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, October 28, 2014

[S.League] We'll know on Friday if we can check in the trophy at airport or not

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Snap from Jurong East earlier
It is down to the final fixtures of the season before we will know if Warriors, since 2009 when they were still known as SAFFC, or Brunei DPMM, joining the ranks alongside with another foreign side - Etoile FC, are to be crowned the new Great Eastern Yeo's S.League champions this coming Friday.

The upcoming coronation will effectively signal the end of reigning champions Tampines Rovers' stranglehold of the title, which they held for the last three years.

Ironically, the Stags will be the stumbling block for the oil-rich sultanate's only professional football club this Friday before the fate is to be decided if the latter can check-in 15-kilogram trophy over the airport counter.

Meanwhile, victory by both Tampines and Warriors, who will face Albirex Niigata (Singapore), on Friday will ensure the league trophy remains within the Republic boundary.

DPMM coach Steve Kean (file picture)
The scenario is made possible after Albirex failed to beat the Bruneians at home and eventually ended all title hopes for the Japanese side with a 1-0 scoreline went in favour of the visitors at the Jurong East Stadium.

Adi Said scored the all-important goal in the 61st minute to seal all three points before the sending off of Roy O'Donovan left some tainted spots of the evening.

The suspension of the Irish marksman would prove costly for Coach Steve Kean's bid for the title against Tampines at Jalan Besar.

Nonetheless, the Scotsman is pleased with the result when facing the media after the match.

Said the former Blackburn Rovers coach:"I am delighted with the result tonight and it was a tough one to get, as Albirex is a very tactical side that holds very good possession."

"I don't want to pay much attention to the past records and we had worked hard for the past eleven months." added Coach Kean when asked if the Wasps' poor records against the Stags this season would be a weighing factor during the coming showdown.

Warriors aim to end title drought (file picture)
Meanwhile, Albirex's coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama refused to comment on the Brunei's title hopes or their final game of the season against the Warriors.

"I just want to stay focused on our game that I want to reflect tonight's result before thinking of the next game (against the Warriors), as we have nothing to lose and we playing for ourselves." said the 38-year-old coach in the post-match press conference.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Football must be not an exclusive sport ...

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Coach Stange (right) has a difficult time (file)
So, we are facing the hard truth that after having a professional football league close to almost twenty years, we are nowhere near to call ourselves a PROFESSIONAL league that contribute $200 million to the local economy.

In national coach Bernd Stange's eyes, some of the local players are merely "semi-professionals" and "even close to amateur" with more training need to be done to close the gap.

This was remarked by Coach Stange in an article that appeared in an online portal after the recent friendly against Juventus in which he led the Singapore Selection against the Italian giants.

Al-Qaasimy in action against Juventus (file)
Said the German coach in that Yahoo Sports article:“If you’re 19, 20 or 21 years old and you’re semi-professional for a long time, like Al-Qaasimy [Rahman], who [just] came back from NS now, my expectation [for players] should be limited,”

“Now they are free, they have to work and they have to train harder. There is only one way to success and that is training… and we have to do more and work harder on our players." added Coach Stange in the said article that carried those words.

Those opinions somehow contradicted what was said by his employers weeks earlier.

“It has been important for us to place great emphasis on producing and developing young players in the past few years, and we are beginning to see the fruits of our labours. It is good to see many National Football Academy (NFA) graduates in the National Team now; in fact, we even have players who have played in the Lion City Cup in past years who will represent the country in the AFF Suzuki Cup now."

The above statement was made by FAS president Mr Zainudin Nordin in a media release coincide with the recent announcement of AFF Suzuki Cup draw that grouped Singapore alongside Malaysia and Thailand.

Can we retain the Asean supremacy?
One can't help but feel sorry for Al-Qaasimy having been singled out by Coach Stange for such illustration, as he is one of those epitomized as a "success story" thanks to careful nurturing by the NFA system.

