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, March 05, 2019

Are The Lions Ready For Bukit Jalil At End Of March?

Shroud in secrecy that at the eleventh hour, many are still unsure if the Singapore national team is ready for their first tournament of the year with no clear indication from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on their participation in the AIRMARINE Cup 2019.

"The FAS will be making an announcement on this shortly." was the reply received by this platform after enquiries were put forward to ask several matters pertaining the quadrangular organized by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) who announced the tournament will feature Oman, Afghanistan (as replacement for Solomon Islands) beside Singapore and host national Malaysia in a press release issued on 25th of February.

With the statement like this that read "The AIRMARINE Cup 2019 aims to be a tournament that delivers a competitive platform for national squads during the international break to gain the necessary exposure and ranking points to advance in the International football scene.", it is without any doubt that national teams of the four nations will be playing in the mentioned tournament scheduled between March 20 and 23 at the Bukit Jalil Stadium at Kuala Lumpur.

Doubt Ikhsan (20) be flying half the globe back for this AirMarine Cup
Following a draw conducted by the organizers at Wisma FAM (FAM headquarters at Kelana Jaya) on 4th of March, Singapore will face Malaysia on 20th of March at 8.45pm with Oman taking on Afghanistan at an earlier time slot in the 87,411-capacity arena.

The winners of both matches will play each other in the final on the 23rd of March at 8.45 pm, the losing teams will square off at 4.30pm on the same day, according to the press release issued by FAM.

In the past, the FAS would usually came up with a press statement of their own in participation of any tournament involving the Lions but it was not the case this time round with several uncertainties hanging around.

First being the post of the national team head coach is still vacant despite earlier suggestions that the post would be filled in a foreign coach by January that along the process saw names like former Iraq coach Jorvan Vieira and Japanese Tatsuma Yoshida among those highlighted by the media as possible successor to Fandi Ahmad who stepped down as interim national coach after last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

AIA Singapore Premier League just started
Secondly, the new AIA Singapore Premier League season had just started and we are not how the clubs would react if requests for release of players are to be called at this juncture even though the tournament is scheduled within the allocated FIFA international dates, given the domestic campaign is still at its infancy and it would be catastrophic if any of these players return to their clubs with concerns like injuries, etc.

Thirdly, with such a short notice given it is unlikely, in this blogger's opinion, to see overseas-based players like Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Baihakki Khaizan and Fandi siblings being called by whosoever taking charge of this team who is likely to face a selection headache given the lack of preparation time before their first game against the auld enemy - Harimau Malaya.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Not Even Started, Already Feel Like Giving Up ...

The building up to the new season hardly inspired and everything just looks like damp squib that no one seems to be looking forward to the 2019 campaign.

Is it because of the continuing domination by a mainly youth-based Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in recent years which is being used as an excuse by some to extend their boycott by not coming to games with a number of them are making hell lot of noise on the lack of glamour in the league?

But when these people choose to stay away and let the terraces become a white elephant, how are we going to convince players of certain quality to come and play in our league? It is just that some out there chosen to be blinded by what they heard and read based on "first impression last"?

Our clubs were overwhelmed by the clubs across the bridge in preseason
Or is it nothing newsworthy of late to generate awareness to fire people's imagination?

Somehow or rather, the recent domination of the White Swans should be considered a blessing in disguise to tell us how much we have fallen behind in all aspects and embarrassment continues when none of our local sides recorded a win against those MSL/MPL clubs in their preseason trip across the bridge.

No point of arguing stuff like results being secondary in preseason, the Malaysians "have more imports and started their preparation earlier", these are merely excuses that cannot deny the fact the slump is ongoing judging from some of big margin losses incurred by those touring clubs.

We heard about what was happening at Hougang United of late with the termination of Rafael Ramazotti's contract and recruitment of Singapore international Faris Ramli who was released by Malaysian side Perlis FA without kicking a ball competitively.

Faris Ramli signed for Hougang United 
If these were to happen elsewhere outside this dot, it would have flooded and generated views and discussions expressed on them but it was not the case when these were restricted within a constrained perimeter of the local fraternity.

Outside this constrained fraternity, no one seems to be bothered or lift their eyelids to take a look at these occurrences.

More than often these days, given the proliferation of the social media platforms many clubs would prefer to announce major occurrences on their own thus deemed extra media coverage provided externally something of a redundancy.

Some fans criticized media only reported on negative stuff and left blemishes on the scene.

But the point is, who would want their dirty linens to be washed in the public when it is the only to serve as a reminder that things are always being observed and scrutinized, rather than left it unchecked and getting from bad to worse.

Clubs taking over most of the media work on their own
And if things are that good, why should anyone plastered them cosmetically to make looked so fake?

The season have not even started and I already feel like throw in the towel for having to face the same issues day in and out with no viable remedy within sight to stop the rot.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


I don't feel sorry or have kind words to say about the recent ground sharing move that will see only four (local) venues being used for the upcoming Singapore Premier League (SGPL) season.

Why should I or rather we feel sorry to see clubs uprooted from their "roots" to find themselves sharing grounds with their contemporaries in a struggling league system plagued with so many woes that don't seems to have any remedy formula to cure them all?

Toa Payoh Stadium will not be used in the 2019 SGPL season
When our own professional football league was launched in 1996, one of the key emphasizes is community outreach by having clubs based strategically around the island in order to see themselves fused into the vicinities they were based.

But two decades down the road since it started, it seems to me that most clubs are still aliens to where they are based and we hardly see the bonding between the clubs and residents (not fans) like how I asked a co-worker of mine if he has that sense of belonging with the SGPL team he supposed to affiliate with, he said "NO".

These media seats were installed when the S.League was introduced in 1996
To reiterate a point I was quoted in this article in the past, just walk around any of those housing estates that housed a SGPL team, do we see any fixture or something tangible to mark the presence of it? Hardly any, isn't it?

Just talk to anyone random in any of those community, are they aware of their "home" team playing at their neighbourhood stadiums?

Let's face it, hardly anyone is aware or even know the answer.

These VIP seats became a permanent fixture at Toa Payoh Stadium  
Should they know who is their "home" team representing their community, we would have seen a major outpour of disapproval over the proposal initiated by Sport SG, the landlord of the three of the grounds (Our Tampines Hub is owned by People's Association) to be used.

Should residents (not fans) for having developed a strong bond with their "local" teams over the past ten to twenty years, we would have seen home matches packed with partisan supporters over the years but it is never case after the early boom.

Will this scoreboard be removed from Toa Payoh Stadium?
I agree and acknowledged efforts made continuously over the years to bridge the gap between the clubs and community but when those efforts are not reflected on the number of headcount at the stands, it is pointless to argue any case over the table.

It would be a lie to say "it doesn't matter to us for not having big crowds coming to our games" but to admit the failure to sustain a bond between a local football club and their supposedly fanbase all these while.

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..


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