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, April 20, 2019

We Will Thank Raddy 20 Years Later, Instead Of Now ...

Maybe we will not say it now but who knows twenty years down the road, we would proudly declare:"The era under Raddy Avramovic was the greatest ever in Singapore football!", I am sure there are some people who read the words earlier would recommend me to see a psychiatrist now.

How on earth would that be possible when that period while the Serbian was the coach of the Singapore national team was considered by many as a watershed in the local football despite successfully guided the Lions to three Asean titles in 2004, 2007, 2012 and accoladed himself as the "Coach of the Year" by Asean Football Federation back in 2013.

20 years later we would thank Raddy for his work done for us
Ironically, it was because of those honours gathered during that period that when people start to reminisce about the "glorious" past and those records would speak for themselves and some would say "yes, those were the days..." and start to talk about those nostagic events in those chit-chatting sessions years later.

"NO TALENT" IS A COMMON REPLY
In a recent article by TODAY which featured three individuals from the 1994 Malaysia Cup winning team who were asked "if there were any promising talents in the team now", former striker Samawira Basri said none, a view concurred by his former Lions colleague Lee Man Hon.

Such a remark immediately drew a respond from a Facebook Page that suggested the so-called "1994 Dream Team"'s success was only their ability to beat the Malaysian states to win the Cup that year and nothing further more than that.

Honestly speaking, it is true and international success only came after Singapore left Malaysian League and saw the Republic won its first regional honour - the 1998 Tiger Cup in Vietnam. That stunning victory by the Lions in Hanoi coincided with the early boom years of the S.League.

Nonetheless, it was common during the late 1990s to early 2000s to have fans comparing players of that period with their predecessors from the 1970s to the early 1980s - collectively known as the "Kallang Roar" era.

The iconic Admiral blue top worn by the 1970s Lions (credit: via FB Messenger) 
The Lions during that Admiral blue-cladded era did not win any major honour except the recapturing of the Malaysia Cup in 1977 after last won it twelve years before but with the heart-breaking loss at home to Hong Kong in the 1978 pre-World Cup qualifiers, these were counted as some of the magic moments that galvanized the then newly-independent nation to pack and created an intimidating atmosphere to send shivers down the spine of any visiting team at the old National Stadium. (P.S.: the blue outfit was introduced by the then national coach Mike Walker back in 1973)

WHEN WAS THE GOLDEN ERA - 1950s or 1970s or ?
To some, the 1970s was considered to be the golden era of Singapore football because the fervour evoked by the then national team and made players like Quah Kim Song, S Rajagopal, Samad Allapitchay, the late Dollah Kassim, etc. household names to many Singaporeans.

Or not really the case?

A reader wrote to The Straits Times to table his argument, which was published on 26 May 1981, when the broadsheet asked the readers to vote for players to be named in the "All Star Team" - the team that would include the best Singapore footballers since the post-war years.

The reader by the name "H.S. Seah" confidently stated his case by saying "I cannot see how the present national team could possibly match the brilliant individual skills and superb teamwork of that team and would, in all possibility have gone down by the same margin."

That team referred by Seah was the 1951 Malaya Cup winning team that beat Perak 6-0 with iconic names like Olympians Chu Chee Seng, "Twinkletoes" Chia Boon Leong who both played for Republic of China in the 1948 London Games, Ivan Vass, Harith Omar, legendary striker Awang Bakar, etc.

So it was no surprise to read comments made by Vass in an interview with the now-defunt New Nation in 11 April 1975 like how both Samawira and Lee feel about the present national players more than forty years later.

"Present boys (as in those in 1975) are doing more work than the ball - that is wrong." said the man who skippered the then crown colony to win the 1952 Malaya Cup in the aforementioned interview.

Other grouses by Vass who worked as a clerk for Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank while playing the game as an amateur included not taking enough shots from outside the box, holding for too long and over dribble the ball.

"In the last 20 minutes, they often played like jellies." added Vass who though acknowledged there were some talented players at the time when the interview was taking place in his Redhill Close residence.

Stern words, indeed, from someone of a high esteem caliber in the local game, yet Vass, his peers and the whole of Singapore football fraternity were, too, subjected to some harsh criticism during the post-war period.

