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, July 12, 2017

Facing The Reality To Search For Another Imran And Shawal

I would say to those folks who are upset of the poor showings by the various age group sides of the national team of late - LET'S FACE THE REALITY.

The reality being we are now one of the footballing minnows in the region where we were once part of the dominant force with the constant bragging of being the champions of South East Asia for four times.

MINNOWS IN SEA
Taking into account of the recent string of poor results that saw the defeats by the likes of India, Laos, Chinese Taipei, etc. had shown how things fallen apart since Coach Raddy Avramovic gifted us the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012.

Still, the Asean title is something that is not sustaintial enough to place us on the pedestal, given its status not exactly as prestigious as the Asian Cup organized by the continent's game governing body - the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Khairul Amri (front) watches as play continued in a league match in 2016
Sadly, the obsession of parochial glory in local football proved to be a hindrance to move the game forward when it should and the local game administrators should have realized it when we were soundly beaten by Jordan months after being crowned as the Asean champions in 2013.

But those signs were not being paid much attention to and resulted to what we have today.

Which is why when columnist John Duerden commented in his recent piece for TODAY saying the concept of Garena Young Lions "looks to be approaching its sell-by date", I couldn't agree more.

"YOUNG LIONS" - OUTDATED CONCEPT
The "Young Lions" project, which was started in 2003, has been seen as the cornerstone in the development of national players despite being perceived as an "elite" program which attracted much criticism because of its reclusiveness.

While there were those who lauded the concept of having the de-facto national youth squad to gain experience by playing against much tougher opponents in the S.League, the current embarrassing form of the team that is the core of Singapore's representative to this year's South East Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur had many believed things aren't likely to improve after that humiliating outing on home soils two years back.

Sablon against "Young Lions" exit from S.League
In an interview with The Straits Times back in March, Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) Technical Director Michel Sablon cautioned the move to pull the "Young Lions" out of the professional league.

"The only way to close the gap is to do what we're doing - put young players in a demanding environment to play at a higher level than they normally play. We are working for the future of Singapore football and it will take time." said the Belgian in that interview with the SPH broadsheet.

True to extend certain of what the former Belgian assistant national coach preached, however, looking at things over the years and it's hardly convincing to see players, who went through the system, benefit much from extended playing time.

ONLY THESE MUCH THEY CAN DO ...
We really have to ask how much improvement shown by those "Young Lions" alumni after they moved on to other clubs, as in have the tutelage that provides the best facilities prepared them to take Singapore football to the next level?

At this stage, we can only counted the last three Asean titles won as the best testament the "Young Lions" had done for Singapore football with those teams were populated by their alumni.

Throughout the years, cries had been made to disband the "Young Lions" and release players to clubs who are always at the losing end to release young players they groomed to the former for the "national cause".

Having these young players release to clubs would allow another way to groom them under a new environment which might turn out to be better option, who knows?

Instead of having a group of inexperienced chaps to fend on their own against a much tougher opponents we seen all these while, youngsters should appreciate the presence of experienced seniors to guide them on and off the field.

Besides having seasoned team mates to show them the ropes, it's also up to these young players to prove their worth.

Imran Sahib plays for Tampines Rovers this season
Citing the example of Imran Sahib during his first stint with Home United in early 2000s.

IMRAN SAHIB THRIVED UNDER COMPETITION AT BISHAN
Back then, the Protectors, under English coach Steve Darby, were packed with the likes of Egmar Goncalves, Indra Sahdan, Peres De Oliveira, etc. but Imran was impressive enough to establish himself as a regular winger alongside another guy by the name of Sutee Suksomkit.

It proven that presence of experienced players in a team is essential to promote competition within the team and motivate youngsters to work harder to earn their stripes, as no one is indispensable and only those who worked hard will deserve a place in the first eleven.

That is something absent in the present culture of the "Young Lions" even though they had Lions striker Khairul Amri as a "mentoring figure" in last season that didn't quite work out and saw the marksman rejoined the Stags this season.

Shawal Anuar (center) - a rarity out of NFL in recent years
Furthermore in that same interview, if Sablon had suggested that the "Prime League ... is simply not strong enough to push the team." and why isn't there a viable plan to improve the competitiveness of it together with the amateur National Football League (NFL)?

