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, 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)."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

[Guest Column] - Starry Starry Night At Kallang ...

The former players featured in last weekend's “Battle Of Europe” match between England Masters and Germany Masters had many of those at the game recalled those good old memories when they saw the likes of legends Lothar Matthäus, Teddy Sheringham, etc. took on each other in one of football's most storied rivalries at Kallang with Yusof B Ibrahim, among those at the game, who penned his thoughts on that evening.

Teddy Sheringham and Lothar Matthäus skippered their teams
It has been fifty years since England last won their first ever and only major international football honour to date - 1966 FIFA World Cup by beating West Germany 4-2 under one of the most controversial circumstances ever which is still much of a debate today.

As such, there was a sense of Déjà vu over the last weekend when the England Masters repeated the same scoreline by defeated the Germany Masters in the Battle of Europe 2016 that took place at the iconic National Stadium of the Singapore Sports Hub.

The footballing rivalry between the two nations is a massive one, England accounted some of their biggest disappointments in any major tournament against Germany that many English supporters see the Germans as their main sporting rivals.

Lothar Matthäus (left) in action
Not once but twice in recent decades saw the Die Mannschaft halted the The Three Lions from further glories since 1966 by knocked them out of contention from Italia 90 (1990 World Cup in Italy) and Euro 96 (1996 UEFA European Football Championship in England), both on penalties in the semi-final stages and went on to win both tournaments in the end.

Italia 90 was the start of my adoration towards both German and English football with the admiration of legends like Lothar Matthäus, Jurgen Klinsmann, Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson.

It was definitely a mixed feeling then when both met again in the semi-finals during Euro 96 that I was torn in between to see who would I want to make it through that stage.

Darren Anderton (left) tried to stop a German advancement
The Battle of Europe brought back a lot of memories.

To be able to watch those legends whom I idolized during my growing up years in live was a dream come true. It was a privilege to meet up former players like Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman and Darren Anderton who were part of that England squad eliminated by the Germans in the Euro 96.

And not forgetting Matthäus, who only arrived in Singapore on the match day, to renew the storied rivalry between the two at Kallang.

Yusof (left) with former Liverpool 'keeper David James (credit: Yusof B Ibrahim)
All these while, we may have seen them in action during those weekend nights on television in those good ol' days but nothing can beat the joy and enthusiasm to witness them in live action like how I was in awe to see Sheringham, cool and composed as always, provided a pinpoint cross to Anderton for account opening header in the 2nd minute before unleashed a driver from close-range to extend the lead in the 28th minute.
  • Views expressed may not be that of the blog owner. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lions snapped losing streak just before flight to Manila.

Coach Sundram (in blue jacket) facing the media
To sum up the Singapore National Football Team's final warming up before heading off to Manila this coming Tuesday – to win the game, the feeling is great but to score a goal, it's bonus.

The one-nil win over the visiting Cambodian national team at the Bishan Stadium was indeed a relief to everyone in the Lions setup whose preparation for the biennial regional showpiece – the AFF Suzuki Cup, hasn't been smooth sailing since national caretaker coach V Sundram moorthy took over back in May.

With the most of the participating countries already confirmed their list of 23 for the tournament, the former Lions striker decided to buckle the trend by stated he will only do so when arrived in the Philippines in reply to a query from the media after the game.

“I will only reveal when we are in Philippines,” said Coach Sundram during the post-match press conference on the to-be-finalized squad which is now trimmed to 24 men with one more spot up for grab after delisted the likes of 'keeper Zaiful Nizam, defender Irfan Fandi Ahmad, and forwards Shawal Anuar and Iqbal Hussain Hamid in midweek.

The recent inclusion of both Shahdan Sulaiman and Shahfiq Ghani whom both just recovered from serious injuries would suggested the options are limited for the “Dazzler” who tried a number of available players as he could in recent weeks via training tours to Japan and Bahrain.

Apparently, a number of those who thought would make the cut fallen off the radar as the deadline drew closer with many fans registered their concern via social media questioning the selection criteria of the 51-year-old tactician.

Differed from the flair he was associated during his playing days, Coach Sundram is known these day being someone pragmatic and it was said his inputs helped to engineer the Lions'goal-less draw against Asian powerhouses Japan in last June.

So it came little surprise when he summarized his thoughts last night in Bishan, the one-time FC Basel marksman started off by saying:“A win is a win but friendlies are just friendlies where you can win all the friendlies, however the real test will come when we will play our first game against Philippines.”

“In modern football, there are no pushovers and it is the performance of the day that matters.” he added.

Yasir Hanapi (left) scored the only goal (credit: Playmaker)
On the match that saw Tampines Rovers' Yasir Hanapi scored the only goal in the 70th minute to end the Lions' six-match losing streak in front of the sell-out crowds of 2,946, Coach Sundram opined it was a better display from his team in the second half as compared to the first.

“We came back strongly in the second half where our players dominated the game,” said the former Negri Sembilan coach. “We shown more mobility and getting more crosses into the box, although I felt we are losing the ball too cheaply in the game.”

At the end of the day, Coach Sundram also shown his appreciation to the fans who turned out to show their support.

He said:“I would like to thank the fans who always stand behind us and we will do our best to show what we can achieve.”


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