SINGAPORE FOOTBALL WAS ROCK BOTTOM AFTER THE WAR!
It may sounded strange to hear something said about the standard of the local game after the World War Two when long list of the luminaries in local football folklore (eg: the Quah brothers, Rahim Omar, etc.) emerged during those years but there were, however, some press reports came out to lambast the declining standard.

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH S'PORE SOCCER" was one such headline put up by The Singapore Free Press (SFP) on their 19 September 1953 edition.

Speaking to someone he described as "whose knowledge of the game is highly respected outside this island", the writer Teoh Eng Tatt, who was the sports editor of The Straits Times before his retirement in 1980, wrote "Singapore players, on the whole, shirk hard work and are unwilling to learn more about the game. Unless our players can do both, he adds we can expect to keep on sliding down."

Apparently, the local fraternity did not heed the advice from this "highly respected" figure and prompted an even harsher criticism from FIFA referee John Ferguson whose opinions weighted heavily in the then self-governing state's football and rugby scenes.

"Lack of self discipline", lazy and pampered" were some of the words used by Ferguson to label the players in that era which saw island footballers won the benchmarking Malaya Cup on four occasions (1950-52, 1955) in the 1959 SFP article that published these words from the man who was regarded by many as one of Asia's top football referees in those days.

Urging the game's administrators to cast their net wider, Ferguson called for the attention to place on school fields instead of Jalan Besar Stadium and Farrer Park to unearth raw footballing talents.

He added the players he seen at that point of time would not deserve a reserve spot in the days of "Pop" Lim Yong Liang in the pre-war years.

Nontheless, "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee, a coach ahead of his time and mentor to many of those "Kallang Roar" stalwarts, highlighted the lack of training which resulted poor ball controlling skills being some of the attributing factors to mediocre level facing Singapore football when he shared his views with The Straits Times in June 1956.

"Uncle" showing his ball controlling skills (credit: from Whatsapp)
Sadly, with scarcity of video footages to witness their exploits on the fields and old newspapers articles are the only sources for us to know all those great players in the past, it can be subjective to ascertain or compare the qualities of players from different time frames.

And one important fact we must not forget is prior to 1961, the local players played games of 60 minutes at "First Division, touring and representative" levels instead of the regulated 90-minute game because of the "trying Malayan climate" until it was mandated in a SAFA (the former name of the Football Association of Singapore) management meeting to meet the duration stipulated under Law Number Seven of the Laws of the Game.

So at the end of the day, we have to ask if it is fair to compare players, the level of football played in different period of time?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

[Event] Blockbuster Cast for ICCSG 2019

(All images depicted in this entry were made available by the media release issued by the organizers)

The coming July will see a blockbuster cast of teams and stars descend on the shores of Singapore when it is confirmed by the organizers of the International Champions Cup (ICC) Singapore tournament that English giants Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be featured in the third Singapore edition of this summer tournament with Italians powerhouses FC Internazionale (Inter) and Juventus.

(L-R): Dwight Yorke, Franceso Toldo, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Teddy Sheringham
"We are very pleased to bring the International Champions Cup to Singapore again. The event is the only platform for fans in the region to get up close to their favourite teams," said Charlie Stillitano, Executive Chairman of Relevent Sports Group - the owner and operator of ICC, in a media release issued shortly after the official launch of the tournament at The Incubator, Esplanade Park.

Echoed the thoughts of Mr Stillitano is Ms Melissa Ow, Deputy Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board.

Said Ms Ow:"With some of the biggest names in European football joining us for the International Champions Cup this year, Singapore will be an even more attractive travel destination for sports fans this July.

"As the only Southeast Asian stop of the ICC, we look forward to welcoming football fans from around the region, and aim to provide a memorable experience for our visitors that goes beyond the pitch." she added.

Inter legend Franceso Toldo sharing his thoughts at the launch
The launch of the tournament was also graced by the presence of several luminaries representing the participating clubs like Francesco Toldo of Inter, Fabrizio Ravanelli of Juventus and lastly Dwight Yorke and Teddy Sheringham for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

It will be the first appearances for both the Red Devils and the Lilywhites at the iconic National Stadium of Singapore Sports Hub while the two Italians sides are making their return to the 55,000-capacity arena after last appeared in 2017 for the I Nerazzurri while the I Bianconeri graced the opening of the stadium back in 2014.

