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."

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Details On Tickets, PLEASE!

I thought one of the good initiatives of the rebranded Singapore Premier League (SGPL) is to allow fans to buy their match tickets online, which is a laudable move as it is a practice in tandem with many other sporting events held in Singapore.

However, I wish to highlight on matters pertaining those tickets, which are now printed on better quality material, bought on match days at the game venues.

After a few rounds of matches, it is regrettable tickets purchased over the counter not longer detailed those match information except these words, as show in the picture below.

The "22/7/18" match saw Albirex Niigata (S) clinched the SGPL title
No one seems to able to give an answer when I asked causally why the changes were made.

As one may never know these ticket stubs, which were usually discarded by many after games, may be an important testament to something significant happened during that particular match.

I, myself, still have those match ticket stubs that witnessed some of the significant moments of the S.League which I detailed them in this old entry back in June 2010.

Fast forward to year 2014 on 31st October at the Jalan Besar Stadium, I bought a ticket (below) which I requested Aleksandar Duric to sign on it as it was his last game as a professional football player.

The hosting club only stamped the date of the match on this ticket stub
In fact, ticket stubs from some of the most famous matches played are now highly sought-after collectibles, such as the 1930 World Cup final match between Uruguay and Argentina and Pele's last game for New York Cosmos against Santos in 1977 is now worth US$425 (face value US$6).

In the past, I used to receive emails from one particular collector from Belgium requesting for used match tickets from games featuring Singapore national teams.

For someone who maybe a ticket collector, it is important to have those details of those matches and I hope the league authority will reinstate the printing of those essential information on those stubs in the coming season.

If not, one would have to write the details on those stubs for recording purpose on their own - a move that might cast a doubt of its authenticity years down the road since it was handwritten and unpresentable too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

[Annual Review] A Sigh Of Relief

Am I glad the season is over!

It must be one of the most dreadful seasons since my involvement when I breathed a sigh of relief after Albirex Niigata (Singapore) was finally awarded the trophy that accoladed them as the inaugural champions of the revamped professional league aka Great Eastern-Hyundai Singapore Premier League (SGPL), despite the confirmation months earlier after their draw against Balestier Khalsa at Toa Payoh to close the 2018 season.

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) established a dynasty in local football
In an attempt to distance from the S.League that was associated with much of the flaws of the old regime, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced the rebranding of the Republic's only professional sporting league as SGPL in a glittering setting at the Singapore Sports Hub (SSH) amid much skepticism from the ground.

Perhaps the only difference between the SGPL and the S.League is the change in the name and the logo and nothing further than those stuff.

The standard of the league did not improve either with a much younger Albirex cruised effortless to secure the title with losing a game and went on to wrap up the regular league season undefeated.

New handicaps did not stop Albirex from bulldozing the rest
"When the revamps were introduced this year, they initially seemed to have a 'side benefit' of limiting Albirex, but it ended up not being an obstacle for them at all." commented local football analyst Tam Cheong Yan on the seemingly effortless campaign trail of the Yuhua-based club.

Added Tam:"The fact that they (Albirex) won the league even before the EPL (English Premier League) season began means they had certain foundations our local clubs don't have."

Even with encouraging figures revealed by the league authority to The Straits Times in early November, we are not sure if the rebranding did help to boast the turnouts at games which were largely scheduled on late afternoon on weekends in order to allow fans ample of time to reach home to watch their favourite EPL matches on television.

The launch of the Singapore Premier League (SGPL) at National Stadium 
The changes implemented alongside the rebranding of league into SGPL hardly struck a chord with the fans, based on the poll conducted on this blog's Facebook page which asked if things improved following the rebranding.

"No way will the league improve with these rules, develop youths?" said Ong Qizong who voiced his opinions in the said poll by referring to the controversial "age quota" ruling that was implemented this season.

"A U23 league will be better (but) standard of football must be raised before the league can be a success (with) good quality foreign players, not journeymen." he added.

Nonetheless, there are those who think the "age quota" is a good move for the SGPL with the emerging of several young players, such as the Suzliman brothers who earned their Lions debuts weeks ago under interim national coach Fandi Ahmad during the preparation of AFF Suzuki Cup.

Zulfadhmi Suzliman made his Lions debut
One of them is Foo Miao Chan who felt it is a good sign to see "more youngsters are playing on the highest platform".

Echoed those words was Muhd Salehuddin, although he is in an opinion that these youngsters should be in first team based on merit.

"At least, more youth (players) got the chance to play. But I still believe to be in first eleven, (it) should be based on performance not a reserve slot." opined Salehuddin who was the first to leave his views on the poll which saw an overwhelming majority voted NO.

Furthermore, things could not be helped with the reduced coverage by the mainstream media due to the restructuring in both Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp.

Looking back at it, I think the league authority made a miscalculated move in such a hastily fashion to rebrand the league to SGPL.

The way the rebranding/revamping of the league was almost similar to how the S.League was launched in 1996.

With almost ground zero experience in every aspect of running a professional club, those amateur or semi-pro setups were elevated to a status which they were simply clueless of.

Even after two decades of being "professional", many clubs are still not having the means to stay afloat independently without the lifeline from the FAS.

