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."

Friday, March 02, 2018

Possible Revival of Merlion Cup With This New MOU?

Can the "Kallang Roar" return to National Stadium
Will the three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and SportsHub Pte Ltd, the operators of Singapore Sports Hub, signed days ago set the pace to see the much-awaited revival of the Merlion Cup in the local football calendar?

In the recent years, futile attempts were made to revive the invitational tournament, last staged in 2009 as an one-off fixture when English side Liverpool were featured against the Singapore national team, in the iconic 55,000-capacity National Stadium.

The well-documented spat back in late 2015 between SportsHub and MP & Silva, FAS commercial and media rights partner, over the venue rental costs eventually had the plan shelved indefinitely after talks between both parties broke down.

Reason why FAS did not organize Merlion Cup in 1987 (source: NST)
Since the reopening of the National Stadium in mid 2014, for the Lions to play in this cornerstone of the Sports Hub seems to be something of a luxury and have to make do with 11 out of the possible 22 home fixtures at the smaller venues like Jalan Besar Stadium, Hougang Stadium.

Under the new agreement, the both organizations have committed to a minimum of seven matches to be played at the Sports Hub with a "Home of the Lions" initiative in place to generate deeper engagement with the community through activities like football festivals and stadium tours, according to the joint media release issued by both FAS and SportsHub.

When asked if the revival of tournaments such as the Merlion Cup and Lion City Cup would help to fulfill the minimum requirement of games to be played at the National Stadium, FAS said they will be working together with SportsHub on those relevant aspects following the announcement of the said MOU.

In an email reply to this blog, FAS Deputy Director (Marketing) Rikram Singh said:"The Football Association of Singapore and the Singapore Sports Hub are working together to finalise the calendar of events and matches that will both excite fans and create a vibrant slew of activities at the Home of the Lions. More details on these upcoming matches and activities will be announced in due course." 

Still a long way to go before have this being a common sight at Kallang
However, with year 2018 being the World Cup year, there might be a tendency that many marquee teams and names may decline any invitation from the Republic in order to prepare for the greatest show on earth, even though the International Champions Cup (ICCSG) will be staging its second edition at the National Stadium in few months down the road.

It would also be difficult to entice these top quality sides to play friendly matches here in Singapore given the evolution that taken place in the game for past decades, an opinion shared with this blogger by a game analyst.

"It will be a very good treat for the fans if we are able to invite strong foreign age-group teams or even full national teams for a mini-tournament series like the Merlion Cup." said Tam Cheong Yan, a longtime observer of local football.

"But it may not be as easy as it was, say, twenty years ago. Football standards around the world have changed, and top-billing teams like England, Uruguay or even Japan are going to need a lot of persuading to come here and play against Singapore.

"But those are the kind of teams fans want to see. They may not respond so well if we secure good but not-so-glamorous opponents - and even those teams will take some convincing to decide to come here."

** UPDATE: FAS replied to the query sent by this blog and this entry is being updated with the reply from the relevant official on 3rd of March 2018. **

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Matchpix" - January 2018

(P.S: If you access this site via "", 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)

  • ABL - Slingers vs Alab Pilipinas 070118
Alab's Renaldo Balkman (34) met with some Slingers' resistance
The first basketball compilation of the year saw Singapore Slingers lost 80-89 (after OT) to Alab Pilipinas at the OCBC Arena in this exciting ASEAN Basketball League fixture.


  • ABL - Slingers vs Mono Vampire 190118
Mono's Samuel Deguara (orange top) tried to force his way past Slingers' Chris Charles
Singapore Slingers' mini renaissance of late in their ongoing ASEAN Basketball League campaign came to an abruptly end with a 88-91 defeat to Mono Vampire Basketball Club at the OCBC Arena of Singapore Sports Hub.


  • ABL - Slingers vs Westports M'sia Dragrons 280118
Slingers' Chris Charles hold on to the possession
Singapore Slingers finally ended their recent home drought with a hard fought win over Westports Malaysia Dragons at the OCBC Arena in the Singapore Sports Hub. The win after two OTs saw the hosts retained the "Straits Cup" - an annual two-game series featuring these two Causeway rivals in the regular ASEAN Basketball League season.


