For The Record...
"In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Zainudin (Nordin, FAS President) reiterated that the S-league will not become a "poorer cousin" once the LionsXII start their Malaysia Cup campaign."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Patient, Passion, Conviction as Sablon rolls out his vision ...

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Mr Sablon delivered his presentation 
In short, "patient" and "time" are the key prerequisites summed up by FAS Technical Director Michel Sablon in presenting his much-awaiting blueprint to revamp the beleaguered development scheme of Singapore football to the media this afternoon at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Citing these aspects - "Grassroots", "Elite Youth" and "Coach Education" as the three pillars under the Belgian's vision for the Republic's football development program, the whole idea is to place a systematic structure that build up from the ground level to achieve a "Singapore Style" of football.

For a start, kids at the age between six and thirteenth will be placed under the "Grassroots" level where "FUN" element is the main feature for the youngest participants who will learn to play the game under a stress-free environment before progress gradually to learn the finer aspects of the game such as skills like passing, dribbling, etc. as they grow older.

The media listening attentively to what are in store
Following that phrase, selected players will be elevated to the next pillar of the blueprint - "Elite Youth" catered for the age of players between 14 to 20. However, Mr Sablon reassured that this is an inclusive scheme where no player will be left out if he couldn't make the cut in the first place. Although looking at the bigger picture, one of the utmost tasks to integrate existing setups of that of those Junior COEs and similar programs run by various S.League clubs under this same umbrella.

In order to do so, the former Belgian assistant national coach revealed a principle agreement had been reached with the People's Association (PA) to collaborate the program by utilising the statutory board's 28 CSC facilities island-wide on top of those five centres operated directly by the FAS.

Given the magnitude of this ground-breaking program, it is also essential to see emphasis being placed on raising quality of the coaching in the setup with workshops and courses in the pipeline to raise the standards to meet the demand that will see a total of number of 33 "Head Coaches" oversee each of the 33 centres with a help of a qualified assistant.

Mr Sablon holds a copy of the "Grassroots Manual" 
Active involvement from the parents is also crucial as well in which they will see themselves in volunteering in those non-coaching roles like handling of logistical matters during the training sessions that will be taking place over the weekends that spread over nine months during the period from January to December.

"It took eight years in Belgium," said Mr Sablon to see the program he devised that reaped dividends with the likes of Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku emerged from his native Belgium."It will take time with a lot of passion and conviction that we have to start from the very beginning."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

GRIT & PERSEVERANCE ...

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Despite going down in the two matches they play against their much illustrious opponents, many people which included the likes of Stoke City's manager Mark Hughes and his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, lauded the performance of the Singapore Selection in the just concluded Barclays Asia Trophy.


Two players in the picture above - Zaiful Nizam (second from left) and Shahdan Sulaiman (middle) are the two of those worth mentioning for the efforts shown by the hosting side during the tournament that drawn a record crowds of 81,974 to this event since its inception back in 2003.

Just last November on the same ground saw a horrific injury sustained by Shahdan during the Suzuki Cup that saw him out of action until his return, merely weeks ago with Lions XII in the ongoing MSL campaign.

Also during that period, Zaiful with his wife were spotted among the crowds watching the Lions in action then against the eventual winners, Thailand.

Zaiful - "A Dream came True at Kallang"
While the two players were team mates during the 2005 Lion City Cup, the route undertaken by both since that juncture were rather different.

Midfielder Shahdan went on strength to strength to establish himself as a key member of the Singapore national team, featured for local powerhouses like Tampines Rovers and Home United with various accolades under his belt.

On the contrary, Zaiful only collected his first cap when he came on as a substitute against Brunei in early June, despite being a consistent performer in the S.League with Gombak United and Balestier Khalsa in recent years that was aided by his notable outing for the Tigers' in their AFC Cup campaign this season.

Stoke City (in black outfit) had it tough for Zaiful
Recalled that November night when he watched the home side lost 2-1 to the War Elephants from the stands, the the 28-year-old custodian said:"While I knew that Thailand was a strong team, however, I believed that we could have beat them in that match.

"Yes, it was my wish to be called up for the national team for that Suzuki Cup tournament after which I thought I had a good run with my club (Balestier Khalsa) last year but I guessed my time wasn't ready back then and glad I am now given the opportunity after my performance in both S.League and the AFC Cup."

Although came on as a replacement for Izwan Mahbud late in the second half against Stoke City in the third/fourth placing playoff, the 1.74 m 'keeper is contented for the opportunity to face against a high calibre side.

Said Zaiful:"Even though it was only just ten minutes on the field that day, I felt like I earned a cap by playing in our very own National Stadium which is a dream for any footballer in Singapore and also a good learning experience to play against an EPL team."

Shahdan (right) back in Kallang against Arsenal 
In contrast, the 55,000 capacity arena incurred some mixed feelings for Shahdan when he stepped onto the field after a lapse of eight months.