Clubs are still yet to be financially sustainable on their own
Instead of automatically granting the rights to incumbent clubs to be part of the revamped SGPL this year, the league authority should open to all interested clubs in the local league pyramid (SGPL, NFL, etc.) to bid for a license to be part of the revamped league in maybe three to five years down the road.

During the transition period of three to five years, clubs should work towards the goal to fulfil the criteria under the "National Club Licensing System" - a little-known licensing scheme which outlined governance criteria for every local club in order to be accredited under the "AFC Club Licensing Regulations" to play in tournaments organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Nonetheless, it is pointless to make this sort of suggestion when things are already well underway and hope things will improve as time goes by (hopefully).

Which is why I would like to reiterate the feasibility of having a "post season playoff" for the subsequent SGPL seasons, it was ridiculous to see the White Swans crowned as the champions so early and had the rest fought for continental spots like leftovers (since Albirex are not eligible to represent Singapore in AFC club tournaments), weird scenario indeed and uniquely Singapore.

In the absence of promotion/relegation system in SGPL, the "post season playoff" is proposed with objective to inject that bit of motivation, competitiveness among the teams to ensure the competition's intensity can last longer unlike what we seen this year when the title race was ended prematurely in July.

Such "post season playoff" can be modelled from those franchise-based North American sporting leagues like the NBA, NFL and ABL (Asean Basketball League) - the regional basketball league where the conventional promotion/relegation league system do not exist.

Is a "post-season playoff" like ABL's able to inject excitement into SGPL?
However, there are still some reservations if this "post season playoff" is workable for local football.

"This is a makeshift patch that wouldn't quite address the fact that the rest of the teams aren't competitive enough." countered @singnoname in responding to a tweet message I posted using @bolasepako.

He added:"That would generally have been a good idea. But it wouldn't do much if most teams are uncompetitive, like now.

"... We can't come up with stopgap, temporary solutions though. It's already a patchwork league."

"The medium-term and long-term plan must be to improve our foundations, not create a false sense of competitiveness based on poor structures." further elaborated by @singnoname in my follow up with him via messages.

Ride on the crest of confidence with some positive friendly results, national interim coach Fandi Ahmad led the Singapore national team to AFF Suzuki Cup with the mission to exorcise the ghosts of previous two campaigns under German Bernd Stange and V Sundram moorthy.

The Lions got off to a good start with a one-nil win over Indonesia at Kallang before a sloppy mistake saw them conceded a defeat on the same scoreline to the Filipinos at Bacolod days later.

Following a thumping win over Timor Leste at Kallang on 21st of November, the men in red saw their campaign ended in Bangkok where they were swept aside three goals to none by Thailand.

"Abang" managed to restore that bit of lost pride to the Lions 
While the team failed for the third straight attempt to advance to the knockout stage of the prestigious regional tournament, the question being if the national association is ready to place their faith on the local football icon to guide the national team on a permanent basis after some inspiring performances during the biennial regional competition that won a number of fans over?

"I believe Fandi should be given the job (as the national coach) on permanent basis based on the team's performance (in the Suzuki Cup)," said a fan named Iskandar whom I spoke to is in favour of having the former Lions skipper stay on.

"We can see how different the team played in the recent tournament, as compared to the last two tournaments (under Stange and Sundram) which I think it's all down to how Fandi inspired the players in difficult time like this."

The Lions claimed 2W 2L in recent Suzuki Cup campaign
Whilst some of the media acknowledged the works of the 56-year-old, they opted to be on the pragmatic side of things.

"Fandi may have restored some dignity after a terrible six-year stretch, but Singapore should not indulge in too much self-congratulation. The rebuilding work has only just begun." said a Yahoo Singapore article in its summary of thoughts on the campaign.

The New Paper raised a valid point by asking if real improvement was made when it wrote "... , with the bar having dropped so low in the last two years, what's harder to quantify is whether the Lions have improved enough."

At the end of the day, all speculations were put to a rest when it was decided a foreign coach will be placed on the hot seat and the former Singapore captain will reprise as head coach of youth focusing on next November's SEA Games in Manila..

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Muscle Aching As Well Besides Identity Confusion ...

Playing on artificial surface 😰
“... provides for more optimal deployment of resources” and “also frees up the other stadiums to be adapted for greater community use”
These words replied by the stadium landlord Sport Singapore (except for Our Tampines Hub which is owned by People’s Association) to the queries from The Straits Times, as quoted in an article by The Monitor, on the day the news broke out should be enough to explain the reasons behind the ground sharing decision which caused a ruckus in the scene of late.

The fact being when those "evacuated" clubs, while at their allocated grounds, aren't doing enough to pack the stands at their home games (let's face it), so there is no case for them to argue when the authority wants their stadiums to be more prioritised for community use.

After all, the idea of the ground sharing is not new when it was already mooted years ago before the materialising of it next season.

However, the issue we should be looking at is three out of the four stadiums are using artificial pitches and how much of an impact will be on players to play on these surfaces on consistent basis?

