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."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hope it's not another "Toilet Washing" ...

"It is just like washing toilets. Different contractors / cleaners at different times." remarked a friend bluntly in a text exchange when I mentioned to him that the S.League is due for another review, as reported in TODAY.

Washing Toilet again? (credit:dipart.com)
In the same report by the Mediacorp publication, it also speculated the position of the S.League CEO, vacated by Lim Chin at the end of March, could be gone as well as part of the reviewing process to streamline the country's only professional sporting competition under the competition structure of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) since the new council took office weeks ago.

Ironically, it was at the introductory press conference which unveiled Lim and his erstwhile deputy Johan Gouttefangeas on January 2012 (), the local fraternity was presented the "S.League Version 2.0" - an initiative to revive the sick man on the bed that met with limited success to be proud of.

WEIRD FORMATS ...
One of those weird ideas included the complicating format of split up the league into two, based on standings, after completion of two rounds of fixtures with the third round saw top six teams featured against one and another to decide who win the league title with the bottom six fought it out meaninglessly to compete their campaign.

The above-mentioned format was scrapped after the two seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the return to the three-round format since 2015.

Prior to all those Ideas, the conventional two-rounded format was in place in season 2012 with a former FAS president chuckled "unless it snows" there would be no change in the league fixtures which is infamous for its late release and frequent amendment of schedules that has always been a bugbear to many clubs.

RIDING ON FALSE HOPES ...
Unfortunately, the launch of the S.League Version 2.0 awkwardly coincided with LionsXII's debut in the Malaysia Super League in the same year.

"Tumpang"
Under such circumstances, it was impossible to wholeheartedly concentrate on the task to revive the S.League even when Lim, himself, was pinning his hopes by riding on the projected success of the 2013 Malaysian league champions when he was once quoted saying "It is hoped given time more fans who have attended LionsXII matches at Jalan Besar will continue to go to the S-League stadium" in an interview months after he took office (25/5/12 - TODAY).

Other notable gimmick during the former SAFFC chairman's tenure to uplift the spirit included the futile attempt by having the S.League Superbabes performing at matches.

Regrettably, the former military man insisted it was a good 2016 for the S.League, despite those writings on the wall which suggested otherwise before he decided to quit the post in January.

BE BOLD AND DARING ...
At this juncture, what we were told is the beleaguered league is due for another review headed by two heavyweights in the scene - former Tampines Rovers’ chairman Teo Hock Seng and Balestier Khalsa's chairman S Thavaneson.

Having seen it all throughout these years, it is important for both these FAS vice-presidents not to come up with ideas, proposals merely to improvise what were proposed in failed grandiose plans like "GOAL 2010", "Strategic Plan", etc.

Not to improvise from this but learn those mistakes made
Now is the best opportunity to make a bold step to get rid of those old stuck-in-the-mud practices and show the determination the new regime are serious to revamp the S.League like they did to the amateur National Football League this season (sort of).

PRIVATIZATION IN PLACE NOW!
Both Teo and Thavaneson are known in the scene as benefactoring figures when the former was still the chairman of Tampines Rovers and the latter, in spite being a long-time chairman of Balestier Khalsa, is always there to give a helping hand like he provided attire sponsorships to several S.League clubs when financial crisis hit the fledging league that resulted a number of sides without kit providers in the late 1990s.

FAS vice-president Teo Hock Seng (file snap)
It is now hope that the proposed privatization of the S.League will eventually see the foundation in place during the reviewing process tapping on Messrs. Teo and Thavaneson's business acumen and gradually shunt away from the "godfather" way of running the clubs.

In addition to the recent media reports on Tampines Rovers' financial woes, I would suggest to look into fine-tuning the "National Club Licensing System" - a little-known licensing scheme which outlined governance criteria for every local S.League club in order to be accredited under the "AFC Club Licensing Regulations" to play in tournaments organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

LOOK INTO THE PLAY-OFF ...
Since the day when S.League was inaugurated in 1996, talks to implement the template "promotion/relegation" system between the professional tier and its amateur cousins is never far from sight with proponents insisted this is a proven method to keep every team on toes and the injection of excitement to the competition.

