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

Thursday, December 01, 2016

'NO PAIN, NO GAIN' For Longer Deal ...

It is that time of the year again when S.League clubs begun the tidying of their roster to deliberate who should stay and who they should advise to leave upon fulfilled their contractual obligations.

Unlike the early seasons of the league when newspapers were able to compile a list of "retain/release" and printed out of the sport pages once the season was over, this coveted name list is something held in utmost confidential these days.

Some details are tend to be over-looked ...
As what we knew all along, a sizable number of players were on that infamous "eleven month contract" which has always been the grouse among those whose livelihood depend on the game to feed their families.

NO INCOME IN DECEMBER
Generally, a normal playing contract under the "eleven-month" term will start on the 1st of January of the calendar year and expires on the last day of November.

In another words, December is the month when there will be NO income for those whose contracts finished on the last day of the previous month when it's the precisely the period many employees are looking forward to AWS (Annual Wage Supplement) and bonus payout by their employers in other industries.

Former player Duncan Elias, who now works in the broadcasting industry, epitomized that gutted sentiment in an interview with an online publication years ago after decision to call it a day.

"In fact, some clubs give only 11-month contracts. They don’t want to pay you in December because you are not doing anything for the club in that month! How can you give your all to the club, knowing there’s no guarantee you’ll be at the club next season?” said Elias in that viral article back in March 2014.

The lack of job security and low wages as mentioned in that article highlighted the sorry state of this country's sole professional sports league which the league authority is trying to improve the image of it with little success.

It did? Hmm ...
Even the futile effort to rejuvenate the competition with external help via Lions XII's participation in the Malaysia Super League did not help but made things even worse by causing friction among the already small fraternity.

Adding salt to the wounds, there isn't much progress to establish a players' union to help to represent these professional players in times of need in spite efforts to have one whenever issues surfaced.

Nonetheless, clubs often justified their case on offering "eleven month contract" on "pragmatic" grounds.

"December is a month we are facing difficulties like getting fields to train and arrange games," explained a club official who spoke under the condition of anonymity. "But, it should also be players, themselves, to get ready for the upcoming season by having their own training regime (before season starts)."

'NO PAIN, NO GAIN'
"Bear it in mind, when people say footballers' careers are short in lifespan, the message driven across to them shall be 'They (footballers) MUST always maintain a disciplined lifestyle to keep themselves in TIP-TOP condition'.

"There is 'No Pain, No Gain' in this job and players should know this is the harsh reality as a footballer."

"It is only then justification is there to ask for better wages, longer contracts!" as said to this blogger in response to request for comments on this matter by this official who revealed some negotiations he encountered in the past saw players asking for "unjustified exorbitant" pay rise.

Having seen it all, he went on to reveal what he saw when players reported for their pre-season training which he could only lament in disbelief.

"NO READY FOR PRE-SEASON..."
"When the players reported for (pre-season) training in January, half of them were unfit and they (were due to) take their fitness test in mid-January, many of them struggled and could not achieve the incentive mark of below nine minutes.

"(For) those who passed their tests would allow coaches to work with them, but those who don't would (have to) wait for another week to re-test and this was very disruptive to our training plans."

Stoke City featured in pre-season BAT 2015
"Using European Leagues as a guide, teams begin their pre-season at early July. Following that, they will be travelling and playing friendlies and tournaments around mid-July before kick start their season mid-August. What about us?"

The same official also disputed the claims of clubs giving out deals that ended on the last day of November by citing there were contracts offered from the month of December till the end of the following season.

He said:"We had players in the past started their contracts on 1st of December right after his previous one with his old club ended just a day before, so it's wrong to say the duration of some playing contracts lasted for eleven months when the pre-season starts on 1st of January the following year!"

NEVER BEYOND CHANGI THAT OFTEN
This club official went on further to question the professionalism and priorities of some players who take up part-time jobs to supplement their income when rest and recovery should be taken seriously.