  • DPMM's Agreement Extension Ceremony 300118
DPMM stay in local scene
DPMM FC and Football Association of Singapore entered an agreement that will see the continuing participation of the sultanate's only professional club taking part in the Republic's professional football league on a "1+2" basis.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Import Quota of DPMM Raised Eyebrows

DPMM will continue their involvement (file snap)
The participation of Brunei DPMM in the S.League has been under much scrutiny following revelations in recent media reports that the Sultanate's professional club was mulling a withdrawal from the Republic's setup to take part in leagues in either Malaysia or Indonesia.

However, updates posted on the team's official website suggested that they had changed their mind and will continue their involvement in the Singapore domestic football scene which they did since 2004 when the Wasps (the nickname of DPMM) were first featured in the Singapore Cup tournament.

On the same page of the aforementioned site, it was also made known, as quoted below.
The notion was further confirmed when the newly-appointed DPMM coach Rene Weber revealed in an article reported by BruSports News, a sports portal based in Brunei, that "DPMM FC are looking to sign four imports for the new season with two of them being under the age of 25".

This latest development raised a few eyebrows in this blog's Facebook Page where the said BruSports News' article was shared.

"How many sets of rules we have in sleague? (sic)" said one who replied citing the fact some rules are to be enforced in the coming season like local clubs are only allowed to sign two foreign players.

Meanwhile, another commented:" I think the key is how many they can put in the matchday squad and how many they can field. (sic)" on belief if what suggested by Coach Weber is going to be the case.

DPMM is Brunei's only professional football team (file snap)
Several club officials declined comment on the mentioned DPMM's import quota when approached.

Nonetheless, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) replied to the queries put forwarded by this blogger on this matter late last evening.

“The Football Association of Singapore is in discussions with Brunei DPMM FC on their participation in the 2018 domestic professional league. We are also in engagement with the other participating clubs on the matter. An announcement will be made in due course.” said a FAS spokesman in an email reply received this morning.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Mindset Tweak To Stay Relevant For NFL Clubs ...

Despite calls from all corners to push Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to implement the promotion/relegation system between the professional S.League and the amateur National Football League (NFL) in order to inject the much-needed competitiveness among clubs, this blogger is still not in favour of this conventional practice commonly used in most football leagues around the world.

Those who bothers can refer to this old entry to find out why this blog insisted promotion/relegation system is not feasible in Singapore football.

Added on to the recent embarrassments (source 1, 2) that occurred in recent weeks did little to improve the image of the NFL either.

NFL sides would have to tweak their mindset to stay relevant (file picture)
It is no secret that some of these NFL clubs harbouring thoughts of becoming part of the S.League one day but are being hamstrung by unfavourable climate of the game all along.

Perhaps, it is time to adapt a different approach to see how the NFL can contribute effectively to the growth of the game in the republic.

One of the ways is the establishment of a "farm system" in the ecosystem which, however, requires these amateur sides to give up their professional ambition for good and also to ensure good governance in their internal structure as well to compliment with what is going to suggest later in this entry.

The concept of “farm system” will see a partnership forged between the S.League and NFL clubs similarly to baseball's Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs have with their minor leagues affiliates in the United States.

The baseball "farm system" operates in a way that most new players drafted by MLB clubs do not usually start immediately in the big league but from the lower tiers of the minor leagues to hone their skills before they are ready for the big time.

It took years for baseball players to be ready to play in MLB (credit: Nick Jio on Unsplash)
In another words, the minor league is a "nursery" for the MLB clubs like how the collegiate system (i.e.: NCAA) is nurturing talents for basketball's NBA, etc.

Throughout the years, the fallout rate in the scene witnessed many raw talents did not sustain long enough to see them reach the level to play in the S.League due to factors like academic pursuing and the mandatory National Service.

Crippled by the "elitism" policy which had further eroded the already small talent pool, we might accidentally filtered away some of those "later boomers" along the way and live with regret for not giving them a second chance.

A "farm system" program could serve as an option to put things in place to ensure the conveyor belt is working to churn out the talents, if the NFL clubs are willing to fit into the proposed plan.

One suggestion this blog can offer is to have a S.League club pool its resources together with one or a few NFL affiliates to form a cluster that would see a bigger pool of players being formed out of it.

