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 By Kelvin Leong

Al-Qaasimy focused on Singapore future, not Bernd Stange's departure

Singapore's Geylang contingent
Al-Qaasimy Rahman with his Geylang teammates Gabriel Quak, Sahil Suhaimi and club chairman Ben Teng.

With all the talk revolving around head coach Bernd Stange's exit from the Singapore hot seat, right-back Al-Qaasimy Rahman has urged the team to rally together and focus on the task ahead, instead of dwelling on the past.

The German tactician's three-year reign comes to an end next month, after taking charge of his final game in Singapore's 2-1 loss to Afghanistan in their last AFC World Cup Group E qualifier on Tuesday.

With a record of 15 wins, 16 losses and four draws, Stange will leave the Lions camp, having failed to win any trophies in his time with the Southeast Asian giants.

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Qaasimy, 24, who made his debut under Stange and went on to play eight times for the Republic, is thankful to the former Belarus and Iraq tactician for his international break, but prefers to look ahead to the upcoming final round of Asian Cup qualification, and the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup.

"Bernd Stange was the coach who gave me my first cap for Singapore," Al-Qaasimy told ESPN FC from Iran. "And this Afghanistan game was my eighth game for Singapore. There are a few coaches before him who helped me through my development.

"But to play at the highest level on the international stage, I have to thank coach Bernd for always trusting my abilities and what I could bring to the national team.

"None of us spoke a word about it [Stange's exit]. We knew we had a job to do in this last two matches [against Myanmar and Afghanistan] and as far as the players were concerned, coach Bernd is still our boss.

"Regardless of all the speculations [about the next coach] and all, as long as Bernd Stange is still here, he is boss. It didn't affect any of us the moment we got onto the pitch."

The no-nonsense full-back did, however, agree that the Afghans put them through a difficult game with goals from Khaibar Amani and Josef Shirdel giving the home team a two-goal cushion, before Fazrul Nawaz pulled one back with a minute of normal time to play.

Singapore defender Al-Qaasimy Rahman
Al-Qaasimy Rahman has played eight times for Singapore since making his debut in 2014. (Photo caption: FAS)

"They pressed us from the start and kept pushing forward trying to score. We tried to hold them off and played on the counter, and even though they had more of the possession, we managed to keep things tight until their first goal before the first half ended," he added.

"We regained our composure back in the second half and started to create problems for them. In the end, Fazrul's goal gave us some encouragement but we just couldn't get the point."

The Geylang International defender was in the 2014 team that failed to defend the ASEAN crown on home soil, and is determined to use that heartbreaking experience to his advantage when the competition comes around in November.

"That was my first Suzuki Cup experience and as one of the youngest members of the team, getting any game time and doing my best was the priority. I gave it my all during my debut back then against Myanmar, but of course, to have gone to the knockout stages would have been huge for a young player like me," said Qaasimy.

"Unfortunately, the tournament ended poorly for us, but at my age, I have many years ahead to experience it all over again. And hopefully, if I'm chosen to play in more Suzuki Cups, I'll learn from the seniors and one day emulate them, and win the Suzuki Cup. But first, I have to do well at Geylang and make sure I keep my spot in the national team."

Qaasimy will now shift his focus back to club duties, starting with Friday's game against Warriors FC at Jalan Besar Stadium. Hasin Jailani's Eagles are in sixth place with seven points. They will be hoping to remain unbeaten -- one win and four draws -- when they go up against ex-Geylang coach Jorg Steinebrunner's charges.

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