Football: Ex-Lions skipper Indra Sahdan hopes to help groom next generation of goal-scorers

SINGAPORE – As Son Heung-min stole in at the front post and scored Tottenham Hotspur’s second goal against Leeds United at White Hart Lane in London two weeks ago, almost 11,000km away, eight-year-old Tylen jumped off the couch in his Siglap home and giddily exclaimed: “Coach Indra taught us that!”

Tylen and his brother Kyen, nine, whose father is former national defender R. Sasikumar, have been soaking up specialist striker lessons dished out by former Lions captain Indra Sahdan Daud since the turn of the year.

Sasikumar, who played alongside Indra at national and club level, said: “Who better than Indra for my boys to learn about scoring from?”

Indra, 41, hung up his scoring boots at the end of 2016 after over two decades poaching goals for club and country. He is still the only local-born player to score over 200 league and Cup goals in domestic football, and scored 31 times for the national team in 113 caps.

After retiring, he coached for a short while at a local private academy, and has also assisted in a sports-based programme at Nanyang Polytechnic, his alma mater. He is now juggling his coaching lessons with a sales job.

Still looking trim despite his years away from professional football, Indra said he had been looking for a way to give back to local football, and thought about how he could help an area that has been problematic for the Lions in recent years. Enter The Finishing Touch, the football programme he has set up which offers one-to-one coaching.

Dearth of solid strikers

“I’ve heard a lot of people say we don’t have good strikers anymore,” he said.

“The thing is, I think we have a lot of talent out there. It’s just that they don’t have the guidance… I may not be the best coach around, but hopefully with my experience I am able to share some things to help these players.”

The dearth of top Singapore-born strikers has been an issue the Lions have struggled with over the last decade. The recent emergence of 21-year-old Ikhsan Fandi – with eight goals in 18 caps – has provided temporary relief but a sputtering conveyor belt is still worrying.

Since 2010, 13 players have scored 20 or more goals in the S-League (which was renamed the Singapore Premier League in 2018). None are local.

In fact, the last Singapore-born player to achieve the feat was Khairul Amri in 2006. This is a stark contrast to a time when the likes of Indra (in 2001, 2003 and 2005) and Noh Alam Shah (2002, 2003 and 2005) posted multiple hauls of 20-plus goals.

Said Indra: “Aside from guidance from senior heads, what is lacking these days for young talents is also exposure.

is offering private coaching sessions to help polish young local striking talents. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

“At 18, I was playing in the first team of the S-League with players like Egmar (Goncalves), and Kadir (Yahaya) around me to guide me.

“But nowadays, a lot of our young players are playing alongside their peers, and sometimes they don’t get the proper guidance from other teammates too… So they don’t improve as much.”

Fixing the pipeline?

Four-time S-League top scorer Aleksandar Duric, a naturalised former Singapore striker, said the dip in quality of foreigners in the domestic league has affected local football standards and this includes the development of strikers.

“Indra and Egmar were a deadly partnership, and he probably learnt so much from Egmar on getting in the right areas to score, and so on,” said Bosnia-born Duric.

“Egmar and the other imported strikers in many teams then used to score 20 or 30 season regularly. But these days, not many of the foreign strikers score even more than 10 goals a season. So how does a local player improve if this is what he is competing with?”

Duric added that he felt specialist striker coaching, like the one offered by Indra, is one possible solution to fixing the pipeline of goal-scorers. The 50-year-old said this is common in Europe and even in the region, revealing that he turned down an offer of a specialist striker coaching role with Indonesia’s national team after he retired in 2014.

Sasikumar, 46, added: “We are still far behind in this regard. Look at Liverpool, they even have a throw-in coach.”

Indra, whose arguably most famous strike came in an exhibition match against Manchester United in 2001, also scored against World Cup nations Japan, Uruguay and Denmark.

He said his lessons for budding players are all based on goals he scored.

“I’ll break down the sequence – before I get the ball, when I get the ball, and what to do with it in front of goal,” he said.

“And we’ll practise the situations. This is how I think my sessions will help. Because sometimes when you are tired, you lose focus but if you go through that motion over and over again, it becomes almost second nature to you and you’ll have that instinct and know what to do.”

Added Duric: “Indra was no ordinary player, so it’s good to see him back on the pitch and giving back to Singapore football, because I’m sure he has a lot to give.”

For more information on The Finishing Touch, ring 9126-8514.

Indra’s honours

For Singapore

113 caps, 31 goals

2004 and 2007 AFF Championships

2001 SEA Games top scorer

Scored goals against Uruguay, Denmark, Japan and Manchester United

For club

(Police FC, Geylang United, Sengkang Punggol, SAFFC, Home United)

2003 S-League title

2001, 2003, 2005, 2013 Singapore Cup winner

2004 AFC Cup top scorer

2000 and 2001 Young Player of the Year

Only local-born footballer to score 200 league and cup goals

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