But like what I pointed out in a blog post I did in 2009, I still have my reservation on using this as a form of "injection".

One option to look into - "Play-Off"
I wrote "Let's face the fact that it's absolutely impossible to implement the "promotion/relegation" format in the league setup, given the unfavourable climate local football is facing now and the lack of sizable fan population,".

Almost eight years had passed, I doubt my opinion had altered a bit but if the "promotion/relegation" is the way to be to improve the competitiveness of the leagues, I do hope the structure of the league pyramid will be sounded and sturdy to ensure things are running smoothly.

If not, it is just a repetitive to getting someone else to maintain the toilet when the previous contractors did a lousy job.

Friday, May 12, 2017

How Singapore Cup served as a platform for others to excel further but not ours ...

Time had changed, as Singapore football now see teams from the Philippines as the favourites to win this season's RHB Singapore Cup.

With the Filipino clubs' good run in the ongoing AFC Cup tournament which saw both Global Cebu FC and Ceres-Negros to be featured in the upcoming semi-finals of the continental competition's Asean zonal group, it is justify to say the footballing standard in the archipelago is on the rise.

Ceres (black) ripped apart Tampines twice this year
This testament is backed by Kazuaki Yoshinaga, the head coach of reigning Cup holders Albirex Niigata (Singapore) who related his team's experience against Ceres-Negros in a pre-season friendly played in February.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the draw of the preliminary round of this season's tournament, the 49-year-old said:"We have played against Ceres Negros before and they are not a pushover."

NOT LONGER "WHIPPING BOYS" ...
On top of the launch of the Philippines Football League (PFL), the influx of large number of European-based players who are of mixed parentage with Filipino heritage turning out for the Azkals (the nickname of country's national football team) in recent years could be some of the factors that see the country top the recent FIFA ranking in South East Asia.

Singapore Cup - good platform for those utilised it well (credit: Football Association of Singapore)
In the past, Filipino invitees to the island republic’s premier Cup tournament were looking for exposure to higher level of play and now in a role reversal, it is our S.League clubs who are using this opportunity to play against these tougher opponents whom were once the whipping boys of the region.

Beside the Filipino clubs, another invited side in the past - Hong Kong's newly-crowned league champions Kitchee SC, who played in 2010 edition, are making remarkable progress too.

Since the day they were thrashed 4-0 by SAFFC in 2008's AFC Cup competition, the Hong Kong Barça transformed themselves to a nemesis of S.League sides in Asia when they ripped apart both Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC years later in the same competition which they have been a force to be reckoned with of late. Following their crowning glory days ago, Kitchee will be playing in the prestigious Asian Champions League (ACL) next year.

Kitchee - "whipping boys" turned "conquerors" (file snap)
"Overseas teams, not just the Filipinos, usually have their foreign stepping stones in the Singapore Cup," said freelance journalist Gary Koh. "Several have gone on to feature in the AFC Cup and ACL qualifiers, most notably Kitchee, Chonburi, Bangkok Glass and Global."

"The competition faced against other foreign teams or locally-based clubs (in Singapore Cup) provided a novel competitive factor they (invited sides) lack back at home. Success gives them believe they can do more to expand their horizons in Asia.

"The challenge right now for our local clubs is to use the invitation of foreign teams to up our game, given our decline in Asia in recent years. We weren't as competitive enough as we used to, so having these teams gives them an incentive to perform - and a breath of fresh air compared to facing the same league sides a minimum of three times." added Koh who covers regional football in his scope of work.

CAMBODIANS NEXT?
As pointed out by Koh in his assessment, the decline of Singapore football in recent years allowed minnows like Laos and Cambodia to show what their footballers are capable of in their encounters against the Lions during the past few years.

It would hardly be a surprise if the Cambodian sides are the next group to show their gratitude to the Singapore Cup as a platform to elevate the quality of their game in this process. After all, club sides from this kingdom have been making their presence since 2007 with Phnom Penh Crown having the best record by made it to the quarter-finals in 2009.

