Former Singapore youth coach Dejan Gluscevic believes strongly that Singapore and the region will benefit from the creation of a regional super league.
The Serbian made the suggestion in an email interview with TMSG, and provided his insights into a few other football-related matters, including Asia’s performances at the recent World Cup in Qatar.
Gluscevic spent six years as a youth coach when he was with the Football Association of Singapore from 2010 to 2016, mostly looking after the national U-15 side.
He also spent a season as a player with Tanjong Pagar United in 1999 under Tohari Paijan.
“Singapore should support creation of the Regional Super League because a better development comes with new investments,” he surmised.
“There is no doubt that existing football powerhouses would do anything to prevent competition that would threaten their dominance, however, footballers and coaches have always shown that they are willing to play where their income is higher, hopefully in Singapore.”
Gluscevic, an aspiring AFC PRO graduate, he is hoping to lead a team in the Champions League (or Regional Super League) and to the World Cup.
In addition to his role as Singapore’s U-15 coach, Gluscevic spent a year as the Vanuatu U-20 coach and then had a few stints with clubs in Serbia, including Zemun and Rad.
We are reproducing his answers to TMSG’s questions in full.
1. The last World Cup saw three Asian nations make the knockout stages. Why do you think this was so?
For the first time in the 92-year history of the World Cup, three Asian nations qualified for the knockout stage after some historic performances in the final round of the group stage in Qatar.
The World Cup started in November and had the shortest time ever for teams’ preparations.
One of the key factors is that, along with strong national competitions, in all three Asian teams, the starters came from the European competitions, with a new record of 19 Japanese footballers playing in Europe.
2. Just based on that outcome of having three Asian countries in the knockout stages, is it an indicator that Asian football is on the rise?
Of course, the result is an indicator of success in international competitions.
Most of the players in those three teams play in foreign leagues stronger than their domestic leagues, and over 35 players from the three qualified Asian squads play in Europe.
Asia is the most promising football confederation and another indicator that Asia is on rise is the performance of the teams.
First, Australia stunned Denmark to win back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in their history, then Japan beat Spain to win the group and South Korea edged past Portugal as the last team to qualify.
They were the only three teams to qualify but Saudi Arabia also beat world champions Argentina, Iran took three points from Wales and Japan also defeated Germany.
3. Will Asia ever have a team in the World Cup final one day and when do you think this could happen? Which teams could make it there?
It is possible that Asia will improve the best semi-final result of South Korea from 2002 and could play the final of the World Cup, but only after elite leagues are formed in Asia and thus AFC get more qualifying slots in the FIFA World Cup.
Creating an elite league is not difficult and only investors are needed, for example, China can achieve results the fastest because it has investors, infrastructure, population and state support as well.
The possibility for others who do not meet all the criteria is the establishment of a Regional Super League, where top Asian players who do not play in the (UEFA) elite leagues would reach their sports form before international competitions.
Japan and Saudi Arabia are dominant followed by South Korea, Australia, Iran and others but an Asian team that will have the most of their players in the elite teams and competitions, be it domestic or foreign, will eventually achieve better success.
4. Have you been following Singapore’s football fortunes after leaving?
Of course, I do follow Singapore and the countries where I used to work. I worked for 9 years in Asia and stayed in touch with my colleagues and new technologies make it easier for us to watch and analyse matches.
I often meet with a successful coaches Avramovic (Radojko), Bozenko (Aleksandar), Tumbakovic (LJubisa), Petrovic (LJubomir) … and we discuss current Asian competitions including the Singapore Premier League.
5. What do you think small nations like Singapore need to do to stay with the rest of the pack?
I think the Singapore Lion City Cup U16 Finalists (generation 1995 YOG Third place and 1996 AFF U16 Youth Championship’s semi-finalists) proved what kind of development training program is appropriate and Raddy proved how Singapore (AFF Triple Champions) should compete.
To stay with rest of Asian leading countries the quality facilities and competitions with a functional management model for the Singaporean clubs must be established in order to develop better players and coaches.
Singapore should support creation of the Regional Super League because a better development comes with new investments.
There is no doubt that existing football powerhouses would do anything to prevent competition that would threaten their dominance, however, footballers and coaches have always shown that they are willing to play where their income is higher, hopefully in Singapore.
6. Where did it all go wrong for Singapore?
First of all, the small base of players and the quality of the league(s) limits the development of football.
Progress requires educated coaches and managers who have nowhere to develop.
Instead of sounding names you have to hire professionals who understand your culture and environment and are capable of making an original and purposeful plan and strategy for the development of Singapore football, especially footballers, coaches and managers who can compete in the highest quality competitions. Implementation of a plan and program and consistency are key words.
7. Which really good players under your care previously have now disappeared from football?
We should not forget that I was helped in the development of football players and the team by Shahrin Bin Shari (my assistant and also the academic aspect of development) Ding Yifei (fitness trainer), David Lee (the goalkeeper specialist), along with other FAS departments, and every year a player from my team won the Dollah Kassim Award (DKA) for the most outstanding youth player. DKA winners are a good indicator of where football players from the sports industry are lost.
The entire YOG 2010 generation has disappeared, and from the generation of 1996, from the dozen most promising footballers, I will only mention the possible backbone of the national team: Heirul Suhanes, R Aaravin, Muhelmy Suhaimi, Mahathir Azeman, Benedict Ang. You can compare them to theirs teammates who are still playing: Zharfan Rohaizad, Amirul Adlii, Adam Swandi, Zulfadhmi Suzliman.
8. What could we have done more to retain the ones who quit professional football?
In addition to creating business and employment opportunities in sport, the most talented football players must be given a pathway for career in sports industry after the end of their footballers’ career so that they can compete with foreign and domestic professionals in elite football.
It is important that you do not have incompetent and unmotivated employees especially in the sports sector of the organization or you can try to answer the question of how many students of the Sports School and Faculty of Sports work in the non-sport sector (administration) of football organizations?
A realistic goal and an adequate reward for athletes, such as national pensions in some countries, according to the successes achieved in international competitions, can motivate many to train football and continue a professional career in football.
9. How can we improve the standard of our league? Is it just about more investments?
The standards are given by the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA requirements for licensing football players, coaches, stadiums.
As I concluded in my scientific research, for the creation of a elite league, investments are the most important in maintaining a professional and competitive environment, and especially in hiring the greatest talents in the business, whether foreign or domestic, which is a guarantee for a quick return of the investment, whether material or non-material as well.
PHOTOS: DEJAN GLUSCEVIC