Zico was in town back in 2011 as Iraq national coach
Playing on artificial field is something frowned upon by many with Brazilian legend Zico famously remarked "artificial fields are meant for kids" when he was in town as the Iraq national coach back in 2011, a day before his side's match against Singapore on the artificial Jalan Besar Stadium turf.

Beside Jalan Besar, the other selected grounds with artificial turf for the upcoming season are Jurong East and Our Tampines Hub with Bishan Stadium being the only venue using natural grass surface.

"Playing on artificial turf is definitely not easy but it is something players have to get used to nowadays," said former national player Ismail Yunos on his thoughts on playing on artificial surface.

Ismail Yunos (in Gombak Utd's outfit) making his pass on JBS turf
He added emphasis should be placed on injury prevention as it is common to have muscle-related injuries incurred from playing on artificial field known for its rigid surface and hard bounces of the ball during matches.

"The worrying part should be the injury prevention, as chances of you getting injured (while) playing on an artificial pitch is a lot higher especially if it is going to be a 'week in week out' thing.

"There is always a danger when playing on the artificial pitch and if it is just for matches, it should be okay but having to train on it everyday might be a problem." concluded the two-time AFF Championship winner.

Friday, November 30, 2018

"Matchpix" - November 2018

  • 71st SCC Rugby 7s @ Padang - 031118
Action from 3rd of November 
The tournament also featured some youth rugby actions 
The SCC 7s is affectionally dubbed as the ‘Friendly Sevens’ and over the decades, legends like the late Jonah Lomu, New Zealand Rugby World Cup Sevens winning captain Eric Rush, All Blacks’ Hall of Famer Tana Umaga and South Africa’s former World Player of the Year Cecil Afrika graced the Padang on their ascendency to rugby stardom.
  • AFF Suzuki Cup - Singapore 6-1 Timor Leste 211118
Ikhsan Fandi (20) got better ahead in this aerial duel
The Lions answered the call and completed the task given by national interim coach Fandi Ahmad with this 6-1 demolition of Timor Leste at the Singapore Sports Hub to keep their AFF Suzuki Cup dream alive.


Friday, November 02, 2018

Book Review: Living The Dream ... Or Enduring The Nightmare?

The cover of the book 
In short, to summarize my thoughts after reading this book is - thou shall not treat a football club neither as a toy nor as a money spinner.

Citing two similar cases which were studied by author Bob Holmes - Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers, it is not difficult to tell how foreign owners of these two clubs made a grave mistake for not to appreciate both are not merely football clubs but being a significant heritage and indispensable part of the community fabric of the vicinity where they are based.

When both Al-Hasawis and Venkys paraded themselves to supporters of Forest and Rovers respectively after they bought the clubs, many promises were made to lift their teams out of the doldrums with some seems way beyond their means to deliver those dreams like the audacious bid to land Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho to Ewood Park in 2010.

One of Mrs Desai's famous quotes after took over Blackburn Rovers 
A few pages into the first chapter on Portsmouth FC were enough to realise the "Fit and Proper" check on those potential buyers of any English football clubs by the relevant authorities had failed its task to ensure the Pompeys in a safe pair of hands.

Described as a "grenade" by a former chairman of the 2008 FA Cup winners to Holmes, Portsmouth was literally being tossed around by those uninterested parties that nobody wants before a dramatic effort from the supporters' group ensured the club fallen in the hands of those who cherished the most - the fans.

At the meantime, things seems to be on the right path when American Randy Lerner bought over Aston Villa from trigger-happy Doug Ellis in 2006 with the building of a new training ground and various improvement works around Villa Park.

Dramatic efforts were made to save Portsmouth from extinction 
But things turned sour shortly after the mishaps in the UEFA Cup campaign in 2008-9 season that eventually saw everything started falling apart with the resignation of Martin O'Neill which coupled with Lerner's off the field woes resulted the sale of the 1982 European Cup winners to Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia in June 2016.

A futile attempt to replicate clothing giants Benetton's marketing success on Queens Park Rangers to transform the modest London side to a "boutique club" by Flavio Briatore failed to strike a chord with their traditional fan base who were disgusted by those antics of the Italian and his co-owner Bernie Ecclestone and they were more than happy to see the horror ended when Air Asia's Tony Fernandes (despite being a known West Ham supporter) was named the new owner at Loftus Road in 2011.

Many foreign owners like Lerner realized own a football club is a thankless chore
The book also covered on more significant examples on Chelsea and Manchester City, although it would be good to include Leicester City's part as well as many good things were said about the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who left behind an etched legacy in East Midlands for having bankrolled to uplift the Foxes to their unprecedented Premier League title victory in 2016.

Holmes put in a great effort to talk to many of those who are familiar with the subjects he wrote in this book and shed interesting insights that were largely unknown until one read it, e.g. how former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness drove an unknown guest to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United played Juventus in November 2002 who turned out to be Roman Abramovich and not before long pocketed Chelsea in June 2003 to change the way football is played on and off the field.

Perhaps, the newly-appointed Philippines national team coach Sven-Göran Eriksson sums this phenomenon of foreign ownership of English clubs pretty well when he told Holmes:"A lot of football was controlled by men who knew nothing about the game."


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