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."

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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

NOT WANTED ...

I don't feel sorry or have kind words to say about the recent ground sharing move that will see only four (local) venues being used for the upcoming Singapore Premier League (SGPL) season.

Why should I or rather we feel sorry to see clubs uprooted from their "roots" to find themselves sharing grounds with their contemporaries in a struggling league system plagued with so many woes that don't seems to have any remedy formula to cure them all?

Toa Payoh Stadium will not be used in the 2019 SGPL season
When our own professional football league was launched in 1996, one of the key emphasizes is community outreach by having clubs based strategically around the island in order to see themselves fused into the vicinities they were based.

But two decades down the road since it started, it seems to me that most clubs are still aliens to where they are based and we hardly see the bonding between the clubs and residents (not fans) like how I asked a co-worker of mine if he has that sense of belonging with the SGPL team he supposed to affiliate with, he said "NO".

These media seats were installed when the S.League was introduced in 1996
To reiterate a point I was quoted in this article in the past, just walk around any of those housing estates that housed a SGPL team, do we see any fixture or something tangible to mark the presence of it? Hardly any, isn't it?

Just talk to anyone random in any of those community, are they aware of their "home" team playing at their neighbourhood stadiums?

Let's face it, hardly anyone is aware or even know the answer.

These VIP seats became a permanent fixture at Toa Payoh Stadium  
Should they know who is their "home" team representing their community, we would have seen a major outpour of disapproval over the proposal initiated by Sport SG, the landlord of the three of the grounds (Our Tampines Hub is owned by People's Association) to be used.

Should residents (not fans) for having developed a strong bond with their "local" teams over the past ten to twenty years, we would have seen home matches packed with partisan supporters over the years but it is never case after the early boom.

Will this scoreboard be removed from Toa Payoh Stadium?
I agree and acknowledged efforts made continuously over the years to bridge the gap between the clubs and community but when those efforts are not reflected on the number of headcount at the stands, it is pointless to argue any case over the table.

It would be a lie to say "it doesn't matter to us for not having big crowds coming to our games" but to admit the failure to sustain a bond between a local football club and their supposedly fanbase all these while.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Details On Tickets, PLEASE!

I thought one of the good initiatives of the rebranded Singapore Premier League (SGPL) is to allow fans to buy their match tickets online, which is a laudable move as it is a practice in tandem with many other sporting events held in Singapore.

However, I wish to highlight on matters pertaining those tickets, which are now printed on better quality material, bought on match days at the game venues.

After a few rounds of matches, it is regrettable tickets purchased over the counter not longer detailed those match information except these words, as show in the picture below.

The "22/7/18" match saw Albirex Niigata (S) clinched the SGPL title
No one seems to able to give an answer when I asked causally why the changes were made.

As one may never know these ticket stubs, which were usually discarded by many after games, may be an important testament to something significant happened during that particular match.

I, myself, still have those match ticket stubs that witnessed some of the significant moments of the S.League which I detailed them in this old entry back in June 2010.

Fast forward to year 2014 on 31st October at the Jalan Besar Stadium, I bought a ticket (below) which I requested Aleksandar Duric to sign on it as it was his last game as a professional football player.

The hosting club only stamped the date of the match on this ticket stub
In fact, ticket stubs from some of the most famous matches played are now highly sought-after collectibles, such as the 1930 World Cup final match between Uruguay and Argentina and Pele's last game for New York Cosmos against Santos in 1977 is now worth US$425 (face value US$6).

In the past, I used to receive emails from one particular collector from Belgium requesting for used match tickets from games featuring Singapore national teams.

For someone who maybe a ticket collector, it is important to have those details of those matches and I hope the league authority will reinstate the printing of those essential information on those stubs in the coming season.

If not, one would have to write the details on those stubs for recording purpose on their own - a move that might cast a doubt of its authenticity years down the road since it was handwritten and unpresentable too.

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