For the former Belarus national coach to make such a remark publicly is something rare since he took over the hot seat last May when he is often closely aligned himself with great faith in the youth development under the "Strategic Plan" initiated by the local game governing body (as far as I concern).

Perhaps, Coach Stange may have come to a point that he would just have to make do with the 41 players he brought with to the Austrian training trip after expressed disappointment for not able to find the type of players he wanted in the S.League.

Adding salt to the wound of late is the disastrous outing in the recent Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) Tournament that was represented mainly by players groomed by the NFA system, in which the Singapore side lost all their five matches by sizable margin against those countries who used to be those regional whipping boys.

The far-from-satisfactory outcome drawn by criticism (1, 2) from some quarters in the local football fraternity for overlooked some players from the runaway Prime League leaders Home United who are having several eligible players for the Under-21 tournament in favour of those "Cubs" as mentioned by Coach Stange in this Straits Time report.

Stange hopes for a packed Kallang for coming November
AFF Suzuki Cup (file)
Ironically, the plead from the national coach for all Singaporeans to come forward to throw their support behind the national team in the November's AFF Suzuki Cup tournament remains an uncertainty given various factors, unless convincing results in coming weeks from those in the list can justify the worthiness to pack the new National Stadium end of the year.

However, the much urgent task ahead for all is how can the existing framework help bring up the level of standard for those in the "wilderness" to earn a call-up to the national team?

Wahyudi Wahid (front) in action (file)
Especially days ago, during the annual Sultan of Selangor Cup match, Hougang United defender Wahyudi Wahid made the following comment in an interview with Four Four Two after the match.

Said the former striker-turned-defender:“It’s very difficult to make the national team but hopefully by working hard, foreign or Malaysian clubs can notice and I can get to play for them. Honestly, who does not like to play in front of big crowds?”

If the existing framework is not the solution to widen the pool for the national team, then it's time to dismantle it before the public support erode should things remain "status quo".

After all, football shall be an inclusive sport for all to excel and not being an exclusive domain for a selected few.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Matchpix" - September 2014

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(P.S: If you access this site via "come.to/matchpix", please click the "Facebook" icon after you click "HERE" when you want to view the album as that will redirect you to the album, thank you)
  • International Friendly: Singapore 2-1 Papua New Guinea 6/9/14
Sahil Suhaimi (center) was shielded from the ball
PNG coach Wynton Rufer was absolutely class in his dealing with the media last night after his side's gallant 2-1 loss to Singapore for taking command in the proceedings at the post-match presser and "chided" their hosts for "underestimation" of his team who were lauded for being the hungrier side.

And it is always a challenge to snap when one of the teams are decked in black outfit which would easy fused into the dark backdrop of the composition.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • Singapore Cup SF - Balestier Khalsa 1-0 Tampines Rovers (PK 4-1) 25/9/14
Paul Cunningham (hidden) surrounded (file)
The fairy tales continued for Balestier Khalsa after they secured a berth in the RHB Singapore Cup Final, where they are going to face either Home United or Brunei DPMM on the 7th of November at Jalan Besar, after knocked out Tampines Rovers 4-1 on penalties in the semi-final at the Toa Payoh Stadium.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

Friday, September 26, 2014

[Singapore Cup] Zaiful's heroics propelled Tigers to the Final

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Zaiful dived to deny Mustafic's spot-kick
The fairy tales continued for Balestier Khalsa after they secured a berth in the RHB Singapore Cup Final, where they are going to face either Home United or Brunei DPMM on the 7th of November at Jalan Besar, after knocked out Tampines Rovers 4-1 on penalties in the semi-final at the Toa Payoh Stadium last evening.

Following a nail biting end to their Round Two league fixtures that saw pipped ahead of their "Pinball" rivals, Hougang United to be among the top echelon of the league table, the Tigers had to endure another nerve-wrecking moments before making to another major Cup Final second year on running (they won the League Cup last year).

