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."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Pull Power of "Seleçāo" Waned?

Neymar Jr said "Goodbye" before made his exit from the Nigeria game due to injury 
The Brazilian national team concluded their whirlwind tour of Singapore that saw them pit against Senegal and Nigeria over the past few days at the National Stadium.

These friendly matches were scheduled as part of the exclusive arrangement between the Brazilian FA (CBF) and Pitch International, a leading sports marketing agency, under the "Brasil Global Tour" package that begun in 2012 which will continue till the 2022 World Cup tournament.

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (20) made his attempt against Nigeria

As compared to the 51,557 that packed the same arena five years ago to witness the "Seleçāo" featured against their Japanese counterparts and saw superstar Neymar Jr. netted all four goals, a paltry crowd of 20,621 turned up for the designated hosts' one-all draw with Senegal on the first night despite having some of the biggest names in the game.

It could probably due to the fact that it was on a weekday that explained the poor turnout at the Brazil-Senegal game, while some cited the pricey admission charges for attending those matches, as reported by the Straits Times.

Some Brazilian fans among the crowds in the Brazil-Nigeria match
Gremio's striker Everton (19) was targetted by some European clubs before extended his contract
Even CBF head of technical development Juninho Paulista also registered his disappointment after the first match in the same news report over the poor attendance by saying "... it is disappointing because we always want to play in front of many fans."

Other than those factors mentioned, another possibility of such lukewarm reception could be the timeframe from the announcement till the realization of the event that coincided with the World Cup qualifiers staged around the region during the same period.

Philippe Coutinho (11) replaced Neymar Jr. early in the game
Compared to the building to other matches of similar scale held recently in the republic, the announcement of the "Brazil Global Tour in Singapore" was only made known to the media via a press release issued by TEG Live, the organizers, on 17th of September, less than a month prior to the first match played on 10th of October.

Usually, matches of such scale would see regional fans flown to Singapore to get up close with the marquee names but given short timeframe mentioned, it proved to be a challenge to woo the regional fans let alone having to target the local residents to part their hard earned monies for these friendly games which were subject to criticism from Brazilian coach Tite and some sectors of the local football fans over scheduling of these matches.

Nigeria's Victor Osimhen (9) got ahead of Thiago Silva (3) in this aerial duel
Paul Onuachu (19) flanked by Thiago Silva and Dani Alves (right)
Last ditch effort was made to boast the ticket sales did not seems to work when a slightly lower crowd of 20,385 fans attended the second match between Brazil and Nigeria that saw the match ended with another one-all draw.

It doesn't look pretty for the Brazilians as this result meant they have not win a match in their last four outings, although the bigger question is - has the "Seleçāo" lost their pull power to fill the stands or simply because local football fans would prefer to be on the couch than at the ground?

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Pluralization - A Means To Resolve The "NS" Issue?

I was wondering if the turmoil at Warriors Football Club did not surface, would the attention be dominated by the injury-time appearance of that Fulham FC youngster by the name of Ben Davis in the Carabao Cup or the "Goal 2034" topic?

A poll was conducted to ask which was the talking poll on Facebok
The Thai-born Davis caused quite a stir few months ago for defaulted his National Service (NS) obligations in his pursuing of a professional football career in England.

Whereas the troubles at one of the most successful clubs in Singapore football history saw the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) took an unprecedented step to direct Warriors FC to remove Paul Poh from his role as the club's general manager and honorary secretary following several lapses of discrepancies.

While the two incidents may not be linked directly, it is not hard to realize the coincidence of having the military background in both occurrences.

For Davis' case, he defaulted his NS obligations - a fact that was announced by Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and whereas Warriors FC used to be under the purview of Mindef as Singapore Armed Forces Football Club (SAFFC) before relinquished the management of the club in January 2017.

The glory days of the Warriors FC when they were known as SAFFC
Prior to Mindef relinquishment of control, there were players serving their NS turned out for SAFFC like former national striker Noh Alam Shah did back in both 2000 and 2001 S.League season before returned to Sembawang Rangers to fulfil the remaining of his contractual obligations with the Stallions in July 2001.

In a recent extensive report on the "Goal 2034" topic by The Straits Times, some in the local fraternity opined it was a good system which allowed NSF (National Servicemen) footballers to gain exposure and experience by playing alongside with seasoned professionals and should look into the revival of this arrangement.