After all, both Prime League and NFL are always singled out as important part of local football ecosystem, so why not allow the disbandment of the "Young Lions" and send the youngsters back to where they have to work their way to prove their worth to become another Shawal Anuar in the making?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

[Event] RELIVE MEMORIES OF 1991 ...

(This entry is formulated by the media release issued by Full Circle PR, the PR agency for the mentioned event)

I think those who are in same age group as me would recall back in May 1991 when two English powerhouses - Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC faced each other in a front of a split partisan crowds of 45,000 at the old National Stadium.

In that match saw the Gunners walked away with the Caltex Cup after beating the Reds on penalities following one-all at final whistle.

L-R: Silvestre, Black and Riise (credit: Masters Football Asia)
Fast forward to year 2017 will see Masters footballers from two of the most decorated sides in the English game take on each other in this coming November at Kallang yet again.

Former England star Steve McManaman, who came on as a young Liverpool substitute in 1991 game, will be one of illustrious names pencilled for scheduled match alongside David James, John Arne Riise, Luis Garcia**.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone will see the Gunners to be represented by Ray Parlour, Robert Pirès, Nigel Winterburn, Gilberto Silva, Mikaël Silvestre**.

Said former French international Silvestre at the press conference announcing the match:"It will be a great occasion for us to get together again and to share the moment,

"It’s also all about meeting the fans, so I’m really looking forward to it.” added the 40-year-old who was capped by the Les Bleus 40 times at senior level.

Sharing some light moments (credit: Masters Football Asia)
Meanwhile, things are more on leisure pace these days for Norwegian Riise after hung up his boots.

"But I do miss football!" quipped the man who scored some of the most iconic goals that thrilled the red half of Merseyside since called it a day a year ago.

He added:"I love Singapore and the people; they’re amazing. I can’t wait to come back and spend more days here,”

The big following these two clubs have in Singapore is one of the reasons why the match organizers decided to stage this match at the National Stadium.

Said Masters Football Asia CEO Steve Black:"The support for both teams is tremendous in Singapore and given where the teams finished in the League this season, we thought it would be appropriate for the former players of both teams to take to the pitch here in Singapore and ‘settle old scores’,"

**Please note that all players are subject to availability

MATCH DETAILS
Event: Liverpool Masters vs Arsenal Masters
Venue: National Stadium
Date: 11 November 2017, Saturday
Time: Gates open at 5pm, kick-off at 7pm

TICKETING INFORMATION
Tickets for Liverpool Masters vs Arsenal Masters presented by Masters Football Asia are now available at www.mastersfootball.com and Sports Hub Tix (www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix/). Tickets start from $20, Family packages (two adults, two children below the age of 12) are available from $88 and VIP Packages at $200.

Fans are advised to purchase tickets early so as to enjoy ticket savings and to earn the opportunity to win “money can’t buy” experiences and privileges.

STANCHART CARDS OFFERS
From now to 31 August 2017, Standard Chartered Credit/Debit Card holders will enjoy 20% off regular ticket prices. In the same period, ticket buyers can enter a contest and stand a chance to win themselves the opportunity to be an assistant manager to either of the teams. Assistant manager privileges include a spot on the team bus as the teams make their way to the National Stadium, warming up with the teams on the pitch before the game, and finally, taking their place amongst the players on the team bench. Four assistant manager roles are up for grabs and interested parties can check out both the Masters Football Asia’s Facebook and Instagram platforms for more details.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MESSY MESSI AFFAIR ...

Those who bought the tickets for the international friendly match between Singapore and Argentina on 13th of June for one reason will have my empathy.

After all, how often do Singaporeans have a chance to see players like Lionel Messi, etc. in live action, when many wanted to see the multi-time FIFA Ballon d'Or recipient to showcase his wizardry on the lush Kallang pitch?

The message is clear ...
Therefore, there were signs of anxieties among some ticket-holders when media reports revealed the Barcelona superstar might not be featured in the game to mark the 125th anniversary of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) due to his wedding preparation.

That fear was confirmed when the organizers sent out a late statement on last Saturday evening to black and white the absence of Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain, Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi and Messi following days of speculation on the social media platforms.

Unsurprisingly, many fans felt shortchanged by the last-minute pullout of the triumvirate and registered their unhappiness online when the promotion of the match was largely built on the possibility of having Messi playing at the iconic National Stadium.

Although some fans opined such pullouts are common which happened in the past like when English club Liverpool's visit to the Republic in 2009 saw their then captain Steven Gerrard being omitted from the contingent due to his court case despite featured prominently on the promotional materials.