Singapore vs Cambodia is common fixture these days (file snap)
Furthermore, let's not forget our national team did not have an easy ride against their Cambodian counterparts in recent meetings which included the two-one defeat in Phnom Penh back in last July and that narrow one-nil win at Bishan months later prior to the ill-fated AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.

Whilst Koh acknowledged those achievements as signs of "gradual improvement" for Cambodian football, he opined the gap between the two is still wide apart.

Said Koh:"There is still a tremendous gap between the Cambodian league sides and us, but it is narrowing.

"Should Cambodian teams be more competitive, i.e.: narrowing the margins of defeats, or even making consecutive (Singapore) Cup quarter-finals appearances in the seasons to come, it will be a major sign of progress they have made - and this is where our clubs should be concerned, if they aren't concerned now."

Indeed, justification has been seeked to determine the need of having our local sides constantly spar against foreign teams in both S.League and the Singapore Cup, hopefully at this juncture you already have the answer on why there is such a necessity.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Clenched Fist To Be Unclenched

It is not as if we want to dig up the past or flogging a dead horse but having witnessed what happened for the past few weeks, anyone will feel that fist clenching bitterness of the sorry state of Singapore football.

Prior to the landmark election that took place on last Saturday and saw Lim Kia Tong's slate and their aligned candidates voted into the 15-member Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council, the main organ of the local game governing body, the whole fraternity was rocked by the raids conducted by the police on offices of FAS, Tiong Bahru FC, Hougang United, etc.

Lawyer Lim Kia Tong is the first elected FAS supremo since 1965
The shocking development of events that unfolded since the night before Good Friday cast a shadow on last Saturday’s poll with calls to postpone it after defeated presidential candidate Bill Ng, former FAS president Zainudin Nordin and FAS General Secretary Winston Lee were interviewed and later released on bail by authorities following the raids that taken place on 20th of April.

What bemused was the electoral committee stated they don't have the power or certain mechanism to postpone it when their role was to facilitate the groundbreaking election even with such an awkward circumstance.

Not only the ambience was weird, the ability of those who won the election are now put to test to deliver what they promised during the campaigning amid airs of skepticism when most of the newly-elected were once associated with the old regime.

Subconsciously, my mind drifted back to those days when FAS, under the charge of former president Zainudin, would always be ready to brace the barrage of questions from all corners.

ALWAYS "BACKUP" UNCONVINCINGLY ...
Like how the one-time Member of Parliament faced a ballistic "Mr Jurong" K Suppiah who questioned the presence of foreign teams in the S.League back in the 2012 FAS Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was reported in The New Paper.

Cited the reason to "create a more competitive league with more quality players", Zainudin added:"We have to look at things in perspective. I think there are always differing views and ideas, but I think we have to adapt and make things better as and when it is necessary."

Other than that, answered critics who were not convinced of sustainability of blueprints like "FAS Strategic Plan 2010-2015" by highlighted endorsements from the sport's luminaries such as both former FIFA and AFC presidents Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam respectively (well, I know what you are thinking).

After "GOAL 2010", there was "Strategic Plan 2010-2015" (credit: FAS)
The malfunctioning of the youth development to nurture footballers was countered by sending young players like Adam Swandi to FC Metz on a two year stint, entered Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Japanese FA in 2013 with promises to send our youngsters to train with top Japanese clubs and visibly highlighted those talents who caught the attention after their "outstanding performance" in the six-sided 2010 Youth Olympics football tournament where Singapore won the bronze medal despite the absence of many football strongholds.

All these examples shown how painstakingly the folks at the Jalan Besar Stadium have been trying to convince things are on the path to yield the dividends in years to come.

Like in the first place, when the S.League was launched with much optimism to improve our footballing standard after pulled out from the staple Malaysia Cup tournament in 1995.

However, if we take a closer look at things back then, I would say everything started off from a wrong footing at the beginning.

HASTINESS TO FILL VOID...
The hastiness to fill the vacuum left by Malaysian league had those amateur teams in our own Premier League were asked to transform themselves overnight to act like "professional" without a proper structure in place in every aspect.