Perhaps Singapore Premier League may want to take a look at examples in the Thai and Korean leagues for some ideas in this "revival" to resolve the outstanding "NS issue" that has been a major concern in a footballer's development?

Vincent Subramaniam and Kok Wai Leong - the dynamic duo of SAFFC
However, there is always a cause of concern if a group of NSF footballers completed their service at the same period of time, it could affect the team's consistency in their league performance like what South Korean military club Sangju Sangmu FC is facing when a core of their players are set to complete their military service and return to their parent clubs in their ongoing K League 1 campaign.

The Thai league also see the presence of various teams representing the local military in the their football pyramid with the likes of Army United for whom Singapore custodian Hassan Sunny plays for, Air Force United and Navy FC who signed Lions winger Gabriel Quak for their campaign last year.

Instead of having just two teams like in the past with only Police FC (before renamed as Home United years later) and SAFFC to cater to the "needs" for these NSF footballers, studies should be carried out to determine the feasibility of having a few more clubs like teams representing RSN (Navy), RSAF (Air Force) or even a team from Civil Defence.

Local legend Fandi Ahmad hung up his boots at SAFFC before took over as their coach
Ivica Raguz was one of the stylish players ever graced the S.League
"It's reasonable to want extra options, but the respective services would have to buy in. I suspect they don't want to." said @singnoname who replied his thoughts when I first tweeted the idea using this platform's twitter account, implying the services may not be that keen to this suggestion.

Furthermore, it seems there is no change in Mindef's policy either when they referred to the 2012 statement they issued when asked by Straits Times if there will be a possible revival of this "SAFFC" policy.

Nonetheless, given the importance of the policy to this country's sovereignty, it is inevitable that the formulating of any sporting policy will have to take into account how this blueprint is able to compliment itself to the NS policy and the much anticipated "Goal 2034" project will be not different.

But how are the policy makers going to make it tick this time when past initiatives like the much-ridiculed "Goal 2010" failed? Just make sure we do a comparison of the "2010" with the soon-might-to-be-announced "2034" blueprint and highlight any concern to the policy makers.

(Note: There is a recent development that Davis is named in the provisional squad for Thailand SEA Games' football squad.) 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"It's Not Everyday 'Seleçāo" come to Singapore!"

Much attention have been generated since the announcement of the "Brazil Global Tour 2019" which will be taking place in Singapore next month.

This event will feature the Brazilian national team in two friendly matches to be played at the National Stadium where the "Seleção" will play Senegal on the 10th of October before facing Nigeria three days later.

It marks the second visit of the five-time World Cup champions to the republic where they last visited back in 2014 when they beat Japan 4-0 in the 55,000-capacity arena of Singapore Sports Hub (SSH).

The Brazilians will have the likes of PSG's Neymar Jr and Roberto Firmino who is likely to face his Liverpool team mate Sadio Mané (if he is being selected) of Senegal in the first match.

The stellar cast with these stars to parade their skills on our shores had fans like Frankie Goh looking forward to the upcoming bonanza.

The "Seleção" squad named by CBF (credit: CBF IG)
Said Goh:"I am definitely excited, I mean these are world class teams coming to Singapore to play and it is not an everyday event.

"Given the 'A international' status of these friendly games, I was expecting the best players available for these fixtures." added the Liverpool fan who is thrilled of the likelihood to witness Firmino, Fabinho and Mané taking on each other on the 10th of October.

In spite of the excitement and prospect to see those superstars in action, the scheduling of these two fixtures has been much of a debate.

As right after the two aforementioned games, the iconic cornerstone of the SSH will be staging the Singapore national team's World Cup qualification match against Uzbekistan on 15th of October.

Concern was raised if the pitch of the National Stadium is able to withstand such an intensity within this short period and not only that, a local fans' supporter group had even called for a boycott of those friendly games which they labelled the upcoming fixtures involving the visiting triumvirate as "circus games".

The field of National Stadium will be scrutinized again (file)
When asked to comment on the boycott initiated by the some local fans, Goh opined:"I think some fans failed to realize international friendlies featuring these world-class players are the closest we can get to have these teams on our shores, as under the current system, it is almost impossible for us to host these teams on competitive basis."

And Goh, who works in the gaming industry, also felt that ticket pricing for the "Brazil Global Tour 2019" are competitive as compared to previous matches of similar scale held in the past in SSH.

