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, February 22, 2017

[AFC Cup] Stags Barely Found Their Flair In The Felda Opener

Fazrul Hazli (right) scored the consolation for "The Fighters"
Barely surprised many when the first half of this AFC Cup Group G fixture between Tampines Rovers and Felda United from Malaysia ended scoreless.

But what really surprised the crowd of 1277 at the Jalan Besar Stadium was the three-minute stoppage added on by the referee, which I doubt the decision went down too well with the audience, when many were more eager to head out for a breather following an uninspiring half of football.

Ivan Dzoni (extremely right) facing pressure from Felda's defenders 
In charge of his first competitive match since his recruitment weeks ago, Juergen Raab seems to adapt a much conservative approach that departed from the usual offensive flair associated with Tampines in the past.

Whilst we aren't sure if it is because the 58-year-old former Courts Young Lions coach still in the process of assessing the strength of his new team and resulted the team in yellow consistently strolled the ball around the park, trying to find any chance to prick open the stubborn Malaysian defence.

Probably because that assessment was completed before the break, the designated hosts decided to tweak their approach with two attacks launched on the left flank right after the interval to spark some excitement to the game.

Ismadi Mukhtar being sandwiched in this attempt
However, the Jengka-based team also devised a tactic to counter the change, as explained by their coach after the match.

“First half, I think my team did a good job where I told my players to maintain our discipline in both defence and attack,” said Felda coach Mohd Nik in the post-match press conference.

“In the second half, we changed our formation to 4-4-2 in order to make it more compact in the middle to prevent Tampines from penetrate too easily, but I felt the first goal we conceded was due to the lack of concentration and fatigue." added the 62-year-old coach who only took over the reins of last season's Malaysian Super League (MSL) runners-up merely days ago.

Ridzuan Abdunloh Pula (middle) diffused a threat
Stags' new signing Son Yong Chan placed his name on the scoresheet when he was at the receive end to head home a cross from the left by another new boy Raspreet Sandhu in the 64th minute to break the deadlock.

Although it took another twenty minutes before Tampines doubled their lead through the talismanic Khairul Amri who only started the game by came in as a replacement for ex-Croatian U-17 skipper Ivan Dzoni in the 70th minute.

The decision to start the 31-year-old Lions star from the bench was because Amri had just recovered from an injury and in view of the Community Shield which is taking place this coming Sunday against reigning champions Albirex Niigata (Singapore) at Kallang, according to Tampines' assistant coach Herman Zailani in the post-match media briefing.

Son Yong Chan (7) kept close to Felda Utd's Hadin (27)
That 84th minute strike by the 113-capped marksman would have thought to seal the game on a clean sheet for the five-time S.League champions, until it was ruined by a well-taken consolation by Fazrul Hazli two minutes later to make in 2-1 at the end of the day.

Said Coach Herman of that 86th minute goal:"It was a good goal that made the game exciting towards to the end."

"It is also important for us to start the season well and this win placed us on a good position that I hope it is something we can build on it." he added.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Youth and Grassroots dominated the "Ideas For Change"

Mr Bernard Tan (standing) opens the session
"Ideas For Change" is a new initiative spearheaded by Mr Bernard Tan, vice-president of FAS Provisional Council, and had its first session at NYSI Satellite @ Kallang, it is modelled after the concept of TED Talks where speakers are given ten minutes each to speak on the topic of their choice.

Making their presence at this maiden session included the likes of FAS General-Secretary Winston Lee, outgoing S.League CEO Lim Chin, former national players Goh Tat Chuan and Aleksandar Duric, who was one of the nine speakers who took turn to share their views on the local game with the audience.

Dr Swarup Mukherjee from Nanyang Technological University was the first speaker to kick start the evening when he suggested "mindset shift" over the years resulted having lesser number of kids playing football these days.

Dr Mukherjee kicked start the evening 
Rather than discourage kids from taking up the game, Dr Mukherjee believes football should to be seen as useful tool in teaching skills like problem solving, spirit of competitiveness, etc. while playing the game and added involvement from parents is something crucial along the process as well.

“The game is the best teacher ... the game of football is to let the kids enjoy.” concluded the man who once served as a Medical Officer in the Indian Army.

Echoed the thoughts of Dr Mukherjee was Mr Colin Braberry, the President of St Michael's Soccer Association, who shared with the audience how important parental involvement is in his setup with some of them actively volunteer themselves in various aspects of the organization on top of imparting values like character building and creating a conducive environment which helps to foster bonding among peers with their parents.

Prior to that, Mr Braberry gave the floor an insight on how his organization started off from “an initiative of the SJI Old Boys’ Association” back in 2007 on a informal basis before formally registered as an organization with the Registry of Societies in March 2015.

