S.League: Rafi takes over Tampines

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Tampines Rovers' interim head coach Rafi Ali (centre in blue) wants to take the team higher, from his first session in charge of the side.

With a shrill burst of the whistle, he halted the training session at the Clementi Stadium and bolted into the middle of the pitch.

"Why are we passing backwards, why are we being so negative? We get the ball forward, and we move from there," he barked, then passed the ball upfield and ran forward, demonstrating what he wanted to see from his charges.

Appointed interim coach of S.League giants Tampines Rovers after the shock resignation of Salim Moin on Sunday, long-time club servant, Rafi Ali, made it clear from the high-intensity training session yesterday - his first in charge - that he wants to see a change in attitude and approach.

Speaking to The New Paper later, he said: "I'm not going to change much, because it's not the right time to change systems. I have to try to motivate the players - make them remember that we have been champions for the last three years."

The former Singapore midfielder, who holds an AFC 'A' Licence coaching certificate - a requirement of the S.League - will be assisted by another former Tampines player and youth coach, Satria Mad.

Club captain Mustafic Fahrudin and veteran striker Aleksandar Duric will also be a part of Rafi's team leadership group.

Watching his new head coach from the sidelines, club chairman Teo Hock Seng revealed that the team needed to "refocus".

Said Teo: "The players have been too arrogant and they've been playing below last season's standards. We are the champions and we have a responsibility to play good entertaining football."

While he will be an interim coach, Teo insisted Rafi, 41, will be given a chance to turn things around.

Rafi's first assignment comes as soon as Thursday, when the Stags, currently third in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League, host a dangerous Albirex Niigata side that are coming off a 4-2 demolition of Home United.

The champions' following two fixtures - against Warriors FC and Home - will be no walk in the park, either.

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