Instead of consolidate the foundation of the league, the ambition to expand to a 10-team competition in the second season (1997) with the admission of Jurong FC and Landmark Marine Castle (who later aborted the plan to turn professional at the eleventh hour) could also be a catalyst for the predicament we are facing today.

Nine teams featured in 1997 Tiger Beer S.League 
Whilst many argued the league enjoyed healthy attendance in the inaugural Tiger Beer Series, had we not witnessed some games at the subsequent Pioneer Series (second half of the 1996 season) at Kallang were played in front of white elephants?

Probably, one reason resulted the then boom period being the "novelty effect" of a mint product like the S.League which aroused curiosity among fans, another factor could be many household names during the Malaysia Cup era were still playing in that infancy stage and not forgetting the caliber of imports the clubs recruited in those days.

WRONG MEDICATION ...
Unfortunately, problems creeped in along the way with lack of courage to admit shortcomings and make bold, painful decisions to correct those notable mistakes that plagued the league ever since and eventually led to procrastination of problems.

In a bid to resuscitate the sick man on the bed, a wrong medicine was prescribed by the old regime by forming the now-defuncted Lions XII to play the Malaysian league in 2012 with hope to reignite the loss passion at the terraces.

Lions XII - Champions of Malaysia 2013 (credit: playmaker)
What was projected to trigger that "spill-over" effect did not materialize at all, instead it led to further division within the already fragmented fraternity (NSFW content, please to click to see) during that four-year period when Lions XII were making waves across the Causeway (by winning the MSL title in 2013 and Malaysia FA Cup in 2015) at the expense of the S.League and local football.

During that superficial timeframe, our world ranking plummeted further down in recent years when many of those playing for the Lions XII were actually national team regulars

As the result, it meant some of Lions regulars, due to their Lions XII involvement, were denied a chance to play at higher level tournaments such as the AFC Cup, etc. whereas clubs from rest of the region improved tremendously in this tournament (i.e.: the teams from Philippines and Hong Kong).

FAILED TO HEED "UNCLE" AND RADDY'S ADVICE ...
The importance of expose our players to higher level of competitive matches were raised in the past by late "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee who once said “We cannot gauge our standard by taking the Malaysia Cup results as a yardstick. Our goal should be the very pinnacle of Asian soccer.”.

The point was concurred by another former national coach Raddy Avramovic who once cautioned if S.League clubs are not making progress in AFC Cup or the higher-tier Asian Champions League, our youth players are missing out on gaining valuable international match experience at club level which is essential when playing for the national team.

Coach Raddy cautioned the lack of exposure to higher level during his tenure
Many criticized Coach Raddy for virtually sticked to the same group of players even after the infamous disbandment of the national team by Zainudin in 2011 with the latter's attempt to build the new national squad from scratch but because of the flawed development system that regeneration did not take place.

Nonetheless, the Serbian did what he could through his vast contacts in Middle East by regularly arranged friendlies against teams from the Gulf region to make up for the lack of exposure to a higher level of football and scored significant victories against Jordan and Iraq during his time as Lions honcho.

Tampines's defeat to Ceres in AFC Cup brought local football to another new low
Sadly, after Coach Raddy left on a high note following the AFF Suzuki Cup triumph in 2012, the fortune of Singapore football nosedived to an unprecedented low ever since.

With no honeymoon period being given to the new regime who took office since the start of the week, question is will we have the faith and patient to see the light at the end of the tunnel after the shredding of those blind make-believe myths?

Only time will tell if my fist will be unclenched eventually when that day come.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Matchpix" - April 2017

(P.S: If you access this site via "come.to/matchpix", please click the "Facebook" icon after you click "HERE" when you want to view the album as that will redirect you to the album, thank you)


  • AFC Cup - Tampines Rovers 1-2 Hanoi FC 040417
"Farra" found himself sandwiched in this aerial duel
Tampines Rovers's continental campaign is all but over at that point of time after this defeat at home to Hanoi FC, a team they beat on the same ground six years in the same tournament.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • AFC Cup - Home United 4-1 Yadanarbon FC 180417
The expression said it all
Home United beat the Myanmarese champions Yadanarbon FC to make it to the AFC Cup Asean zonal semi-final. It was a fiery contest that saw the four players sent off from the match.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • S.League - Hougang Utd 1-0 Balestier Khalsa 270417
Referee W Ravisanthiran (middle) faced a decision
I didn't edit much of the photos except for some minor toning and sharpening. Hougang Stadium tend to be misty after every downpour and it proven the case.