The new-look two match, four team format will be held over a single weekend on the 20th and 21st of July, promising local and travelling fans a truly spectacular footballing treat.

On the first match on the 20th of July will see Manchester United taking on Inter and on the following day will see Juventus squaring off against Tottenham Hotspur, both matches will kick at 7:30pm (Singapore Time).

FIXTURES
Saturday, 20 July 2019 
Manchester United vs FC Internazionale - National Stadium, Singapore Kickoff time: 7:30pm

Sunday, 21 July 2019 
Juventus vs Tottenham Hotspur - National Stadium, Singapore Kickoff time: 7:30pm

TICKETING DETAILS
UnionPay, the Official Payment Brand of the 2019 International Champions Cup in Singapore presented by AIA, will be offering ticketing benefits to its cardholders. Customers with UnionPay cards can get priority access to purchase tickets via an exclusive pre-sale starting from 12pm on 28 March and ending at 12pm on 31 March. Additionally, they will enjoy a 10% discount on tickets from 28 March to 30 April.

Football fans in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines can purchase official tickets on Shopee.

Official tickets will go on sale to the general public from 10am, 4 April 2019, at www.sportshub.com.sg, Sports Hub Box Offices, as well as other physical locations.

For more information, please visit www.internationalchampionscup.sg.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Those Being Underutilized 'Portable Seats' ...

Back in March 1996, after a few pre-season friendly matches saw huge crowds turned up in thousands at stadiums like Bedok, Woodlands and Tampines to catch S.League teams like Geylang United and Woodlands Wellington in action, safety and security concerns were raised and highlighted in the newspapers.

According to The New Paper (TNP), approximately 7,500 fans packed the Bedok Stadium to witness a star-studded Geylang United skippered by Fandi Ahmad taking on Johor SEDC on 12th of March.

When was the last time we had scene like this? (credit: NLB archive)
Headlined "Safety, security action" on one of the back pages of its 14th of March edition, the tabloid included a picture of a scene that had never since reoccurred at games in recent years - a sardine-packed crowd congested the main stand of the Bedok Stadium to see the aforementioned match.

SAFETY CONCERN 
Geylang star defender Kadir Yahaya was quoted in the same article saying:"Although the turnout was great, it was a bit scary too ... the crowd shouldn't have been allowed to sit on the running track. What if the ball hit a child?"

Sharing the same sentiment was Eagles' goalkeeper David Lee who expressed his concern of having fans sitting near to the playing field and fear they "might get carried away" if there was a commotion on the field.

That fear of Lee who was capped 105 times by the national team from 1979 to 1996 was not unheard of when one long-time follower of the local scene witnessed some ugly incidents at the old Farrer Park Stadium because of such close proximity between the players and the spectators.

"It is always a concern if there is a close proximity between fans and players during a match, I remember there was a Business Houses League match being abandoned by the referee after incensed fans invaded the field as they were not happy with some of the players' conduct." recalled Adly Esmadi who shared this incident with me.

Similar problem was faced by upstart Woodlands Wellington at their Woodlands home ground where a total of 6,500 fans made their presence felt in two matches which resulted the northerners to charge admission for all their friendlies as a form of crowd control.

Don't doubt at all, Geylang did request to have their games be played at Kallang (credit: NLB archive)
Not taking any chances and unwilling to see another crowd controlling nightmare like they encountered days earlier at Bedok, Geylang United shifted their next friendly match to the 55,000-capacity (old) National Stadium where they played against Malaysian side Pahang FA on 17th of March. The showdown against the "Tok Gajah" saw new record broken with the TNP reported 16,000 paying fans made their way through turnstiles on top of those 2,000 who were at the game on complimentary passes or via invitation.

GEYLANG WANTED TO PLAY AT KALLANG
Such a "boost in confidence" prompted the one of the most successful sides in the history of Singapore football to declare "Geylang United wants to play all its S-League matches at the National Stadium.", as read from the opening paragraph of the TNP article titled "Pleasant... but still a problem" (18th March 1996).