"Professional players in Singapore have the least working hours. They are also paid to rest. And do they rest? NO. They do part-time works outside like Über driving, coaching, etc." he exclaimed.

"Because some claimed that they are not paid well, coaches gave them time off (to take up these sidelines).

"Compared to the rest of the world, they don't need to travel for more than two hours for away matches except to Brunei (to play against Brunei DPMM)."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

[Guest Column] - Starry Starry Night At Kallang ...

The former players featured in last weekend's “Battle Of Europe” match between England Masters and Germany Masters had many of those at the game recalled those good old memories when they saw the likes of legends Lothar Matthäus, Teddy Sheringham, etc. took on each other in one of football's most storied rivalries at Kallang with Yusof B Ibrahim, among those at the game, who penned his thoughts on that evening.

Teddy Sheringham and Lothar Matthäus skippered their teams
It has been fifty years since England last won their first ever and only major international football honour to date - 1966 FIFA World Cup by beating West Germany 4-2 under one of the most controversial circumstances ever which is still much of a debate today.

As such, there was a sense of Déjà vu over the last weekend when the England Masters repeated the same scoreline by defeated the Germany Masters in the Battle of Europe 2016 that took place at the iconic National Stadium of the Singapore Sports Hub.

The footballing rivalry between the two nations is a massive one, England accounted some of their biggest disappointments in any major tournament against Germany that many English supporters see the Germans as their main sporting rivals.

Lothar Matthäus (left) in action
Not once but twice in recent decades saw the Die Mannschaft halted the The Three Lions from further glories since 1966 by knocked them out of contention from Italia 90 (1990 World Cup in Italy) and Euro 96 (1996 UEFA European Football Championship in England), both on penalties in the semi-final stages and went on to win both tournaments in the end.

Italia 90 was the start of my adoration towards both German and English football with the admiration of legends like Lothar Matthäus, Jurgen Klinsmann, Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson.

It was definitely a mixed feeling then when both met again in the semi-finals during Euro 96 that I was torn in between to see who would I want to make it through that stage.

Darren Anderton (left) tried to stop a German advancement
The Battle of Europe brought back a lot of memories.

To be able to watch those legends whom I idolized during my growing up years in live was a dream come true. It was a privilege to meet up former players like Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman and Darren Anderton who were part of that England squad eliminated by the Germans in the Euro 96.

And not forgetting Matthäus, who only arrived in Singapore on the match day, to renew the storied rivalry between the two at Kallang.

Yusof (left) with former Liverpool 'keeper David James (credit: Yusof B Ibrahim)
All these while, we may have seen them in action during those weekend nights on television in those good ol' days but nothing can beat the joy and enthusiasm to witness them in live action like how I was in awe to see Sheringham, cool and composed as always, provided a pinpoint cross to Anderton for account opening header in the 2nd minute before unleashed a driver from close-range to extend the lead in the 28th minute.
  • Views expressed may not be that of the blog owner. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lions snapped losing streak just before flight to Manila.


Coach Sundram (in blue jacket) facing the media
To sum up the Singapore National Football Team's final warming up before heading off to Manila this coming Tuesday – to win the game, the feeling is great but to score a goal, it's bonus.

The one-nil win over the visiting Cambodian national team at the Bishan Stadium was indeed a relief to everyone in the Lions setup whose preparation for the biennial regional showpiece – the AFF Suzuki Cup, hasn't been smooth sailing since national caretaker coach V Sundram moorthy took over back in May.

With the most of the participating countries already confirmed their list of 23 for the tournament, the former Lions striker decided to buckle the trend by stated he will only do so when arrived in the Philippines in reply to a query from the media after the game.

“I will only reveal when we are in Philippines,” said Coach Sundram during the post-match press conference on the to-be-finalized squad which is now trimmed to 24 men with one more spot up for grab after delisted the likes of 'keeper Zaiful Nizam, defender Irfan Fandi Ahmad, and forwards Shawal Anuar and Iqbal Hussain Hamid in midweek.

