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."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

First, Get Your Basic Right Then We Talk

Probably by now the newly-appointed Singapore national team coach Tatsuma Yoshida should more or less have a rough idea where our level of football is after the two recent matches that served as an orientation for the Japanese tactician.

Coach Tatsuma Yoshida is the first Japanese coach of the Lions
When his name was mentioned on various media reports prior to the official unveiling by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) early this month, many skepticism clouded over his appointment which mainly targeted at his less-than-impressive curriculum vitae.

Still the former Jurong FC player pressed ahead and went straight down to business by taking charge of the Lions in the recent friendly matches against Solomon Islands and Myanmar at Kallang.

THE USUAL BRICKBATS
Barely surprising after an unconvincing 4-3 win over Solomon Islands and a 2-1 defeat to Myanmar, critics were quick to jump onto the bandwagon to make their voices heard although there are those who felt it's still early days for Yoshida to conclude anything from the aforementioned outcomes given the fact he barely took over the hot seat.

With the resuming of the Singapore Premier League (SGPL) following the international week, it will be no surprise to see the new gaffer be making his rounds at the four venues to have a closer look at the limited playing pool for his upcoming assignment - Asia's World Cup Qualifiers (draw is scheduled later this month).

Former Lions' skipper Nazri Nasir (left) is Yoshida's assistant
Limited in a sense that do we have a pool of players readily to put on the red Lions jerseys when the past two seasons already saw an influx of young, raw talents filling up the starting line ups week in and out?

Don't get me wrong for singled out young players for any wrong reason, if we do have guys like the impact made by Hariss Harun years back, we should be happy and have that sense of comfort but in an old post I blogged some times ago, are we doing the right thing to push those "wet behind the ears" players to the professional ranks?

HAVE THE RIGHT PLAYERS FOR THE LIONS?
The SGPL being the top tier tournament of the local football pyramid supposedly to be the platform where the best of the land to compete among others and ideally, we should gradually allow young players with good potential to slowly blend into the system.

But have we actually turned it into the developmental league in the pursue of having our raw talents "fast track" to improve their game while lower the overall standard of the league?

This is the thought that came to me when I was told privately a former SGPL coach lamented his players are not equipped with strong fundamentals in order to allow them to play according to the tactics he had in mind.

Tactical board was used in tactical planning
And when coach Yoshida was quoted in a Straits Times report after his first session with the Lions, I can't help but having them in the same synergy to highlight one of questions we have to think really hard.

"The quality is not too bad, but not very good. Some players have better technique, while some have not enough but make up for it with energy." said coach Yoshida to the broadsheet.

Kudos for the Japanese coach for being candid in his first assessment and it certainly affirmed the fact that we do have players who are not strong in their basic foundations of the game.

We seen it for ourselves in those two matches played at the National Stadium and it was not hard to see who were the guilty ones for not living up to the expectations for some of those basic mistakes committed in those games.

Coach Yoshida showing example in training
I had the opportunity to see one of the training sessions conducted at Geylang Field and based on one of the drills used, it was not hard to tell what coach Yoshida wants from his players - quick decision making, quick passing, quick movement on and off the ball.

WHAT IS A 'NATIONAL COACH'?
The role of the national coach is, after all, to get a group of players to represent the country and execute the game tactics, etc. when all other essentials are supposed to be pre-requisite for any national player. ⠀

As such, for players who are selected to represent the country to play at the highest level, it is unacceptable to commit any schoolboy's error during any game when they should already have those fundamentals embedded in their football DNA.

Nonetheless, if the players done their part and failed to deliver despite adhered to what their coach wanted, it would be another story.

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Matchpix" - April/May 2019

  • SGPL - Home United 2-1 Young Lions 060419
What a joy!
The Young Lions did not make it that easy for Home United to claim all three points in the latter's 2-1 win over the former at the Bishan Stadium. Izzdin Shafiq and Adam Swandi scored for Home, Joshua Pereira cancelled out Izzdin's opener a minute later to claim YL's only goal of the match in eighth minute.

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  • SGPL - Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Young Lions 030519
Dejected ...
Managed to get the camera in order in time, first attempt after a long while without using a monopod (as advised by a venerable photographer) and using the setting at "K 5000", I had my first night outing of the year.