The Cheetahs snapped their recent winless streak by beating Balestier Khalsa Football Club at home on the muddy, soggy surface that saw the match interrupted when the referee halted the match due to lightnings in the 72nd minute before resumed the match approximately half an hour later.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • NSL 2017 - Mission Mannas 57-37 Tiger Sharks 290417
Action shot from elevated angle
My very first attempt to shoot some netball action and saw Mission Mannas overpowered Tiger Sharks in the Grand Final to clinch the match and crowned as the champions.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Intriguing Moments Leading to the Landmark Moment on 29/4/17

Something in local football need to be fixed
The election scheduled for the office bearers to the main organ of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is meant to be a watershed moment for the beleaguered sport in this country that has been besieged by woes with no solution within sight.

Stagnancy on and off the field had further stalled any effort to lift the game out of the doldrums when there is not a clear direction to govern the sport's state of affairs since the government-appointed provisional council could not make any strategic decision on major matters before their term ended at the end of last month.

When caught in a situation like this, it is hardly a surprise that nobody wants to "act like hero" to get their hands dirty to fix the loose ends with such a mammoth task given, in spite of some individuals came forward (source 1, source 2) before their enthusiasm fizzled out due to reasons only known to themselves.

Nonetheless, by the closing of registration on the 25th of March, two slates of candidates of nine with 16 individuals put their names forward to vie for a seat in the 15-member FAS Council before an evaluating process saw the final list being confirmed on the 18th of April.

WAR OF WORDS ...
Not unlike any election that occurred around everywhere, fiery exchanges of words between contesting factions begun right from the beginning when two prominent figures from "Team LKT" questioned the motives of the other group, known as "FAS Game Changers", in contesting in the upcoming polls that is scheduled to take place on the 29th of April.

Krishna Ramachandra of "FAS Game Changers" (left)
Those claims drawn a strong rebuttal from Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who is part of the "FAS Game Changers" slate, on those remarks made by both Lim Kia Tong and Teo Hock Seng in a video clip that went viral on the cyberspace.

Lim, whose tenure as FAS interim president ended on 31st of March, also had to rubbish off claims suggested he and few senior officials had leveraged on their positions to travel overseas to attend football events outside Singapore than putting energy to revive the ailing sport locally.

“TEAM LKT ≠ INCUMBENTS" ...
At the same time, reasonated why the fraternity should not see "Team LKT" as the "incumbents" (a term they are commonly associated with for having a number of the slate served in the past councils), the 64-year-old Lim, who is a lawyer by profession, said: "The previous president (Zainudin Nordin) had his plans and his own leadership style that will be very different to what I have.

"Yes, I was on the previous councils, but being inside the council doesn’t meant that you have a lot of say because most of the decisions are made by the executive committee." as quoted in a TODAY report on the official unveiling of his slate late last month.

(L-R) Lim Kia Tong and Edwin Tong of "Team LKT"
The claim was echoed by "Team LKT"'s Razali Saad, one of the three former national skippers campaigning in this election, in a separate interview with the Mediacorp newspaper.

In a move to distance themselves from the Zainudin regime, the "Team LKT" denounced the formation of the controversial Asean Super League (ASL), even though several members of this slate, in various capacities, spoke favourable of the pet project of the former Central Singapore CDC mayor in the past (source 1, source 2) which, unsurprisingly, drawn skepticism from some fans.

Proclaimed Lim:"ASL is a commercial outfit which has nothing to do with the FAS. The FAS does not develop a team purely for participation in the ASL." as mentioned in The New Paper, on the brainchild of the one-time Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

MOKLAS'S CONTROVERSY ...
Being the first election to be held for the first time after many decades, stringent checks on the candidates are put in place by the relevant authority to ensure only those who fulfilled the strictest criteria can run for the office.