The recent inclusion of both Shahdan Sulaiman and Shahfiq Ghani whom both just recovered from serious injuries would suggested the options are limited for the “Dazzler” who tried a number of available players as he could in recent weeks via training tours to Japan and Bahrain.

Apparently, a number of those who thought would make the cut fallen off the radar as the deadline drew closer with many fans registered their concern via social media questioning the selection criteria of the 51-year-old tactician.

Differed from the flair he was associated during his playing days, Coach Sundram is known these day being someone pragmatic and it was said his inputs helped to engineer the Lions'goal-less draw against Asian powerhouses Japan in last June.

So it came little surprise when he summarized his thoughts last night in Bishan, the one-time FC Basel marksman started off by saying:“A win is a win but friendlies are just friendlies where you can win all the friendlies, however the real test will come when we will play our first game against Philippines.”

“In modern football, there are no pushovers and it is the performance of the day that matters.” he added.

Yasir Hanapi (left) scored the only goal (credit: Playmaker)
On the match that saw Tampines Rovers' Yasir Hanapi scored the only goal in the 70th minute to end the Lions' six-match losing streak in front of the sell-out crowds of 2,946, Coach Sundram opined it was a better display from his team in the second half as compared to the first.

“We came back strongly in the second half where our players dominated the game,” said the former Negri Sembilan coach. “We shown more mobility and getting more crosses into the box, although I felt we are losing the ball too cheaply in the game.”

At the end of the day, Coach Sundram also shown his appreciation to the fans who turned out to show their support.

He said:“I would like to thank the fans who always stand behind us and we will do our best to show what we can achieve.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Important Milestone As FAS Approved New Constitution ...

Outgoing FAS president Zainudin Nordin
"It is an important milestone in Singapore football!" as declared by the outgoing Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin in the press conference that took place after the Extraordinary General Meeting (EOGM) at the Jalan Besar Stadium last evening.

EXHAUSTIVE ENGAGING
The EOGM was called upon to pass the proposed new constitution for the game's local governing body after the initial plan to approve it was aborted in late September following requests from delegates for further consultations and amendments to be made on it.

And the outcome eventually saw the delegates (38 out of the 46 of them) presented at the EOGM unanimously voted in favour to endorse the new constitution and paved the way to have elections in place for the FAS office-bearers for first time in over 30 years.

Lim confirmed his intention to form a team
Throughout the media session, the panelists, that also included FAS vice-presidents Lim Kia Tong, Edwin Tong, Council Member S Thavaneson and General-Secretary Winston Lee, painstakingly emphasized exhaustive discussions had been taken place with relevant stakeholders before the concluding of what Lim said “is a sacred document” for local football.

“The unanimously vote in favour for the new constitution has demonstrated each member (delegates) is fully confident with the elements of it that will propel FAS further (to new heights).” said Lim, a 64-year-old lawyer who also serves as the deputy chairman of FIFA's disciplinary committee.

"PATIENT IS THE KEY": DELEGATE
Concurring same sentiment is Hussain Razzak, the Honorary Secretary of Admiralty CSC.

“I am quite satisfied with the amendments (that are) made to accede to requests from the members,” said Mr Hussain, one of those delegates presented in EOGM.

“It's a lot of hard work needed to bring the confidence of Singapore football back in the right limelight with patience is the key that hopefully, the ground work will be productive and positive for our game (from now on).

“As long as they (FAS) have the blueprint all planned out with the relevant bodies supporting the new team in office, I will fully support them as long as it is a win-win situation for all in Singapore football.” added the veteran youth coach based in Woodlands region.

MP Edwin Tong is one of the FAS vice-presidents
ELECTION BY MAY 2017 
According to the process, a Provisional Council whose members will be appointed by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), under the existing constitution, to assume the role of the current FAS council when the latter's term of office expires on the 15th of November.

Therefore, the priority for this Provisional Council is to ensure a seamless handling over of duties during this critical period which will see the landmark elections taking place to elect new office-bearers by May 2017 which Tong hopes to see the vote takes place “the sooner the better” to ensure smooth transition of powers.