Event: Brazil Global Tour 2019 in Singapore

Time: 8.00pm match kick-off

Venue: National Stadium

Organisers: TEG Live

  • Brazil vs Senegal (Thursday, 10th October 2019) 
  • Brazil vs Nigeria (Sunday, 13th October 2019)

The promotional poster of the matches (via organizers)
Tickets are now on sale at Sports Hub ( Tickets for a single game are priced from $29* onwards. Tickets for two matches are offered at special bundle prices from $49* for two games.

All fans who have purchased tickets to watch the Singapore vs Uzbekistan World Cup Qualifier on 15 October at National Stadium will be entitled to a 30% discount on either one of the Brazil Global Tour 2019 in Singapore matches.

*Booking and transaction fees apply

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Corporate Revival In Local Football?

The possibility of the revival of the once-popular Singapore Business Houses Football League (SBHFL) or start something similar was raised during last year's Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Congress when president Lim Kia Tong was quoted in The Straits Times (ST) report that covered the event.

Said Mr Lim:"The plan is to see participation from both businesses and professional associations. We would like to have the corporate sector involved in football again."

The Commercial Cup (NLB archive)
Suggestions from the fraternity to revive SBHFL was nothing new and it was one of the topics brought up in the discussion during the campaigning of 2017 FAS elections.

"It was a good league (SBHFL) where you could get the companies to support football." said Lian Kim Fatt, the honorary secretary of the Singapore Government Services Football League (SGSFL).

"If you don't give the companies mileage, how can you expect them to come on board as sponsors? That's the best way to get companies interested in football." added Lian who was quoted by ST in an article back in April 2017.

The discontinued corporate league traced its roots way back to 1927 when it started off as Singapore Inter-Commercial Cup Competition (also known as "Mercantile Cup" in some press reports) before renamed as SBHFL in 1937.

Like most tournaments, the competition begun using knock-out format with the organising committee deliberated in 1929 on whether to switch it to a league format that did not take place until the competition's league table appeared on Malaya Tribune in 1933.

Ford Sport Club was the last champions in 1941 before the tournament was halted due to the World War II and kept the winners trophy (The Commercial Cup) safe in possession during the war years until it was rediscovered in September 1947 and prompted the organisers - the Singapore Amateur Football Association (SAFA, the precursor of FAS) on the possible revival of the tournament in following year.

The formation of Business Houses FA in 1950 (NLB archive)
The first tournament after the Japanese Occupation was staged in 1950 on a knock-out basis and was the last to be organized by SAFA before handed it over to Business Houses Football Association - a newly-created affiliate to oversee the corporate league operations in 1951.

During the era when the local game's top players were still amateurs, it was not uncommon to see state representatives (in the colonial days) or national players (after independence) turning out for their company teams in the SBHFL which was covered extensively by the newpapers alongside with the main local leagues and the popular Malaya (later Malaysia) Cup tournaments.

As such, it was a common sight to see a particular player who represented Singapore at senior level, also featured for his club side in the local league and laced up his boots to play for his employers in a space of a week.

Nasaruddin Jalil (right) was one of those former Lions featured in the SBHFL
However, while there were rules in place to ensure company teams with high calibre players did not take advantage by only allowed to field certain number of "NFL Division One" players during a match, there were cases of teams failed to adhere to the ruling and were complained by their opponents (source:1, 2) for breaking the rules.

This "multiple representation" of a player only came to an end when FAS decreed in 1994 that contracted players with them for FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) Premier League were not allowed to play for teams in the FAS Premier League, Inter-constituency, Business Houses tournaments.

Furthermore, given its amateur nature the availability of players at games were subject to their work commitments and it was not unusual to have teams pulled out of the tournament for not able to form a team for an upcoming season or teams conceded walkovers to their opponents when they failed to turn up at games (source: 1, 2).

"It was common to see games being postponed or abandoned due to reasons like absence of teams, not enough of players and in some cases when matches were being called off because of fightings among the players," confirmed by a co-worker who used to play for his previous company in the SBHFL in the early 1990s.

Nonetheless, there is not much progress on whether a possible revival or starting a brand new corporate league is still on the card since the suggestion was made in last September but one club official whom this platform spoke to have his reservations on having organize such tournament.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, this official cited organising costs could be one of the hinder factors.