Both Dr Mukherjee and Mr Braberry agree with each other that there should a “fun” element in kids' football that prioritized over the outcome on whether who win or lose the game.

Mr Bernard Teo talks passionately about the SJI football revival
As such, it was that joy of kicking a plastic ball in his younger days had the the second speaker of the night – Mr Tan Teck Hock, the principal of Singapore Sports School, opined that it isn't necessary to play the game on a grass surface like he did in his childhood days which he described it was played in an “unstructured” manner.

Adding to that sense of nostalgia was Mr Bernard Teo who was responsible for the revival of football program at his alma mater St Joseph's Institution (SJI) after twelve years hiatus in 2012 before saw former national defender Kadir Yahaya guided the school's football team to their first football title in 30 years in 2015 by clinching the National Schools’ South Zone B Division Football Championship .

In his opening statement of his ten-minute allocation, Mr Teo revealed the passion and excitement back in 1973 when he and his classmates went to the old Jalan Besar Stadium to cheer their seniors on in their quest for the national title and stated it was that “sense of belonging” fuelled that adrenaline rush and he asked if it would be possible to see such sentiment replicate on a broader base like in the S.League?

Coach Yeong pointed out the problems of the women's game 
Just before the session adjourned for a short recess, the talk by National Women's Team Head Coach Yeong Sheau Shyan protruded the critical lack of support for the ladies' game as compared to their male counterparts, she believes women's football deserves the equality enjoyed by the men if people are willing to have a “change of mindset” on how they view women playing the beautiful game. Having witnessed significant corporate support behind the netball fraternity, the former school teacher hopes to see similar backing in the women's game in near future.

Following the session of Mr Joe Keiser of AC Milan Academy Scuola Calcio, the focus of the evening shifted to grassroots football which both Mr Tan and Duric opined with the large number of (soccer) schools operating around the island, there should be a way to consolidate the promotion of grassroots football.

Citing the importance of having good coaches in those formative years, Duric, who is now the principal of ActiveSG Football Academy, felt there are many so-called coaches in some academies who are “not qualified” and do not coach the kids in “a proper way”, therefore, he hopes to see measures in place to correct this situation with the Football Association of Singapore.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

ASL - Duplicate Redundancy

Things aren't actually set in the groove for former Central Singapore District mayor Zainudin Nordin in his attempts to push start his ambitious Asean Super League (ASL) project despite there was a speculation that an "announcement" was supposed to be made last month.

Zainudin Nordin (extremely right, file picture)
With the latest developments in the region, it cast further skepticism if the pet project of the one-time Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC (Group Representation Constituency) would ever take off.

After all, approval from Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the continent's governing body, is mandatory before the ASL can be launched under the condition that the latter is able to fit itself under the competition structure of the former.

Key amendments to both AFC Cup, the continent's second-tier club competition, and the AFF Championship aka AFF Suzuki Cup, which is soon-to-be-announced, are seen by many as a setback to the man lauded in past for his role in materialized overseas stints of Adam Swandi (to FC Metz) and Safuwan Baharudin.

A reformed tournament format in this season's AFC Cup will see eligible clubs from the Asean region come together with the eventual winning team of this zone progress to the next phase of the tournament.

The Asean Zone of 2017 AFC Cup (via AFC media release)
The AFF Suzuki Cup, the biennial regional showpiece featuring national teams from the Asean bloc, will see its group stages format tweaked into two groups of five teams each, with every side to play four games on a "home-and-away" basis (two home and two away fixtures) within their group, instead of the present setup of having two countries hosting a group of four each.

The revelation of those changes coincidentally took place one after another early last month following some "shot-in-the-arm" reports placed the ASL project back on the pedestal.

Nonetheless, given the similarities of the triumvirate especially that of the revised format of the club-based AFC Cup, many critics pointed it is unlikely to see the already packed  calendar dovetail seamlessly to accommodate the ASL.

Izwan Mahbud will have another shot in Asian level
Some even went on to suggest if the fine-tuning was a way to show the decision-makers’ unpleasantness over Zainudin's "one-man show" in the recent AFC Congress in Goa, India where the then Singapore representative was the only one to vote "YES" and whereas the rest voted "NO" in a motion on the meeting agenda which resulted the abruptly end to the congress as an act of solidarity against the perceived interference from FIFA.

It's anybody's guess on the above-mentioned outcome given the chain of occurrences during the same timeframe.

However, one thing for sure is nobody would want to see a duplicate redundancy and one ought to convince the tangibility of a product before a huge sum is committed.

Just like how he described his bad experience upon his arrival at Changi Airport last month from another trip, the man, who is one of the candidates for the upcoming FIFA council elections, shall be aware that he will be bracing for more unforseen uncertainties ahead.