Without Messi, there were Paulo Dybala (left) and Angel Di' Maria (11)
"There was a possibility of having fans bought tickets in the first place wanted to see those star players in live action, however, I think some things (like non appearance) are beyond the players' control due to unforeseen circumstances," said a friend of mine

"I can't speak for the rest but generally I supposed all fans wanted to see all Liverpool players (when they were here in 2009)." he added by citing that Reds' visit which included a match against the Singapore national team at the old National Stadium.

At the meantime, injury prevented another former Liverpool star Robbie Fowler from playing against Tampines Rovers when he was in town with the now-defuncted A-League club North Queensland Fury in the same year, much to the disappointment when many fans came wearing the Reds' jersey with hopes to see the former England striker in action.

Singapore made the first move of the game with Khairul Nizam (22)
Instead, the man, who is known the "God" to the Kop faithfuls, gave a speech at the end of the match to explain why he wasn't playing in that game.

Adding to this list was Juventus' decision not to field Carlos Tevez, another Argentine star in the first match to commemorate the reopening of the National Stadium in 2014 due to the infamous "sandy surface".

These unpredictable moments are some of the risks many match promoters have to undertake when organize these kind of games, as big name teams and reputable players are always the key factors to push the ticket sales.

Understandably, these are always the last things many would want to see, be it the fans or the organizers who seems to be at mercy of those teams they are going to feature, as illustrated in the statement by Unicess Sports Group, the match promoter for Singapore - Argentina match.

Argentine fans made their presence felt in the 6-0 win over Singapore
In response to TODAY's queries on the non-appearance of the notable Argentinian trio, Unicess explained: “We have no control over the squad that is brought to represent Argentina. This is the Argentine Football Association’s (AFA) role and the players that actually play in game is made official by the head coach only just before the game. We believe football fans will understand.”

Certainly, they would love to but not when it was reported by "Daily Mirror" days later after he flew off from Changi, Messi was spotted holidaying with his Barcelona team mate Luis Suarez and Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas.

"Messi has only just returned from Australia after playing for Argentina in a friendly against Brazil in Melbourne and will be hoping to get a well earned rest." wroted the British tabiold.

Indeed, he need that break before his wedding and on the other hand, Singaporean fans will have to pray hard to see if they ever have a chance to see Messi at Kallang for any of International Champions Cup tournaments slated from 2018 to 2020.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Matchpix" - May 2017

(P.S: If you access this site via "come.to/matchpix", 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)


  • AFC Cup - Tampines Rovers 2-4 Ceres Negros FC 030517
Tampines' Yasir Hanapi (left) being shielded away from the ball
One of the poorest displays I seen from a side representing Singapore on the international front.

Tampines Rovers Football Club were seems clueless when they took on to the field against the Filipinos with the lack of courage and decisive instinct to make their way to the heartland of their opponents. Another woeful exit from the continent that one wouldn't feel sorry about it.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES


  •  2017 Sultan of Selangor Cup - 060517
Snapped this accidental moment ...
The Singapore Selection retained the Sultan of Selangor Cup by beating Selangor Selection 3-2 at the National Stadium.

This was the first time since 2009 that saw the Republic hosted this annual initiative by the ruler of Selangor.

Prior to the main match, the veterans of both sides shared the honour as joint-winners after a goal-less affair.

At the start of the day, Singapore Sports School beat the Selangor Combined School on penalties to win the inaugural School Challenge Cup.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES


  • AFC Cup - Home United 3-2 Global Cebu FC 300517
Double hero Stipe Plazibat (9) saw his free-kick turned winner
In a time when Singapore football badly need a shot in arm, the emphatic win by Home United Football Club over Global Cebu FC gave the local fraternity something to cheer for in this downtime.

The Protectors did the nation proud with the 5-4 win on aggregate to see them through to the AFC Cup Asean Zonal Final where they will take on another Filipino side Ceres-Negros FC.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hope it's not another "Toilet Washing" ...

"It is just like washing toilets. Different contractors / cleaners at different times." remarked a friend bluntly in a text exchange when I mentioned to him that the S.League is due for another review, as reported in TODAY.

Washing Toilet again? (credit:dipart.com)
In the same report by the Mediacorp publication, it also speculated the position of the S.League CEO, vacated by Lim Chin at the end of March, could be gone as well as part of the reviewing process to streamline the country's only professional sporting competition under the competition structure of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) since the new council took office weeks ago.