On that leg fracture that sidelined him for months, the 27-year-old recalled:"There were flashes of what happened last time, when I stepped onto the pitch but it didn't really affect me,

"The nervousness mostly come from the thoughts of playing against the big stars (from the EPL sides)." he added.

"I was very surprised by my inclusion in the squad, I didn't believe it at first as I haven't really started playing when the list came out." on being included as part of the Singapore Selection that caught him off guard.

Arsenal's Mertesacker keep an eye on Shahdan
Earlier report indicated four-sided tournament would be served as platform to get things ready for the Lions' next World Cup qualifying (WCQ) match against Syria in September. With Selection coach V Sundramoorthy started Shahdan in games against Arsenal and Stoke City, would it mean he is now back in the radar of Coach Bernd Stange's plan?

"I am very thankful to Coach Sundram for calling me up and have faith in me for started me in both games (against Arsenal and Stoke City)," said Shahdan. "As for the (Lions) call-up, I just want do my best for Lions XII to prove my worth to the national selectors and continue where I left behind before my injury to become a stronger and better player."

The intend to pursue for better performance for both self and team is echoed by Zaiful as well, when he shared his thoughts too.

"On club level, I still want to achieve something and finish on a higher note in the S.League," said the shot-stopper. "For the past two WCQ matches (against Cambodia and Japan), I thought we did well and hope we will do our best in the upcoming games in order to qualify for the next round of the qualifiers, which I think we have a good chance with the good players and coaches in our setup."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

[Barclays Asia Trophy] It's Toffees vs The Gunners in Final...

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The Barclays Asia Trophy will be a battle between Arsenal and Everton on this coming Saturday after cleared their hurdles along the way.

The Gunners booked their ticket after shutout the Singapore Selection four goals to none. The Toffees, on the other hand, defeated Stoke City on penalties to confirm theirs after a goal-less outing.

Lakaku's (right) effort was ruled offside 
Peter Crouch (25) utilised his advantage to the fullest
Belgian striker Romelu Lakaku would have put the Goodison Park tenants on the pole position before the interval if not for his attempt to be ruled offside.

With several close exchanges that failed to yield any dividend forced the opener to head into penalties and resulted Everton proceed to the final on a scoreline of five to four with 'keeper Tim Howard made a crucial save during shoot-out.

Arsenal did not field their strongest lineup against the Singapore Selection with less than half of those started by manager Arsene Wenger are their regular starters.

Close attention on Stoke City's Joselu (11)
Still it didn't deter the enthusiastic support showered on them by their faithfuls whom some of them flew in from nearby countries like the Philippines, China, etc. While the Singapore Selection drawn some of their backers from both Everton and Stoke City supporters who stayed behind for the eight-thirty kickoff.

It was resilience first half performance by the home side to keep things checked before teenager Chuba Akpom opened the account at the half-hour mark which stayed that way till the half time.

Selection's Baihakki Khaizan's attempt to foil an attack
England international Jack Wilshere put his name on the scoreboard at the top of the hour when he converted from the spot to double the lead for the Londoners that wasn't until another penalty in the 75th saw Akpom netted his second of the night.

The 19-year-old England youth international completed his hat-trick four minutes after that penalty with a clinical finishing off a header to wrap things up at Kallang in front of a crowd of 29,867.

Selection trying to contain Gunners' threat in box 
(L-R) Arsenal's hat-trick hero Chuba Akpom with Madhu Mohana
"Performance-wise, it was good for Arsenal for showcasing their youth talents," said Mr Abdul Razak who saw the match."The first goal was well-taken by Akpom but I thought it was a lucky effort that deflected off Izwan (Mahbud),

"It was good outing for both (Sirina) Camara and (Nicholas) Velez with Madhu (Mohana) did a decent job at the backline. However, I think the Singapore (Selection) need to buck up their performance by being more adventurous up front than staying back to defend which zonal defending would be an ideal option than the one-on-one marking we saw today." added the trainer who spoke to this blogger after the game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

[Barclays Asia Trophy] - Humid worries, No Bus Parking ...

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BAT2015 pre-match presser
Everything is ready to get set for the seventh edition of the Barclays Asia Trophy - the gala event that will see three Barclays Premier League teams - Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City to feature alongside a Singapore Selection that comprises of mainly the Singapore national players with a few S.League imports over the next few days.

In a pre-match press conference that was filled with media from all over, each team was represented by their team manager (coach) and their captain for get-together at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Scotts Road.

Everton's manger Martinez and skipper Jagielka
The humid climate is singled out as one of the main concerns shared by Everton manager Roberto Martinez while taking questions from the floor that surrounded the recent transfer market, expectations of the Toffees for their upcoming domestic season which skipper and England international Phil Jagielka hopes to finish at "any position that will qualify them for Europe".

