Fandi. In the meantime, with sons Irfan in the Singapore Sports School and Ikhsan in Anglo-Chinese School (Junior), Fandi plans to buy a flat here soon. He said he is in the process of producing the relevant documents to the authorities, but has not decided where he plans to buy a flat. – LIM SAY HENG ■ For more information, go to www.fandi-ahmad-academy.com

March2-CasoojeeIntro  

Presence OLDHAND: Newmen’shockey coachSoloman Casoojeehas18 yearsofexperience. THENEWPAPER q Wednesday,March22011 59 ALIKASIM TNPPICTURE: CH...

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