Ironically, it was at the introductory press conference which unveiled Lim and his erstwhile deputy Johan Gouttefangeas on January 2012 (), the local fraternity was presented the "S.League Version 2.0" - an initiative to revive the sick man on the bed that met with limited success to be proud of.

WEIRD FORMATS ...
One of those weird ideas included the complicating format of split up the league into two, based on standings, after completion of two rounds of fixtures with the third round saw top six teams featured against one and another to decide who win the league title with the bottom six fought it out meaninglessly to compete their campaign.

The above-mentioned format was scrapped after the two seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the return to the three-round format since 2015.

Prior to all those Ideas, the conventional two-rounded format was in place in season 2012 with a former FAS president chuckled "unless it snows" there would be no change in the league fixtures which is infamous for its late release and frequent amendment of schedules that has always been a bugbear to many clubs.

RIDING ON FALSE HOPES ...
Unfortunately, the launch of the S.League Version 2.0 awkwardly coincided with LionsXII's debut in the Malaysia Super League in the same year.

"Tumpang"
Under such circumstances, it was impossible to wholeheartedly concentrate on the task to revive the S.League even when Lim, himself, was pinning his hopes by riding on the projected success of the 2013 Malaysian league champions when he was once quoted saying "It is hoped given time more fans who have attended LionsXII matches at Jalan Besar will continue to go to the S-League stadium" in an interview months after he took office (25/5/12 - TODAY).

Other notable gimmick during the former SAFFC chairman's tenure to uplift the spirit included the futile attempt by having the S.League Superbabes performing at matches.

Regrettably, the former military man insisted it was a good 2016 for the S.League, despite those writings on the wall which suggested otherwise before he decided to quit the post in January.

BE BOLD AND DARING ...
At this juncture, what we were told is the beleaguered league is due for another review headed by two heavyweights in the scene - former Tampines Rovers’ chairman Teo Hock Seng and Balestier Khalsa's chairman S Thavaneson.

Having seen it all throughout these years, it is important for both these FAS vice-presidents not to come up with ideas, proposals merely to improvise what were proposed in failed grandiose plans like "GOAL 2010", "Strategic Plan", etc.

Not to improvise from this but learn those mistakes made
Now is the best opportunity to make a bold step to get rid of those old stuck-in-the-mud practices and show the determination the new regime are serious to revamp the S.League like they did to the amateur National Football League this season (sort of).

PRIVATIZATION IN PLACE NOW!
Both Teo and Thavaneson are known in the scene as benefactoring figures when the former was still the chairman of Tampines Rovers and the latter, in spite being a long-time chairman of Balestier Khalsa, is always there to give a helping hand like he provided attire sponsorships to several S.League clubs when financial crisis hit the fledging league that resulted a number of sides without kit providers in the late 1990s.

FAS vice-president Teo Hock Seng (file snap)
It is now hope that the proposed privatization of the S.League will eventually see the foundation in place during the reviewing process tapping on Messrs. Teo and Thavaneson's business acumen and gradually shunt away from the "godfather" way of running the clubs.

In addition to the recent media reports on Tampines Rovers' financial woes, I would suggest to look into fine-tuning the "National Club Licensing System" - a little-known licensing scheme which outlined governance criteria for every local S.League club in order to be accredited under the "AFC Club Licensing Regulations" to play in tournaments organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

LOOK INTO THE PLAY-OFF ...
Since the day when S.League was inaugurated in 1996, talks to implement the template "promotion/relegation" system between the professional tier and its amateur cousins is never far from sight with proponents insisted this is a proven method to keep every team on toes and the injection of excitement to the competition.

But like what I pointed out in a blog post I did in 2009, I still have my reservation on using this as a form of "injection".

One option to look into - "Play-Off"
I wrote "Let's face the fact that it's absolutely impossible to implement the "promotion/relegation" format in the league setup, given the unfavourable climate local football is facing now and the lack of sizable fan population,".

Almost eight years had passed, I doubt my opinion had altered a bit but if the "promotion/relegation" is the way to be to improve the competitiveness of the leagues, I do hope the structure of the league pyramid will be sounded and sturdy to ensure things are running smoothly.

If not, it is just a repetitive to getting someone else to maintain the toilet when the previous contractors did a lousy job.

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