"NO PARKING THE BUS" PROMISED SUNDRAM
"The team have worked hard for this tournament and they don't need further motivation to play against some of the best players in the world," said Singapore Selection coach V Sundramoorthy in their media session after Everton completed theirs. "We looking forward to play against those we seen on TV week in and week out."

Coach Sundram promised "no bus parking"
"It will be a great experience to pit against (Arsene) Wenger and we are going all out to play by limit their space that we are not going to park any bus" added the former Singapore striker when asked if the "bus" tactics would be deployed as the main defensive option.

Joining the "Dazzler" was the Selection's custodian Izwan Mahbud who achieved a cult status in the region for his recent brilliance against Japan in the World Cup qualifiers that it wasn't surprise to ask if the Lions XII 'keeper is ready to repeat the same feat.

Responding to that query, the 1.79m 'keeper said:"I am not sure if I can break the record (of 18 saves) I set against Japan. For me, every game is a big one and I am expected to perform in every one of them, it's something I will cherish to able to play against those I seen on TV and with many of them are so attacking minded."

Stoke City's manager Mark Hughes hope for good start
Stoke City were the first of the three BPL sides that arrived in the Lion City to prepare themselves for the tournament.

Said The Potters manager Mark Hughes:"It definitely gives us more time to recuperate and acclimatize ourselves for arrived earlier for the tournament,

"It will be a good start for us to do well in this tournament, given the quality of the teams we be playing against and should be an exciting pre-season ahead." added the Welsh legend.

Wenger expects "quick and disciplined" local opponents
Scheduled to take on their opponents in the second match of tomorrow's openers, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted he has no knowledge of his opponents - Singapore Selection.

WENGER: WE EXPECTED TO "SUFFER",
Said the Frenchman:"I don't know anything about Singapore (Selection), but I had worked in Asia before that when playing against (teams like) Arsenal, I expecting quick and disciplined game from (the local) teams,

"However, as we still in preparation (for new season), I think we are expected to suffer." added the long-serving Gunners manager.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

[TNP League Cup] Albirex turned up for the occasion to win on late note.

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Albirex won the Cup for the second time
It was thought the match would proceed into extra time after Fumiya Fogure levelled the scores in 75th minute to place Albirex Niigata (Singapore) on equal terms with Balestier Khalsa with minutes ticking away in The New Paper League Cup Final.

But Kento Nagasaki's 90th minute strike ensured everyone at the Jalan Besar Stadium could head out for their supper on time after the Japanese side claimed their second win of this trophy which they last won back in 2011.

"I am not worry to see the game head into extra time, as I have confidence on my team to get the goals within the full 90 minutes." said Albirex's coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama after the match.

Jubilation after Albirex equalized
On the contrary to the lacklustre display in their last match against Geylang International that clinched them the final berth, the White Swans did turn up for the occasion against Balestier by dominated much of the possession right from the start.

Despite the designated home side controlled much of the offenses, it was, however, the Tigers who took the lead instead in the 15th minute through Croatian striker Miroslav Kristic that saw the clean sheet of Albirex's custodian cum captain Yosuke Nozawa tainted for the first time in this tournament.

Igor Cerina (left) was cautioned in the game
Commenting on conceded that unexpected early goal, Coach Okuyama said:"The first goal took us by surprise and took us quite a while before we are able to recover and got our tempo back,

"Other than that, I think we made our substitution at the right time during the match that created a positive impact on the team performance." added the 39-year-old coach who took over the post since last season.

Kristic fisted his way up after took the lead
Meanwhile, the failure to build up from that early lead proved to be costly for Balestier who were playing their third Cup final in consecutive years since their name was first engraved on the League Cup trophy back in 2013, with many of their chances upfront were let down by poor decision making coupled with the stern defending by Albirex defence marshalled by Nozawa in goal.

"I think we should have won the game," exclaimed Tigers' coach Marko Kraljevic after the match.

"We never give Albirex any chance, in spite of having them keeping the possession because we pushed them all the way and with one mistake we made that we conceded the (second) goal, it's unlucky but that's football."

Close shave for Albirex in the box

Tarik Cmajcanin tried to foil an attempt
"And when you have guys like Igor (Cerina), Kristic on yellow cards in the game, you will players hold back a little bit because they tend to be cautious on their game after which and is probably why we never score the second goal." added the former midfielder.

Nonetheless, the decent run in this tournament had drawn some positives for the reigning Coach of The Year recipient which he hopes his men can maintain the rhythm when the league season resumes later this month.

Also looking forward to build up the same momentum in the league is Coach Okuyama who opined the win not only created a positive impact on his squad but also boasted the confidence as well, although he maintained it's still early days to say if Albirex are ready for the title.

Said one-time defender:"It is just halfway into this league season and it is still early to say whether we can win the title or not but we always strive to do better in every game, this Cup win will boast the confidence of the players while creates a positive impact for us to challenge for the title."

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