Suresh Letchmanan served in the Republic of Singapore Air force as a Senior Sergeant for six years, where he was in the military team, before a short stint as a semi-professional footballer during the mid-1990s. He then pursued law academically and also obtained a Masters of Law degree in international sports law and recently also achieved a Doctorate in Business Administration. He currently serves as the Managing Director of Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e. V. Dortmund (BVB), commonly known as Borussia Dortmund.
SG:Indian: What is BVB’s value proposition in Asia and Singapore?
Suresh Letchmanan (SL): Our club colours, black and yellow, are an expression of our identity and is unmistakably associated with our club. We are a large, traditionally successful club. We play good football with passion and ambition and hope to export the authenticity of our brand across Asia. We have global and regional partners in Asia, like Evonik, Puma, Opel etc. The Bundesliga also has its APAC office in Singapore. In addition, we are well supported by our fans in Asia and by our media partners. In essence, we would like to spread black and yellow hearts across Asia.
SG:Indian: Singapore football has never really taken off beyond the SEA Games. What do we need to do to go to the next stage?
SL: My experience tells me that for football to thrive in Asia, it must have a strong foundation in three key areas – grassroots, a well-run youth programme, and a structure to enhance coaching education and development. These are the ingredients required to instill stability and to progress to the next stage of development.
SG:Indian: What is BVB’s strategy to develop Singapore’s youth soccer?
SL: Our strategy is the same for all of our sportive corporations. It is part of our DNA to give everything in pursuit of our goals. Intensive work with young players is what matters most here at BVB and we are immensely proud of our successful record in this regard. Youth is the future of our club. It always has been and always will be.
SG:Indian: Is there a tangible goal that BVB is aiming for?
SL: The main objective of BVB having its presence here in Asia is to raise and grow the club’s visibility and awareness in the region. We also aim to create partnerships and share our know-hows and footballing expertise with the footballing community here in Asia.
SG:Indian: What is Borussia Dortmund’s commercial strategy in Singapore?
SL: We set up our APAC office in Singapore in 2014, as a gateway to Asia, as well as to be close to our partners, Evonik, Puma, Opel, EA, The Bundesliga, and Sport5. We intend to grow our fan base significantly in this market, to have the first team play matches in Singapore, and to be engaged with our fans here. In order to have more black and yellow jerseys here, we have set four key pillars – intensity, authenticity, bonding force and ambition. We want to be seen in the market, to be hot and popular with our style of football and the connection that we have with our fans, and finally to be loved.
SG:Indian: What is your advice to Singapore’s efforts to progress its football?
SL: At Dortmund we are not afraid of hard work. We are always delighted to watch our talented young players impress on the pitch, but we also enjoy seeing them take responsibility for themselves. We know that not everyone will make it to the very top. Life is more than just football and we all need to be aware of the importance of balancing football and education.
SG:Indian: Why should Singapore emphasise football?
SL: Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and we have a history to show how good we were on a regional stage. Singapore was a powerhouse in South East Asia and Asia, with some amazing players, back in the 1970s through to the early 2000s and we should bring that magic back. I personally would like to see more Singapore Indians playing football professionally.
SG:Indian: What is one key life lesson that you have always held on to?
SL: Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.
SG:Indian: What is your secret to success?
SL: Pele once said that “success is no accident.” I have strived to follow that principle. Hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most importantly, loving what you do are all important to finding success. In addition, if you have two other factors – faith and belief – you can achieve great things.