Young Lions revenged for the humiliating loss in their season opener by defeated Balestier Khalsa 1-0 at Bishan Stadium.

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  • Merlion Cup 2019 Press Conference 150519
This Merlion Cup trophy was the same one hoisted by Liverpool in 2009 
The once marquee event of Singapore football calendar is revived and will see Singapore U22 take on their Filipino counterparts on 7th June which on the same day will see Thailand U22 and Indonesia U22 in action as well.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

THE (NEW) MERLION CUP IN JUNE ...

The new Merlion Cup trophy was unveiled by the members of the FAS Council
It was mere formality earlier this afternoon at the Jalan Besar Stadium (JBS) to confirm the revival of the Merlion Cup tournament this coming June following news of its coming back being broke by Fox Sports Asia weeks ago.

Back in late April, the online portal first reported the Philippines U22 side will be taking part in the mentioned tournament and posted another update days ago that revealed the dates and venue of the quadrangular which will be taking place on 7th and 9th June at the JBS.

Former Lions skipper Terry Pathmanathan (second from left) shares his Merlion Cup experiences
In a draw that was conducted during the press conference at JBS VIP Lounge, the fate of the four participating teams namely - the U22 sides of Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were made known.

THE FORMAT ...
The first day (7th June) of the tournament will see Thailand vs Indonesia in the first match with the Philippines taking on hosts Singapore in the second match that follows.

The winning teams of both matches will meet in the final on the 9th June, the third fourth placing match featuring the losing sides will take place before the final on the same day at the JBS.

The outcome of the draw of this tournament
"NEW" TROPHY UNVEILED
The press conference also saw the unveiling of the trophy to be awarded to the winning side of the revived tournament, it was the same trophy used in the 2009 one-off match between the Singapore National Team and English Premier League side Liverpool FC at the old National Stadium.

This trophy was hoisted by Jamie Carragher in 2009
This was revealed to this platform by Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in reply to queries forwarded to check on the status of the original trophy which was insured for $30,000, as reported by the now-defunct Singapore Monitor back in 3rd December 1983.

“The trophy design which was unveiled on Wednesday (15th May), is the same as the one that was lifted when the tournament was held in 2009. The previous trophy was decommissioned, hence the new design which will be used for the upcoming as well as subsequent tournaments.” said a FAS spokesman in an email reply.

NOT AT KALLANG ...
Interestingly, the tournament will not be staged at the iconic National Stadium of the Singapore Sports Hub despite the three-year MOU inked last year between FAS and SportsHub Pte Ltd.

Earlier attempt to revive the tournament, which was first held in 1982, hit a snag after a breakdown in negotiation between MP & Silva, the then FAS commercial partners and SportsHub Pte Ltd back in 2015.

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.

Seah argued his case (NLB archives)
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?

(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)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

"Matchpix" - January/February/March 2019

  • Friendly - Balestier Khalsa 5-1 Admiralty CSC 120119
Pre-season friendlies are usually staged on afternoon
Balestier Khalsa beat Admiralty CSC 5-1 at the Toa Payoh Stadium, this match was the first of the three scheduled by the Tigers, as published on their social media platforms.

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  • AIA Community Shield - ANS 0-0 HUFC (HU win on PK) 230219
HU's Abdil Qaiyyim clears the danger in the box
Home United claimed the first major honour of local football by winning the AIA Community Shield on penalties and broke the domination of Albirex Niigata (Singapore) for the last three years.

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  • SGPL - Hougang Utd 1-5 Tampines Rovers 030319
Something tussling at the edge of the box
Honestly, not a result that most were looking forward to especially how Hougang United was hyped up before the start of the season with some notable signings to change their fortune in recent years. Still, it is just the start to a new season and hope the Cheetahs will sort things out fast before it is too late.

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  • SGPL - Balestier Khalsa 0-1 Hougang United 090319
This wasn't the final score during the capturing of this shot
Faris Ramli scored his second goal since the start of the year to help his side Hougang United to beat Balestier Khalsa 1-0 at Bishan Stadium.

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