The ball hit my shin in the end after out of play
Starting the second leg of this series on a one-goal disadvantage, Balestier coach Marko Kraljevic had declared his team would opt for an attacking tactic which he felt was a more viable option.

Speaking to the official site (sleague.com) before the match, the Croatian said:“When you are a goal down, you must attack from the first minute. We must score at least two goals and win the game. We need to focus on attack now,”

(L-R) Kiwis in action - Jake Butler and Paul Cunningham
It was not a surprise to see why the Tigers adapted that stance, especially they missed a chance in the first-leg, which they would have levelled the series should Goran Ljubojevic had converted his spot-kick in the dying moments at Clementi days earlier.

The match also saw the welcoming back in action for Balestier's defence lynchpin Paul Cunningham after a lengthy absence due to an operation months ago and New Zealander put up a stellar performance to keep the usual potent Tampines frontline at bay.

Cunningham's header levelled the aggregate
Hence, it was Cunningham, himself, who rose above the sea of heads in the 61st minute to head home to break the deadlock and squared one 2-2 on aggregate that saw no further goal till the end of the extra-time that led to the penultimate penalty decider.

From there onwards, it was another Balestier player who stolen the limelight of the evening.

Facing national midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman, his former Lion City Cup squad mate for the Tampines' first attempt, Zaiful Nizam dived the right way to deny the Stags before repeated the same act against Fahrudin Mustafic.

"I always learned and watched their body positioning before they took their kicks, while making sure I would not make any movement before they did." said Balestier's 'keeper-cum-captain after making those two saves and scored the final kick that propelled his team to the red-letter date in November.
Balestier's chairman Mr S Thavaneson after the win
Sharing his thoughts on how significant this victory is, the 26-year-old custodian added:"Just in my mind, I want this Cup badly, because last year we made it to the semifinals as well but lost to Home United and ended up playing in the third and fourth placing match,

"I'm proud of the team today, as everyone is working very hard and I just need to save the penalty to advance to the final."

MATCH FACTFILE
  • The match ended 2-2 on aggregate after extra-time and proceed to the penalty decider
  • Tampines Rovers' takers: Shahdan Sulaiman (saved), Mustafic Fahrudin (saved), Jacob Butler (scored)
  • Balestier Khalsa's takers: Paul Cunningham (scored), Emir Lotinac (scored), Kim Minho (scored), Zaiful Nizam (scored)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

[Instant Reaction] Wonder if Coach Stange is happy with the 3-3?

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Screengrab off "Toggle"
The Singapore football team's hopes of staying behind after the official opening ceremony of the 17th Asian Games was given a minor boost after they scraped away with a 3-3 draw against a much superior Oman.

Knowing that another defeat after the loss to Tajikistan on Sunday would mean the Cubs will immediately have to pack their luggage home after the closing tie against Palestine.

I did not see the first three goals until the replay at half-time, although I thought it was a lapse in the defence that saw the Omanis headed home their third goal after the failure to close down on the flank to allow the ball to be floated for the routine rounding up from close range.

Safuwan saved the day (file picture)
Nonetheless, it was a great individual effort from winger Faris Ramli in the box to reduce the deficit before the interval and eventually saw Safuwan Baharudin saved the team from the skin of defeat with a header from nowhere to tie at three a piece.

Bravery and heroics aside, the fact cannot be hidden that if national coach Bernd Stange was there to see the match, I am wondering if he would be pleased to see the kind of game that was not what he has been preaching for?

On the contrary, it was the Middle-Easterners who were playing that kind of "passing-and-moving" type of football emphasized by the German and shown again how fragile the Singapore backline can be whenever they were being pressed against by the opponents who would try to thread a low grounder to unsettle the pack.

Coach Stange is on medical leave (file picture)
Furthermore, the lack of creativity upfront by the Cubs had barely troubled Oman with their static long passing game that was coupled with a number of possession lost during the process.

Rest Well, Guys and Coach Stange.

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