These were last heard of the SBHFL (NLB archive)
"If we use an Singapore Premier League match as a guide, the operating costs (of a match) would be around $2,000 in which the costs include the engaging of duty staff like ball kids, stretcher bearers, etc." said the club official.

"While we not sure if this revived or new corporate league is going to charge admission like in the old SBHFL and even if it doesn't which might see a lower operating costs, we still need essentials like standby ambulance, doctor on duty at matches and also the availability of the fields and match officials too." he added.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from sources, 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)

(P.S 3: If you have any information on the SBHFL in the past, please feel free to share with me via email, thanks)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Please Don't Repeat As Another Superficial Gimmick

The bold announcement of Singapore eyeing a spot in 2034 World Cup by Edwin Tong, the vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), sent a shockwave around the local football fraternity in recent days.

It came at a time when local football is still trying to pull itself out of the bad patches it is experiencing now and barely a surprise such a lofty target is met with skepticism from all corners and once again it brought back sad memories of the "Goal 2010" project which was launched in 1998.

I shall not dwell on why and how the "Goal 2010" was mooted but here to share what I witnessed at the fanfare at Suntec City - the venue where the whole project kicked started on 5th December 1998.

It was a huge turnout with everyone was eager and excited to play a part of this historical day that was supposed to see Singapore adhere to a blueprint to see her qualify for the World Cup in 2010 (although FAS clarified it was not the case in the first place years later).

The launch event was further divided into a few workshops where participants were engaged in idea sharing and discussions on the topic of the workshop they attended, such as marketing, coaching, competition, etc.

The name tag given to me at the "Goal 2010" launch 
I was assigned by my editor to cover the proceedings inside "infrastructure" workshop which I had no slight idea of what it was about, given the fact that I was at the early days of my involvement in the scene.

I recalled, if not wrong, the workshop was moderated by former Singapore national coach Seak Poh Leong and among those in room was the late Straits Times journalist Joe Dorai and half way into the session, the then national coach Barry Whitbread joined in the discussions by voicing his thoughts from the back of the room.

After the workshop was over, all the attendees were ushered into huge auditorium where a panel discussion took place and among the speakers was veteran journalist Jeffrey Low who shared his candid thoughts on the difficulties facing Singapore should we want to achieve the targets set by the project.

The demographical composition of Singapore Football had evolved ever since
Unfortunately, much of this project did not materialize due to various factors that the lofty ambition finally hit its death kerb in June 2004 when FAS declared the "Goal 2010" project was over.

However, the name "Goal 2010" lives on and more than often being a butt of the joke when come to ridicule local football when opportunity arises.

Years later, another blueprint was unveiled in 2010 with the aim to be among of the top echelon of Asian football.

Aptly named as "FAS Strategic Plan 2010-2015", the comprehensive blueprint covered wide range of aspects such as Development, Competition, Participation, etc.

While the regime in charge back then time to time assured the unconvinced public and media that the Strategic Plan was "always on the track"' to ensure things were kept in place and never short of naming some of the game's luminaries given their endorsements to the blueprint, it was seems to me this 2010 blueprint was not different from the one launched in 1998 when a peer remarked bluntly "it's a merely plan to shut people's mouth up!".

The Launch Video of "Strategic Plan"

Probably it was the case when personally I felt one of the key objectives the "Strategic Plan" failed to deliver was to have the Singapore national team play regularly, if possible, against "Top 15 in Asia and Top 50 in the world", as spelt out under the "Football Excellence" of the plan.

To sum it up, following the failure of both "Goal 2010" and the "Strategic Plan" that was supposed to guide Singapore to be among the top footballing nations, this latest chest-thumping statement that first appeared in the Straits Times, is seen by many a mission impossible given the huge handicap we facing in local football at this present moment.

The thing is we can have blueprints with fanciful names but if we cannot stick to them and unable to face the truth when issues pop up, it is pointless to have all these stuff which are nothing but some superficial gimmicks.

The logo of the "Strategic Plan"
Furthermore, it is not difficult to single out which are those areas constantly highlighted being the most problematic - the poor grassroots development, the national service issues, the lack of quality coaching, etc.

So if the above-mentioned are going to be the main focus of any new blueprint to be unveiled soon, it would be advisable to retrieve a copy of the proposals of both "Goal 2010" and "Strategic Plan" from the attic to avoid any repetition of any failed aspect of the two.


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