January 30, 2024
SINGAPORE – The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) fired Lions coach Takayuki Nishigaya on Jan 29, noting that “recent performances and results of the national team have been below expectation”.
In a media statement, the national governing body said the decision was “reached after careful consideration”; a successor will be announced in due course.
It thanked Nishigaya but added: “The recent performances and results of the national team have been below expectation…
“The FAS believes an early transition to a fresh successor would re-energise the team and allow a longer runway for the team to prepare for important matches in the next few months and the year-end AFF tournament.”
Tsutomu Ogura, 57, a former Japan national team assistant coach, is soon expected to be announced as the next national coach. He would be the third straight Japanese to take charge of the Lions.
Nishigaya, 50, was hired on a two-year contract in April 2022 as the replacement for Tatsuma Yoshida, who left in December 2021, a year before his contract was up.
Nishigaya was appointed following a hiring process that took more than four months.
He was recommended to the FAS by the Japan Football Association technical committee, and appointed by a panel comprising then-FAS president Lim Kia Tong, current president Bernard Tan, vice-president Teo Hock Seng, council member Goh Tat Chuan and general secretary Yazeen Buhari.
This was Nishigaya’s first international gig after spells in charge of J2 side Mito Hollyhock and Japan’s third-division club SC Sagamihara.
His tenure as Lions coach ends with eight wins, eight losses and five draws in 21 matches.
A particular low point of his spell was in January 2023, when the Lions were trounced 4-1 by Malaysia before a meek exit in the group stage of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship.
While there were three straight wins – over Guam, in a two-legged World Cup qualifier, and Chinese Taipei – last September and October, the Lions have largely looked dismal under Nishigaya.
His departure does not come as a surprise, given the discontent among fans and some players.
Sections of Lions supporters chanted for him to be sacked after Thailand’s 3-1 win over Singapore in a World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium on Nov 21, with the sentiments spilling over to social media.
The Straits Times reported a few days after that defeat that the FAS had sounded out potential candidates to replace Nishigaya, with Ogura understood to be the front runner.
The Lions next face China in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers on March 21 and 26. The first game is in Singapore.
The next edition of the AFF Championship is expected to be from late November to December in a home-and-away format.
Lions captain Hariss Harun said: “It is not nice to hear when something like this happens. He tried his best and made an effort to endear himself to the players. It is a pity things didn’t work out.
“As national team players, we wish him the best in his career. Whoever comes in next, it is important to work together and do our best to improve Singapore football.
“We have the AFF tournament and the qualifiers this year to look forward to. We are not in the best shape in terms of where we want to be, especially when we look at teams in the region, so we need to work hard to get better.”
Ogura was an assistant coach at Tokyo Verdy, who gained promotion to the Japanese top tier last season. Verdy announced on Jan 12 that Ogura had left the club.
He was Japan’s assistant coach from 2006 to 2010 and was part of the Samurai Blue’s 2010 World Cup team who lost to Paraguay on penalties in the round of 16.
He was then appointed assistant coach of Japan’s Olympic team from 2010 to 2012, when they finished fourth in London.