EIGHT months ago, Yazeen Buhari left Singapore to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

In barely 250 days, he’s back at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) with the AFC giving him a rare salute for his “knowledge about football development”.

In a unique tribute to the 39-year-old Singaporean, AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John Paul revealed how he graciously allowed Yazeen to return to Singapore for the “longer-term progress of Singapore football at a critical moment in its 125-year history”.

“Even though Yazeen was with the AFC for a short while, he proved to be more than capable to fulfil his duties and responsibilities professionally,” says Dato’ Windsor, who got Yazeen over to the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to spearhead the new strategic planning department.

“He is very hardworking, committed, passionate about football development. His knowledge on football management and the game itself will be his greatest asset and the AFC wishes him well at FAS.”

Yazeen gets on the FAS as Deputy General Secretary (Strategic Planning & Engagement) and football observers say he’s the right man to take over as the long-term replacement to Winston Lee.


Lee’s continued position as FAS general secretary has raised eyebrows among the sporting fraternity as he is under police probe and, on grounds of ethics, he should be made to step aside.

Lee, 52, and three other individuals – Hougang United chairman Bill Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong, former FAS president Zainudin Nordin – were arrested in April after a police report lodged by Sport Singapore (SportSG) over the suspected misuse of funds at Tiong Bahru Football Club (TBFC), and an attempt by a senior club official to obstruct the completion of audits of the S-League’s sit-out clubs. They are assisting with the police probe, and are out on bail. 

In the decade I’ve known Yazeen, first assessing him as a FIFA referee in the field of play, I’d rate him, in a nutshell, as a “bola” gentleman with honesty and integrity.

His last appointment prior to joining the AFC in November last year was FAS Head (Development) and he says he welcomes the challenge to a higher position. He says: “I’m very happy to be back with the FAS, to work with the new ex-co and council. I have confidence and also share in their vision to improve Singapore football at all levels, and to bring our national teams to greater heights.” 

Yazeen believes he has the experience and qualifications to lead FAS to a new era. He adds: “I believe the experience I gained in my time with the AFC will help me in my new role. It is a very exciting time now with the new council in place, and I look forward to working with them and my other colleagues to bring Singapore football to greater heights.”

In the wake of the staggering start to FAS, under newly-minted President Lim Kia Tong, who coming close to 100 days in office this mid-month has not even publicly named his sub-committee heads, what is needed to restore the leadership is the Yazeen Buhari-branded with decency, honesty and integrity. It is time for the football citizens to stand up and applaud at the long-overdue change.

For the FAS, silence is not a golden strategy to longer-term success and, in my opinion, global repute must also be salvaged as FAS, as Asia’s oldest affiliate among 46 countries, celebrates 125 years this year. Once ranked as a paragon for transparency, governance and democracy, a regional role-model of football sorts, it’s going down the drain, rated as lowly as its FIFA ranking of 169 (out of 211 global affiliates).


Yazeen’s rousing reputation for change is well documented by SportsSG, the controlling body of Singapore sports. For 12 months in August 2014, he even spearheaded the Singapore Athletics (SA) secretariat as the General Manager. He has exhibited exemplary leadership skills and had been a good role model for the team.

At SportsSG, Yazeen, who pursued sports management studies in Perth, Australia, in 2003, and later earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Western Australia, started as senior manager in the National Sports Associations Partnership department, which covers different sporting associations such as for football, sailing, rugby and basketball. 

His immediate key responsibilities at the Jalan Besar Stadium headquarters will include supervising the implementation of FAS’ Strategic Plan, as well as engaging and managing the key stakeholders of Singapore football. This includes working with world governing body FIFA, the AFC, and the Asean Football Federation (AFF).

FAS Vice President Edwin Tong said that Yazeen’s new role would see him assume Lee’s previous responsibilities. However, the FAS are searching for another Deputy General Secretary (DGS) to oversee the competitions department, and manage the S-League, which will now come under the national body’s full purview.


Previously, Singapore’s only professional sports league was managed by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who Tong said was “organisationally outside the FAS structure”. The FAS will appoint the second DGS once the structure of next season’s S-League is finalised.

The FAS are currently still in discussions with SportSG over next season’s budget for the S-League.

“The eventual plan is to have another DGS to handle the competitions side of things,” explained Tong. “However, we must first come to a landing upon what the structure and funding (of the S-League) will be.”

He also said there were currently “no updates” on the status of FAS General Secretary Winston Lee but added that the “position is constantly being reviewed.”

From the high-end praises from the AFC it is clear Yazeen Buhari is the right man for the right job.

And, make no bones about it that it’s time for the FAS to wake up: This present degeneration of football mood must stop. Now is the perfect time to rewrite a new refreshing historical chapter in the annals of the FAS, as it celebrates its 125-year anniversary.

As sports247 website exclusively broke the Yazeen Buhari appointment last month, we say it again: Welcome back to Singapore after eight months! – BY SURESH NAIR


  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has covered local and regional football for over 35 years. 


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