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."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Friendly Fixtures - From Sing Tao to Juventus

We may not see the return of the International Champions Cup Singapore (ICCSG) tournament due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but it is worthwhile to look back on some happenings that took place in the past when foreign teams came to our shores to play a few friendly matches.

The arrival of those marquee names in the world football to this dot of the globe in recent years has always been a crowd puller that not only drawn local fans from their couches from Jurong to Tampines and Woodlands to Bedok by making their way down to Kallang, the ICCSG, as it is commonly known as, has also been a lure for the regional supporters of those European clubs as well like how the Indonesian fans of Inter made their presence felt in their match against Chelsea in the 2017 edition.

Advertisement for Anchor Soccer Festival' 74 (NLB archive)
The trend of such visits by these foreign sides did not start during the 1970s when there were tournaments like the Anchor Soccer Festival in 1974 (source 1, 2) or the Caltex Cup in the 1990s which saw Arsenal versus Liverpool at the old National Stadium or visits by Manchester United in 1986 and 2001 (the Barthez incident).

Back in the colonial era, teams from British India (Bengal Gymkhana), Hong Kong, etc. were some of those who arrived in Singapore to play friendly matches either at the demolished Anson Road Stadium or the old Jalan Besar Stadium.

Hosting these visiting teams was an important assignment for the Singapore Amateur Football Association (SAFA, the precursor of Football Association of Singapore - FAS), as not only friendly fixtures like these were popular with the fans who would packed the stands to the rafters at some games and also it was a lucrative business for both the hosts (source 1, 2) and visitors (source 1, 2).
10,000 watched Singapore beat Sing Tao of Hong Kong (NLB archive)
According to some Hong Kong football journals, clubs like South China and Sing Tao were some of the frequent visitors to Singapore and Malaya during those days to see teams from "Pearl of the Orient" to play a series of friendly matches against the local sides.

Such end-of-season tours were termed as "Southern Excursion" by these Hong Kong clubs where players were entitled to some cuts from gate earnings (despite their amateur status) from matches played during the visits.

Many local fans viewed players of these Hong Kong teams as star footballers and were popular especially among the local Chinese fans, so it was not uncommon to see games against these touring sides a guarantee sellout whenever they took place.

Being a golden goose venture for them, it was said that the touring sides would assigned their reserve players as "lookout" at turnstiles to prevent the local match organizers from any mischief that would jeopardize their revenue from these games (source: 「球員的背景和待遇」chapter of 「足球王國:戰後初期的香港足球」)

Caroline Hill FC team photo taken at the old National Stadium (as credited)
Local teams also frequently toured around the region during those days by taking part in tournaments like the Ho Ho Cup which involved the Malayan Chinese and their Hong Kong counterparts.

However, since 1970s to the early 1980s, visits by the Hong Kong club sides to Singapore were less frequent as compared to the pre and post wars years with notable sides like Seiko SA and Caroline Hill stamped their passports in June 1974 and September 1980 respectively.

Geylang International vs Persija Jakarta in February 2020 (credit: Geylang International)
When the local football league system was revamped in the mid-1970s that saw the creation of the National Football League (NFL), the FAS felt it was necessary to enforce some guidelines to ensure clubs would prioritized their commitments to both the NFL and the President's Cup (the premier cup competition in those days) which resulted no friendly matches with foreign teams were allowed unless given the go-ahead by the local game governing body under the directive issued, as reported by the now-defunct "Singapore Soccer" monthly in their December 1975 issue.

Nonetheless, pre-season trips in recent years by our Singapore Premier League (SGPL) clubs to neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have still proven to be a popular option for their preparation for a new season like Geylang International had theirs back in February to Indonesia.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from sources like NLB online newspapers archives and others, 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 if there is, thanks)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Launch of $1 Million EDP Scholarship by Lion City Sailors

(This entry is formulated based on the media release issued by Lion City Sailors Football Club, all media materials used in this post belong to LCSFC, unless stated)

Lion City Sailors Football Club (LCSFC) has announced the latest step in its commitment to enhancing Singapore’s football ecosystem, with the launch of a S$1 million scholarship programme - Elite Development Programme (EDP), designed to nurture the careers of the country’s most talented young footballers in a media statement issued by the only privately-owned club of the Singapore Premier League (SGPL).

Grooming the next generation of footballers is one of the aims of EDP

KEY FEATURES OF EDP
● The S$1 million four-year EDP is the centrepiece of the LCS Football Academy, the club’s new hub for youth football development, and aims to give Singapore’s top young talent a pathway to fulfil their potential.