Apart from one candidate who did not meet the cut even after the appeal, another incident that caught the attention was the controversy surrounded National Football League (NFL) Division 2 club Kembangan United's secretary Moklas Ma'arof's decision to withdraw his candidacy.

Following media reports portrayed the 62-year-old as part of "FAS Game Changers" slate, Moklas came out with a statement to explain his decision behind his withdrawal and denied he was part of the slate headed by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.

"KINGMAKER" BLOC ...
That side episode did not deter both "Team LKT" and "FAS Game Changers" from partially filled up their slate and independent candidates aligned to them with those of NFL background, given how important the role in this election is to be played by the amateur football circle.

Given the sizable chulk of voting rights (23 out of the 44 votes) held by the NFL bloc, securing a strong mandate from them is a must with many of those often-felt-neglected teams see this landmark exercise of their right as an opportunity to highlight their plights with hopes to see the new administration to resolve those nagging problems such as lack of pitches to poor scheduling of fixtures.

2017 NFL season is being sponsored by AJINOMOTO (credit: FAS)
Some of those plights were reiterated by Zaki Ma'arof, the president of NFL Division 2 side Kaki Bukit SC, during his official unveiling as part the of "FAS Game Changers" slate when he lamented the lack of proper pitches to train and playing matches.

#DONATIONGATE ...
It was on the same occasion had the slate's presidential candidate Ng questioned the decision made by the government-appointed provisional council in the absence of an actual one, on the extension of contracts of both V Sundram moorthy's and Michel Sablon's as the national coach and technical director respectively not that long ago.

But those were merely appetizers before Ng sent shockwaves within the fraternity when he revealed donations of substantial figures were made by both Hougang United and NFL side Tiong Bahru FC (TBFC), another club helmed by him, in recent years to FAS.

Bill Ng (right) takes a look at a mug at "FAS Game Changers" unveiling
Such revelation from Ng prompted the FAS to respond by issued an immediate statement from its secretary-general Winston Lee to clarify those matters raised and added the willingness to come up with evidence to back themselves up while insisted Ng's awareness of the purposes of those donations (which was later claimed by FAS those donations were made at the request of former president Zainudin).

Those answers did not satisfy the "FAS Game Changers" who disputed those details by released a statement of their own and called for those who are perceived to be involved to be accounted for this saga.

As the result, Lee replied and produced carbon-copies of letter and payment vouchers on 18th of April to prove it was at Zainudin's request that a total sum of $500,000 was donated to Asean Football Federation (AFF) for the developing of Football Management System (FMS) - a claim backed by AFF who clarified their position with a statement of their own, as reported in the media.

On the same evening after Lee's statement, the "FAS Game Changers" Facebook Page posted the reply from Ng who gave his side of the story that had everybody talking about it over the past few days.

The development of events eventually caught the attention of local sports governing body Sport Singapore, the custodian of FAS funding, who demanded a full explanation on the incident.

The whole saga reached a boiling point when the authorities raided the offices of FAS, TBFC, etc. to conduct investigation following a police report that was filed against TBFC for "suspected misuse of club funds" by Sport Singapore after those fiery exchanges of words between Ng and Lee.

BUSINESS HOUSES LEAGUE ...
With the D-Day drawing closer after each day passed, it's likely to see the much-anticipated contest for the holy grail to be clouded around by the above mentioned investigation of alleged financial irregularities and some would actually wonder if the main problems plagued the sport are overlooked during the campaigning?

Since there are hardly intense discussions on those printed on both factions' manifestos which I, particularly, take an interest on a suggestion to revive the popular Singapore Business Houses Football League (SBHFL) which I think is a good idea to put the corporate league back in league pyramid system.

However, before we can revive this mentioned corporate league, we should be asking how it can fit into the existing football league pyramid?

Would be a good idea to revamp the existing NFL setup with that bit of Business Houses League element infused in it by getting corporate entities' involvement in the management of some of NFL clubs?

Hopefully, this would be one of key areas to explore from 30th of April onwards after whoever takes control of the oldest football association in Asia.

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