Monday, December 19, 2016

[Annual Review] Twenty Years in the Circus ...

Years of involvement made me learned to adopt a precautionary stance on almost everything that came along is a way to buffer myself from disappointment.

Even though I stick to that belief, it's no difference again when we are drawing close to another year with things ended sour again and no improvement to the scene when we thought it would at the start.

Some painted a picture of optimism that our own S.League would gain from Lions XII's acrimonious exit from the Malaysian league with a large part of their playing staff, long perceived to be the best in the country, were being snapped by various clubs in the beleaguered setup.

Jermaine Pennant graced the league not long ago
Furthermore, set things into the groove saw big spending Tampines Rovers, under new chairman Krishna Ramachandra, acquired the biggest name in the league history by recruited former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant, inked a partnership with Brazilian legend Ronaldinho to set up a football academy and named former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as the club ambassador.

Things got off to a roaring start when I was actually queueing up for ticket when Hougang United took on Home United at the Hougang Stadium with the latter facing Tampines at Bishan weeks later to record the biggest turnout of the year when 3,500 packed the main stand on a weekday.

When was the last time you queued for S.League tickets?
Strong turnouts in the early phase would also indicate to former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin that the local fans aren't going to accept his ambitious Asean Super League (ASL, which is likely to hit a kerb following a revamp to the AFC Cup competition announced by the continent governing body, AFC) which many fear the S.League would play second fiddle once more after it did during the Lions XII's involvement across the Causeway during 2012 to 2015.

Unfortunately, the rosy start to its 21st season did not sustain and the only professional sporting league in this tiny island republic slipped back to oblivion which it has been long associated with.

Zainudin Nordin - The ASL salesman
Just like domino effect, problems begun to surface one after another with news broke out on Tampines' cash-flow difficulties which the Stags pleaded unsuccessfully to get the league authority to release early part of the subsidies entitled to them to ease the financial hardships.

On the higher level saw the local game governing body, themselves, embroiled in a controversy of their own doing when the "Big Brother" - FIFA came knocking the FAS's doors and resulted the oldest football association in Asia to have their first elections in more than thirty years by next May after being given a new constitution, following media reports (source:1, 2) seeking clarification from Zurich if FAS was doing the right things, all these while, by having government appointed personnel to hold key appointments (which is something strictly against the FIFA's policy of non-interference by third parties in affairs of local FA).

May 2017 is the deadline for the FAS elections
The appointment of former national striker V Sundram moorthy as national caretaker coach came at a time when the local sentiment (source:1, 2) felt "it's time for one" given the familiarity of a local coach would have on the scene.

Things soon turned bitter when undesirable results occurred one after another with fans started questioning if it was a right decision to get the 51-year-old former idol to take the hot seat on "caretaker" basis following training trip to Japan that was concluded with a stunning away defeat to Cambodia at Phnom Penh.

Much had been said after the Lions' disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign that I shall not dwell much on it when those issues aren't new at all.

Whether was it right of Coach Sundram to deploy the "bus" or selected largely of those who used to play for him during the Lions XII era for the biennial event is not something worth debating now.

National Caretaker Coach V Sundram moorthy
It is a mere recurrence of problems faced by any national coach before the "Dazzler" when Serbian Raddy Avramovic could only notably unearthed Hariss Harun with German Bernd Stange had none significantly to account for (if anyone dispute, please let me know) during his time here.

So when the conveyor belt is not working properly, how would we expect the national team to do well when choices are limited to exercise flexibility in those tactical deployment?

However, it is also fair to say the pragmatic former Jurong FC head coach should exercise flexibility and courage in his planning and not causing unnecessary anxiety when only revealed his final list of 23 prior to the opener against the Philippines when mood in the camp should be kept things in focus by then.

Since the exit from the regional showdown, various post-mortem pieces had surfaced to give their earnest thoughts on the undesired outcome.

Ken Ilso (left) is one of those left Singapore recently
It isn't hard to conclude that the consensus among those thoughts is - CHANGE must take place with all eyes will be on the new office-bearers who will start their term upon elected to office.

But easy to say than to be done, when we being told changes and reviews were in place in the past to correct those shortcomings which never seems to arrest those perennial problems bugging the scene.

It will be a thankless job whosoever is going to take over upon the concluding of the landmark elections but since keen parties had declared their desire to turn things around, they must be prepared to subject to all kinds of scrutinization.

Unkind words and vent of frustrations will be a norm when things failed to deliver, as what we seen all along when patient are already worn thin that any sugar-coated and chest-thumping rhetoric will be taken lightly after years of deception.

CHANGE is a word ALL can SAY but NOT EASILY FULFILL after seen it for twenty years in the circus.

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.

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)."

"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.

"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!"

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)."


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