In an official media release issued shortly later in the evening, it is stated that the “proposed amendments were made to align the FAS with FIFA’s statutes, of which a pertinent point is to have a freely elected council to head the Association.

The new 15-member FAS Council will see the President, Deputy President, four Vice Presidents and three other members elected as a slate, while individual candidates can contest the six remaining seats on the Council.

The panel at the press conference
There will also be three further positions on the Council, co-opted at the discretion of the Executive Committee, that will be allocated to candidates who possess technical skills and knowledge beneficial to the administration of football.

The new Constitution will now be sent to the authorities (i.e.: MCCY, Registry of Societies, etc.) for final clearance, and the elections will then be called in due course.”

Thursday, November 03, 2016

After Thirteenth Years, The White Swans Landed ...

Harvest Year for Albirex Niigata (Singapore)
Newly-crowned Great Eastern Yeo's S.League Albirex Niigata (Singapore) signed off their season in style when they walked away with three notable awards in the annual S.League Awards Night held days ago at Marina Bay Sands.

Striker Atsushi Kawata was named the recipient to the prestigious "Player of The Year" award, alongside his coach Naoki Naruo who collected the "Coach of The Year" accolade and team mate Tomoki Menda was credited to have scored the "Goal of The Year".

Atsushi Kawata (center) is "Player Of The Year"
On top of that, the White Swans also picked up the "Fair Play" award on the same evening that, however, saw Naofumi Tanaka lost out to national midfielder M Anumanthan in the "Young Player of The Year" category.

SURREAL EXPERIENCE ...
Should that happened, it would be an almost total domination both off and on the field as well, following the unprecedented sweep of all four major trophies in Singapore football by the Yuhua-based club.

While heralded the just concluded season as a fruitful yet surreal experience, Albirex's General Manager Koh Mui Tee forsee it will be challenging for his team in the upcoming season.

Coach Naoki Naruo (right) completed the impossible
"Next year will be a tough year for us," said Koh who spoke to this blogger on obstacles ahead facing his team. "I think the local clubs will be very determined to beat Albirex next season."

"I am glad the hardwork by the whole club, from the players to the coaches to the administrators have finally come to fruition after thirteen years,

"The feeling is surreal, but we are happy that we have many trophies to show to our fans and supporters at the end of the season." added the administrator who joined club since 2010.

Naofumi Tanaka (5) missed out on the podium
In spite of calls to seek removal of foreign clubs from the S.League, as championed by "Majulah SG Football" (one of the groups, led by former Woodlands Wellington manager R Vengadasalam, touted to run for the upcoming FAS elections) who listed that notion as one of their manifesto, their existence are deemed beneficial to some in the scene.

"There must be something we can learn from (them), so if we can pick up those good details from their success, we have learned." said Coach Philippe Aw who seemingly felt the presence of the foreign clubs in the league should be seen as a value-added initiative.

HARD WORK AND DESIRE?
Coach Aw, who started off his coaching path from the youth level, went on further to elaborate his thoughts.

He said:"For many seasons, Albirex displayed a good brand of football. It's something which over the years as a young coach I watched, learned and then applied.

"(When) the last two seasons' league titles were won by foreign sides (Brunei DPMM won the title in 2015), we have to ask ourselves why? Could it be hard work and desire?"

After thirteenth years, the White Swans landed
Nonetheless, some quarters felt the recent successes enjoyed by both Albirex and DPMM are because they are not perturbed by problems facing the local clubs such as national team's training schedules, international dates stipulated by FIFA, etc. to which Aw felt those are mere "distractions".

He believed all these boiled down onto how trainings are to be conducted where teams would improve in areas like communication and better understanding within the team.

"Football is about communication between the eleven players and how we improve (on) this is through training effectively as a team." explained the 39-year-old who guided the S.League Selection to the Sultan of Selangor Cup victory back in May in Shah Alam.

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