● LCS Football Academy will be helmed by Academy Technical Director Luka Lalic, who joins from renowned Dutch football club Feyenoord Rotterdam.

● Formerly known as the LFA Protectors, the revamped LCS Football Academy will provide a holistic programme worked around the Singapore schools’ curriculum, to develop talented players, coaches, and the broader football ecosystem.

● The LCS Football Academy envisions creating a pipeline of quality footballers for the Singapore ecosystem, and launching professional careers of its top scholars in Asia and beyond.

EMULATE EUROPEAN MODEL
The EDP is a key facet of the club’s vision to become an elite football development hub for Singapore, and will kick start with a 25-strong intake of 12-year-old aspirants who were born in 2008.

Complemented by specialist teams including nutritionists, sports psychologists, video analysts and sports doctors, the programme is modelled after the academies of leading professional European football clubs.

It is aimed at creating an environment to instil on-field and off-field attributes that will provide a sturdy platform from which to launch professional careers beyond Singapore and into major leagues in Asia and Europe.


General Manager Tan Li Yu outlines the visions of LCS Football Academy 

BUILT AROUND THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
The EDP is built around the Singapore school curriculum to ensure that scholars continue to excel in academics while also receiving the best football education. This will feature weekly local matches, quarterly overseas training camps, an annual major overseas tournament, as well as training stints with top foreign clubs.

The programme will also include a Professional Adaptation Programme to ease scholars back into the competitive professional football environment after completion of National Service, with a view to signing with an overseas club.

The scholarship covers all costs incurred during the course of training, insurance and apparel, with overseas camps and tournaments subsidised at 50 percent. On top of this, selected scholars will receive an additional cash allowance. These amount to S$250,000 invested in the programme per annum, totalling S$1 million over four years.

COMMITMENT TO SINGAPORE FOOTBALL 
“Our vision is not just to make the Sailors one of the best football clubs in the region, but for the club to bring Singapore football as a whole to the next level.” said LCSFC Chairman, Forrest Li in the above-mentioned media statement.

“The LCS Football Academy underlines our commitment to Singapore football. Firstly, through the Elite Development Programme that will support the growth of the most promising players who have the talent not just to represent our club, but also our Lions. Secondly, our goal is to develop the greater ecosystem of Singapore football, from players to coaches through to specialist areas like nutrition and psychology,” added Li who also serves as a member of the current Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council.

ONLINE APPLICATION
Interested applicants can visit the academy’s website for more details on the scholarship and submit their applications. Due to restrictions in place to battle the coronavirus outbreak, open selections for the scholarship will be announced at a later date.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Almost Made It To Yorkshire ...

Cable telegram was costly in the past that only key words were used to relay the message and hoping the recipients would understand the content.

Nonetheless, misunderstandings would occur at times if the recipients failed to decipher the intention of the sender like this plan, as shown in the below clipping from The Straits Times (ST), to send two Singaporean players to Leeds United in 1950.

The news that caused a great sensation among local fans (NLB archive
The receiver of that cable message was the legendary "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee from AJR Hooper from Leeds on the possibility of having Leong Hoi Meng and Foo Hee Jong to attend a trial at Leeds United.

Hooper served in the British Army during the post-war years and found himself involved in the local football scene as a referee on top of his military commitments.

It was during that period he discovered a number of local players like Chinese Athletic Association's Leong and Foo who shown the potential to play in the English league.

It was agreed that Hooper would help to arrange trials for those players with Choo acted as his agent for the footballers in the process.

The cable message received by Choo from Hooper (NLB archive)
The possibility to play in England caused a sensation when the news was reported by ST on 4th January 1950 on these two players being offered a try out at Leeds United when Choo received the aforementioned cable message from Hooper.

LEEDS' BUCKLEY HAVING NO IDEA
However, the whole episode sunk into a confusion when Leeds United manager Major Frank Buckley denied knowing anything about Leong and Foo or having plans seek players from the Far East in an interview with Reuters.

This declaration from Buckley came at a time when Hooper's cable telegram reached Singapore.

Adding a twist to the matter, the then Leeds chairman Sam Bolton told London correspondent of ST that the Elland Road outfit "might be interested" should both Leong and Foo made themselves available for a trial in northern England.

Leeds United's manager Major Buckley's denial caused confusion (NLB archive)
Bolton added if they were keen, he would check with the relevant authority on the two players' eligibility to play in England given their status being British subjects at that point of time.