The roles within this cluster should further defined as in the NFL affiliates will see themselves function as a "nursery" for rookies signed by the cluster for a minimum period of one year to prepare them for the professional game and at the meantime allow those injured professional S.League players to regain match fitness during their rehabilitation period by turning out in NFL matches, given the absence of Prime League.

Whereas the S.League club of the cluster will now be able to focus its role being main source for national team and leaving the rest of the fundamental grooming in the hands of their NFL affiliates.

(L-R) Former Lions like Itimi Dickson and Ali Imran Lomri turned out for NFL side SRC in 2014
Both "Balestier" can work out something like forming a "cluster"
Not just the playing staff, this cluster arrangement should also allows the strengthening of the backroom support (eg: administration, etc.) among the affiliates by providing support for each other, when necessary.

The formation of the suggested cluster can be based on locality (eg: Balestier Khalsa working with its NFL namesake Balestier United) or S.League club Home United (who is associated with Ministry of Home Affairs) to form a strategic partnership with its "distant cousins" - Police Sports Association.

To give up something they have been striving so hard is a bitter pill to swallow but with the local game at its lowest point, this blogger would urge all stakeholders to look at things in a perspective for a bigger picture.

Any idea and proposal that come along the way now is nothing more than a gamble that is bound to meet with skepticism and doubts.

But at the end of the day, we shall not let the fear of uncertainty and unknown to deter us from steering out of the tunnel, more importantly - never to repeat the mistakes we made in the past.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

[Annual Review] - "Heaven Knows"

To be honest, when "Team LKT" and their allies sworn in as the new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council - the highest decision making organ of the game's local governing body, this blogger wonder if those voting delegates ever regretted their decisions after witnessed what were unfolded subsequently following that controversial landmark election?

Banking on the experiences of those who served in the past councils and despite the "historical baggage" embedded on them, the team headed by lawyer Lim Kia Tong, who convinced some of their fiercest critics to join their camp, crushed their challengers - "FAS Game Changers" convincingly to take office.

Can Lim Kia Tong and his council bring the faith back to Singapore Football?
However, little time was given to these newly-elected office bearers to acclimatize their roles, the new Council soon realized it's a tough battle to pull the beleaguered sport out of the doldrums from the moment they were voted in by the majority of 44 affiliates on 29th of April.

With various national age-group sides showing no sign of improvement in tournaments such as the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers (for the national 'A' team) and the South East Asia Games (for the Cubs), FAS was dealt with another blow when news of pending reduction in subsidies from the Tote Board surfaced.

It will be a devastating blow to many clubs in the so-called professional S.League whose lifeline depended heavily on those Tote Board subsidies.

After reading this, it would hardly be a surprise if the clubs are being told subsequent fundings from Tote Board, which is administered via local sports governing agency - Sport Singapore, will be "A DOLLAR TO MATCH A DOLLAR" basis.

The subsidies have been misinterpreted as something taken for granted by some clubs that even during those "good times" when big bonanza were dished out in the past, there were reports of some clubs still "pleading for more help" in this aspect.

S.League clubs are struggling to stay afloat.
While being someone not in the shoes of those struggling club administrators but it's fair to say after more than twenty years in business, some clubs just don't deserve any sympathy for having mired in this malaise.

It is kind of painful to read those woeful tales that have been making around the circle detailing the dire situations to keep things afloat.

Tanjong Pagar United was one of the founding clubs in the S.League
For that is the reason why little sympathy should be shown to either Gombak United or Tanjong Pagar United when the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to revoke the jackpot licenses of these two clubs under the revised criteria.

One comment that replied to the posting on the above-mentioned by this blog's Facebook page sums up well.

Said Shawn Lim:"Gombak had 19 years, while Tanjong Pagar had 21 years to find an alternative revenue stream. So, hard to feel sorry for their predicament at the moment (sic)."

Rather than taking steps to turn things around, the approach initiated by the folks at Jalan Besar Stadium suggested they are going to make do with what is available for them if the reduction is going to take place.

It will be a huge disappointment for the lack of willpower and determination to rid away from the existing operation model that failed us for more than two decades.

Questions will have to be raised on why is the S.League facing the same stagnancy with little effort by the decision makers to get things back on track despite having the mandate to bring the local football forward?