While acknowledged that such proposal may not be in line with the S.League policy to bring matches to the community, Geylang's chairman Don Ho felt this was the best solution to cater their growing legion of fans, a view that was supported by Sidek Saniff, the then Senior Minister of State for Education who was also the club advisor.

"Portable Seats" came in to solve the overcrowded problem (credit: NLB archive)
To overcome this pleasant headache, Singapore Sports Council (SSC, now Sport Singapore), the stadiums' landlord, decided to install "portable seats" at the six regional stadiums (not included SAFFC's Jurong Stadium and Police FC's Jalan Besar Stadium) that saw the additional of 500 to 1,000 seats at each ground (Portable Seats for use at six stadiums, TNP, 19/3/1996).

THOSE ICONIC "PORTABLE SEATS"
The installing of these seats was part of the interim upgrading program funded by the $10 million grant from the government and had largely altered the way how these neighbourhood stadiums looked in welcoming this country's professional football league when it was launched on 14th of April 1996.

Prior to their installation, those who are old enough would remember sitting on the running track at any stadium that circled the pitch to catch some "semi-pro" Premier League (not to be confused with the ongoing AIA Singapore Premier League campaign - SGPL) actions in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

Match ticket to a semi-pro "Premier League" match in the early 1990s
Sitting on those tracks was no joke and for those who wore light-coloured pants would find themselves facing the wrath of their mothers or wives when they returned home with the "soiled bottom" at the end of the day!

In spite of the up close to action on the field, the view from the running track may not necessary be an ideal one and like what Kadir mentioned there was always a tendency of having the stray ball coming at you.

One of the vivid memories I recall while sitting on the track was a linesman carried out his work with full concentration despite the endless taunting from those sat next to me.

"NOT COMFORTABLE, POOR VIEW": FAN
Soon with the transition into the S.League, I had my first opportunity to seat on those newly-installed seats to witness the first ever S.League goal scored by Esad Seljic for Balestier Central against Police FC at the Toa Payoh Stadium.

Watching the match from the "Portable Seats"
Such seating arrangement eventually helped in making the crowd controlling easier during the early days but it may not necessary be an ideal spot to watch a game given the distance between them and the playing field at some stadiums, remarked a fan.

"To me, those metal seats tend to be slippery after rain and I also don't find it comfortable sitting on them, the view from the seats isn't that great either given the distance between them and the field at some stadiums." said Abdul Razak who used to stay in the western part of Singapore.

He added:"Personally, I prefer the sitting arrangements at stadiums like Jurong East and Jalan Besar because the seats are nearer to the field."

Not everyone's cup of tea of this seating arrangement
Following the implementation of the ground sharing policy in this year's SGPL season, Jurong East Stadium, the home ground to both Albirex Niigata (Singapore) and Warriors FC, is the only stadium with those “portable seats”.

Nonetheless, it is, however, unlikely to see those seats being utilized for the time unless the boom returns like those early days that once saw lines formed outside the stadiums or having fans enjoying from spots overlooked the stadiums.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from NLB online newspapers archives, as credited, should anyone feel it's inappropriate to have any of the media shown, please kindly email me as soon as possible and I will remove them upon request.)

(P.S 2: I stand to be corrected should there be any mistake in this entry, please feel free to email me should there be any mistake, thanks)

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Are The Lions Ready For Bukit Jalil At End Of March?

Shroud in secrecy that at the eleventh hour, many are still unsure if the Singapore national team is ready for their first tournament of the year with no clear indication from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on their participation in the AIRMARINE Cup 2019.

"The FAS will be making an announcement on this shortly." was the reply received by this platform after enquiries were put forward to ask several matters pertaining the quadrangular organized by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) who announced the tournament will feature Oman, Afghanistan (as replacement for Solomon Islands) beside Singapore and host national Malaysia in a press release issued on 25th of February.

FIGHTING FOR FIFA POINTS
With the statement like this that read "The AIRMARINE Cup 2019 aims to be a tournament that delivers a competitive platform for national squads during the international break to gain the necessary exposure and ranking points to advance in the International football scene.", it is without any doubt that national teams of the four nations will be playing in the mentioned tournament scheduled between March 20 and 23 at the Bukit Jalil Stadium at Kuala Lumpur.