Such assurance did not exactly convince those back in Singapore and several commentaries weighted in their thoughts on this saga with Singapore Free Press (SFP) questioned if "advanced publicity" on the move proved to be "harmful".

On the other hand, ST suggested the likelihood of someone being hoaxed given the contradictions that came along the way.

Commentaries like this cast their skepticism on the whole event (NLB archive
Amid the skepticism and uncertainty surrounded the whole event, Choo remained unfazed and was confident of Hooper's integrity in the whole process and the boys' capability to make the grade in English football that he was willing to send them by ship at his own expenses if Leeds decided not to reimburse the air travelling expenses.

Citing the example of Welsh international Frank Scrine who played in the local league while serving the British military in Singapore in an update with ST on 7th January 1950, Choo felt "given good coaching, food and the opportunities to train on the right lines" both Leong and Foo "should be able to make the grade in second or third divisions of the English League." (Note: Scrine played for Royal Navy in 1946 in the local league before joining Swansea Town (now Swansea City in the Championship of English Football League system) in 1947 and earned his first Welsh cap in 1949 against England).

Welsh international Frank Scrine (circled) played in Singapore league in post-war years (shared by Carl Oakes)
Choo's confident was buoyed when he received an update from Hooper via post which indicated three professional clubs had shown their interest in the players with one team tabled their terms.

The letter from Hooper provided more details for the proposed itinerary such as to attach Leong and Foo with an amateur club for two to three weeks for acclimatizing before getting ready for a trial with the professional sides.

Still, it was hardly a surprise to see the uncertainty felt by Leong when interviewed by ST.

In the report that was published by the broadsheet on the 10th of January, the then 21-year-old Cantonese outside-right stated he would like to be assured of those uncertainties, such as trip expenses, being taken care of before making the trip besides having a few doubts over the trial offer facilitated by Hooper following the statement by Buckley earlier.

Hooper informed Choo the plan to attach Leong and Foo with an amateur side for acclimatizing (NLB archive)
Facing the choice of either to pursue a career as a professional footballer in England or to accept the invitation to join a Malayan Chinese Football Association (MCFA) tour at that
juncture, Foo decided to go for the safer option to join the touring party who were heading to Hong Kong for the Ho Ho Cup fixture instead.

Sharing his thoughts with SFP on that decision, the then 22-year-old** Foo stated that while he would like to play in England but there must have a "clear understanding" of the trip arrangements and added since he had not received any further update from Choo and said the trip "will be sheer waste of time" if he failed to make the grade in the northern hemisphere (** Mr Foo was born in 1928, as confirmed by Mr Foo's family after a few articles stated he was either 19 or 21-year-old during that period of time).

The above-mentioned SFP report also indicated plans had been made to send Leong to England by ship at the end of January with arrangements to have him attending trials at both Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur.

Apparently, the whole event came to an end when Hooper wrote a letter to ST to explain the occurrence in detail that intrigued football fans in Singapore since the start of that year.

HOOPER: I AM NOT A SCOUT OF LEEDS UNITED
In the broadsheet's article dated 20th January with contents extracted from the said letter, Hooper shed some lights on events that led to excitement that lasted for two weeks.

One of the first things Hooper clarified in the letter was he was not associated with any English club when in the first place he was thought to be a scout for Leeds United.

This was what he did with Choo too upon his arrival back in Leeds after his demobilization, when he received a letter from the then SAFA (Singapore Amateur Football Association) honorary coach which contained pictures and details of several players with both Leong and Foo included showing interest to play for "his club".

Hooper clarified the whole affairs in his letter to Straits Times (NLB archive)
Calling it a "misapprehension", Hooper immediately replied to Choo and explained his status and said he having "some friends" in the circle whom he would approach for the facilitation of the whole process.

As Leeds was where he lived, so naturally he went to knock the doors at Elland Road to speak to Major Buckley.

Knowing Buckley being one of the shrewdest football managers around, Hooper believed opportunities would be given to the Singaporean footballers even though it was a considerable risk when there was not precedent of Asian players playing professionally in England until Hong Kong's Cheung Chi Doy signed for Blackpool in 1960.

The guess was right with Buckley shown interest in the players and a meeting with the club's board of directors to be followed up to deliberate the final decision on both Leong and Foo.

It was at that juncture Hooper decided to send Choo that cable message to ask him to expedite the necessary travel arrangements for the players in case the board agreed to offer trials to them.

Major Frank Buckley (Wikipedia)
But things turned sour when Hooper was accused by Buckley to leak the information to the media without his authority when the latter was rang up by the resourceful press who wanted to find out more about this exclusive.

