SINGAPORE - COACH V. Sundramoorthy is staying with the LionsXII, but his crucial No. 2 will not be by his side next season.
The Straits Times understands that assistant coach Kadir Yahaya is not extending his contract with the Malaysian Super League (MSL) outfit. The former Singapore international's one-year contract expires at year end.
Sources say the 43-year-old, a favourite among LionsXII players and fans, wants to concentrate on coaching at the youth level.
He had led the national Under-15 team to the bronze medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics and earlier this year, St Joseph's Institution (SJI) to a third-placed finish, out of a six-team group, in the first round of the National School Games.
Last Friday, he extended his year-long stint with SJI by another 12 months. It is believed that this deal pays more than his current LionsXII contract. He is also said to be looking to helm a second school team next year.
When quizzed yesterday on his future with the LionsXII, he would only say: "I'm exploring other options."
It is understood that the former right-back has not informed the Football Association of Singapore or Sundram of his decision to leave yet.
His departure will be a big blow to the Singapore outfit, who finished runners-up in their inaugural MSL season and reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup.
He was a key figure behind the team's defensive solidity, with the LionsXII boasting the league's second-best defence, conceding just 23 goals in 26 games. They were bettered only by champions Kelantan, who conceded 18 times.
When Sundram was offered the LionsXII job last November, his first move was to rope Kadir in as his assistant. As an integral member of Singapore's Malaysia Cup-winning squad of 1994, Kadir was well-versed in football across the Causeway.
"Kadir and I complement each other very well; he organises the defenders while I handle the attacking side of the team," Sundram had said previously.
Besides shoring up the backline, Kadir also handled video analysis of past matches and travelled to Malaysia regularly to relay back advanced scouting reports.
But perhaps his departure will be felt most keenly by the LionsXII players themselves.
Vice-captain Hariss Harun, 21, called him a "massive presence" in the dressing room who commanded the players' respect for being both a disciplinarian and a joker.
"He knew when to let loose and when to be strict - joining in for warm-ups like one of us before screaming at us during drills," added the midfielder, who was first coached by Kadir as a 14-year-old at the National Football Academy.
"It will be a big blow if he leaves. I can't imagine this team without him."
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