Following his side's successful retaining of the Great Eastern Hyundai S.League title, Albirex Niigata (Singapore) General Manager Koh Mui Tee said:"If you aim for mediocrity, you will get mediocre results."

A strong statement that shall be seen as a wake up call after for second year on a roll had all four major honours in local football swept by the Yuhua-based side who also boasted the tightest backline in the nine-team league.

Albirex Niigata (S)'s success in recent years is hard to be matched by local clubs.
The rise of the Japanese club in the League in recent years has been phenomenon and concluded they are not longer one of the whipping boys like in their early days.

The irony part is the team is filled with many youngsters who barely started off their professional playing career in a setup with high turnover rate annually.

Having witnessed how Albirex youngsters ripped apart his team - the one-time powerhouse of Singapore football - Warriors FC, Coach Razif Onn could only echoed what his Garena Young Lions counterpart Vincent Subramaniam said weeks earlier that the gap will only be narrowed between local and those Japanese players if the former are willing to put in more efforts and disciplined in their game.

Both Warriors and Geylang Int'l fought for AFC club tournament qualifications.
The wide gulf of standard between the White Swans and the rest of the League led to an awkward situation where other clubs (except for another foreign side - Brunei DPMM) were jostling to be the second or third best at the end of the day in order to qualify for the continental tournaments such as the AFC Cup.

It has been an embarrassment for local football when Singapore, for the last two consecutive seasons due to regulations, were not represented by teams who were neither league champions nor premier domestic cup holders (DPMM and Albirex won the S.League title and RHB Singapore Cup respectively in 2015).

In an attempt to resuscitate the ailing competition, it was announced a proposal to enforce all local S.League clubs (except for Albirex Niigata (S), Brunei DPMM and Garena Young Lions) "to recruit at least six Under-23 footballers for their squads, with a minimum of three Under-23 players to feature in the starting 11 for each match."

The aim of this move, on top of the reduction of import quota to two from three, is to allow more local young players to play in the S.League in order to widen the pool for the national team selectors in the near future.

Hougang Utd's coach Philippe Aw and his follow coaches will have some headaches ahead.
Prior to that announcement, this blogger shared the following views in a TODAY article, as quoted below.

“Given the ‘heavily-centralised grooming’ of our players using the National Football Academy system and results of late of these age-group teams at international level, I am not sure if these players are ready for the intensiveness of a professional league,”

“We could see more young players in the league if this ruling is enforced but they may not necessarily be good enough for the national team, as international football is more demanding in areas like pace and tactical awareness, and the S-League isn’t able to provide that kind of environment at the moment.”

Whilst the intention is to allow more exposure for players of that age group to a higher level of competitive football, several factors should be taken into account during the implementation of this weird ruling, as highlighted in one of the articles appeared in the Straits Times and a commentary published by TODAY.

1) Is the current pool of Under-23 players big enough to cater for the demand in events of non availability due to injuries, suspensions, etc.?

2) Is the quality of the available Under-23 players good enough to cope with the demand of a professional league (after all, clubs can't blindly sign players for the sake of comply to the ruling)?

3) Would it also meant coaches are not longer have their final say in their team selection when the "minimum three Under-23" ruling is confirmed, since they may able to field their ideal starters in their mind?

We are always told never to pass a judgement after the job is done.

Sad to say though, such a luxury is never to be accorded to Singapore Football at this juncture after a number of setbacks and disappointments that it hardly surprised to see the lack of faith by many on the decision makers to restore the faith in it.

Hassan heading back to Thai League is a positive jab to local football.
What the local game need most is a tangible injection of positiveness to put that faith back to it and perhaps the news of national custodian Hassan Sunny's pending return to Thai League football and interest shown on Irfan Fandi by Thai side Bangkok Glass could be singled out as one such positivity as it proved Singapore players can play at a higher level.

After the Lions' exit from the Asian Cup Qualifiers, national coach V Sundram moorthy had set his target to do well in next year's AFF championship which has always been seen as "faith restorer" of local football.

Having said that, are we likely to do well next year? Heaven Knows.

(P.S.: This blog entry was prepared way before yesterday's (18th December 2017) announcement and it was already scheduled to publish on 19th December 2017.)


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