The unexpected fall out eventually led to the denial by Buckley mentioned earlier in this article and turned down the proposal.

"I feel that it would be a great pity if these lads should be denied their chance because of a lot of misplaced publicity." said Hooper in his letter in summarizing the event.

He added if the trial is a success that would see Leong and Foo joining Leeds, it would be open up more opportunities to players from this region to play in English league.

Since the published of the extractions, there was no further follow up from parties involved.

POINTS TO PONDER
Although along the way while compiling this story, there were some interesting discoveries which would make us ponder over a few key areas that we shall discuss in another blog post on a later date.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from online 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 if there is, thanks)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Matchpix" - March 2020

  • SGPL - Tanjong Pagar Utd 1-1 Lion City Sailors 060320
Referee:"No, you listen to me!"
A gutsy performance by Tanjong Pagar United saw them marked their return to top-tier of local football with a 1-1 draw with Lion City Sailors, one of Singapore Premier League title favourites on 6/3 at Jurong East in front of 2,700 fans.

The Jaguars took the lead in the 26th minute with a strike from Brazilian Yann Motta before it was cancelled out by Aussie striker Andy Pengelly in the 44th minute.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • SGPL - Balestier Khalsa 2-2 Hougang United 180320
Stipe Plazibat (second from left) sandwiched in between this aerial duel 
Skipper Zaiful Nizam's parried the ball out of play just before full-time to ensure Balestier Khalsa hang on to another 2-2 draw at home, this time against Hougang United at Bishan Stadium.⠀

Tigers' Sime Zuzul triggered the scoreboard in the 37th minute with a close range effort before it was cancelled out by a brace from Stipe Plazibat in the 48th and 59th minute.⠀

But Cheetahs' joy was short-lived when Shuhei Hoshino levelled for the hosts in the 65th minute.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

Saturday, March 21, 2020

After Those Embarrassments, Let's Reach Out Together ...

It's regrettable that recently on two separate occasions some prominent local social media icons used the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak as a theme of their humour to mock at the expense of local football.

Subsequently, the postings from these social media icons had removed following feedback from local football supporters who registered their opinions on them.

The first thing came to my mind was how much does these social media icons know about local football to use it as a subject to poke fun with?

FIRST POSTING
Apparently, one appeared to be zilch when the name "S League" was used in the posting using an old picture from an S.League match courtesy of one local news outlet.

If the aforementioned posting was referring to the local professional football league, the person who may not be aware that the league had rebranded and inaugurated as "Singapore Premier League" (SGPL) in 2018 by President Halimah Yacob at the National Stadium (two seasons already).

President Halimah Yacob (fourth from left) inaugurated the SGPL in March 2018
Eventually, the person behind that post realized that "oversight" and "gave a pat on the shoulder" on local football after a picture from the recent SGPL match between Tanjong Pagar United and Lion City Sailors at Jurong East Stadium were shared by this platform as a reply to the original twitter posting.

SECOND POSTING
Just as we thought the saga was put behind, a similar posting was posted up days later by the company which first started out telling Singaporeans one of their favourite sauces provided by a fast-food chain was out of stock.

The response to the second posting was fast and furious with a number of supporters groups and fans flooded their replies with photo evidence to counter the picture of an empty Jalan Besar Stadium used by the said company.

The launch of the SGPL at the Singapore Sports Hub in March 2018
The reaction from these fans seems to be overwhelming that the posting was removed shortly after it was posted.

The removal of the post in question did not appease some in the local football fraternity who followed up with various number of the social media posts by tagging the name of the company in their updates which mostly depicted the colours and sights generated by supporters at the stand.

NEGATIVITY - STIGMA OF LOCAL FOOTBALL
At the time of uploading this blog post, there is no reaction or whatsoever from the said company even though there is no obligation for them to do so but on the other hand, this unpleasant episode protruded the stigma that had long associated with local football - negativity.

It is because the negative image of the local game has etched on general public's mindset that any effort, good or bad, will be ridiculed before even given a chance to prove whether it is workable or not.

The correct form to write the name is to add a dot between the "S" and the "LEAGUE"
Things can't be helped either when Singapore football have been blemished with undesired publicity in the recent years that the stigma remains like a tattoo on the skin and proved to be a challenge to change the general mindset overnight.

Perhaps with these recent unintended interactions between the local football community and these social media icons, opportunities can be explored to see if both sides can work together to promote local game but ultimate aim is through these social media icons to reach out to a wider audience to have a better understanding of Singapore soccer.

The ball at anyone's court now for a brain storming session?

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