Doubt Ikhsan (20) be flying half the globe back for this AirMarine Cup
Following a draw conducted by the organizers at Wisma FAM (FAM headquarters at Kelana Jaya) on 4th of March, Singapore will face Malaysia on 20th of March at 8.45pm with Oman taking on Afghanistan at an earlier time slot in the 87,411-capacity arena.

The winners of both matches will play each other in the final on the 23rd of March at 8.45 pm, the losing teams will square off at 4.30pm on the same day, according to the press release issued by FAM.

THE MAIN CONCERNS... 
In the past, the FAS would usually came up with a press statement of their own in participation of any tournament involving the Lions but it was not the case this time round with several uncertainties hanging around.

First being the post of the national team head coach is still vacant despite earlier suggestions that the post would be filled in a foreign coach by January that along the process saw names like former Iraq coach Jorvan Vieira and Japanese Tatsuma Yoshida among those highlighted by the media as possible successor to Fandi Ahmad who stepped down as interim national coach after last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

AIA Singapore Premier League just started
Secondly, the new AIA Singapore Premier League season had just started and we are not how the clubs would react if requests for release of players are to be called at this juncture even though the tournament is scheduled within the allocated FIFA international dates, given the domestic campaign is still at its infancy and it would be catastrophic if any of these players return to their clubs with concerns like injuries, etc.

Thirdly, with such a short notice given it is unlikely, in this blogger's opinion, to see overseas-based players like Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Baihakki Khaizan and Fandi siblings being called by whosoever taking charge of this team who is likely to face a selection headache given the lack of preparation time before their first game against the auld enemy - Harimau Malaya.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Not Even Started, Already Feel Like Giving Up ...

The building up to the new season hardly inspired and everything just looks like damp squib that no one seems to be looking forward to the 2019 campaign.

JUST SOME LAME EXCUSES BY SOME 
Is it because of the continuing domination by a mainly youth-based Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in recent years which is being used as an excuse by some to extend their boycott by not coming to games with a number of them are making hell lot of noise on the lack of glamour in the league?

But when these people choose to stay away and let the terraces become a white elephant, how are we going to convince players of certain quality to come and play in our league? It is just that some out there chosen to be blinded by what they heard and read based on "first impression last"?

Our clubs were overwhelmed by the clubs across the bridge in preseason
Or is it nothing newsworthy of late to generate awareness to fire people's imagination?

Somehow or rather, the recent domination of the White Swans should be considered a blessing in disguise to tell us how much we have fallen behind in all aspects and embarrassment continues when none of our local sides recorded a win against those MSL/MPL clubs in their preseason trip across the bridge.

ONGOING SLUMP
No point of arguing stuff like results being secondary in preseason, the Malaysians "have more imports and started their preparation earlier", these are merely excuses that cannot deny the fact the slump is ongoing judging from some of big margin losses incurred by those touring clubs.

We heard about what was happening at Hougang United of late with the termination of Rafael Ramazotti's contract and recruitment of Singapore international Faris Ramli who was released by Malaysian side Perlis FA without kicking a ball competitively.

Faris Ramli signed for Hougang United 
If these were to happen elsewhere outside this dot, it would have flooded and generated views and discussions expressed on them but it was not the case when these were restricted within a constrained perimeter of the local fraternity.

Outside this constrained fraternity, no one seems to be bothered or lift their eyelids to take a look at these occurrences.

"NO NEED ... NO NEED"
More than often these days, given the proliferation of the social media platforms many clubs would prefer to announce major occurrences on their own thus deemed extra media coverage provided externally something of a redundancy.

Some fans criticized media only reported on negative stuff and left blemishes on the scene.

But the point is, who would want their dirty linens to be washed in the public when it is the only to serve as a reminder that things are always being observed and scrutinized, rather than left it unchecked and getting from bad to worse.

Clubs taking over most of the media work on their own
And if things are that good, why should anyone plastered them cosmetically to make looked so fake?

The season have not even started and I already feel like throw in the towel for having to face the same issues day in and out with no viable remedy within sight to stop the rot.

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