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."

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mitre - The New Match Ball Sponsor of S.League

Various players from S.League clubs with the new match ball  
The long-to-be-seen hype surrounding this season's S.League has added another talking point with the introducing of its new official match ball - Mitre Delta Hyperseam Football, when it was officially unveiled this afternoon at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Under this new partnership, Mitre, the world’s oldest manufacturer of footballs, will provide match balls for all S.League, Prime League, Singapore Cup, League Cup, COE League, National Football League and Island Wide League matches for the next five years.

Mitre will the official ball and product supplier for the next five years
Mitre Delta Hyperseam Football
This is the same match ball used in both The Football League and Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) in England and Scotland respectively.

FEATURES

• Featuring Mitre's latest technology Hyperseam, the only technology that fuses stitched and bonded seams to give players the benefits of both

• Zero water uptake and consistency in wet and dry conditions

• Foam and rubber inter lining increases power and control

• Textured surface combined with a 12 panel construction for optimum aerodynamic control.

FIRST FEELING
Grabbing hold of the Mitre Delta Hyperseam Football for the first time, Warriors FC's defender Ismail Yunos shared his thoughts with this blogger at the unveiling.

Ismail Yunos wasn't referring to this ball he is stepping on
Said Ismail: "I first came to know Mitre football through EPL (English Premier League) on television, it's great to have it here in the S.League that make me look forward to the new season.

"From the feel of it, I think this ball will be good for passing game and crosses as well, it is also suitable for youth players." he added.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Home ENGAGING ...

Fans waiting patiently for their turn
Not very often we would have a S.League club do something like this before the start of any season, but it is an encouraging sign. Judging from the turnout at the “Meet and Greet” session organized by Home United at the Bishan Stadium this evening which, at the same time, allowed supporters to catch a glimpse of the players' training session.

Prior to the start of the first autograph session, both players and backroom staff were individually introduced to the crowds before it was adjourned to the open training session that was concluded with a match between “Team A” and “Team B” with the former scored a 4-1 victory over the latter.

By then, eager fans were already formed along the stairways of the main stand for the second autograph session with new signings like Faris Ramli, Khairul Nizam, Irfan Fandi with skipper Juma'at Jantan at the first of the row on the limited edition posters that went on sale in conjunction with the event to mark the club's return to their spiritual home after a year of hiatus.

Juma'at Jantan signing on the bag
“Actually, it started off at the end of last year when we gathered good response from our social media marketing campaign that we decided to have this meet-and-greet session,” said Mr Ayyub Kay, the club's Head of Community Outreach on such initiative.

MAINTAIN THE CONSISTENCY
“Coupled the fact that we had made some good signings (at the close season) and we thought this is a good chance like this to allow the players to interact with the fans who also get an opportunity to own merchandise like the posters we are selling today which they could share with their friends or family about us and S.League on whole.

"Please sign here, thanks"
Irfan Fandi pose with a fan
“We are happy with the turnout today with lines forming to get autograph from the players by these supporters whom we felt are genuinely exciting for the upcoming season but at the end of the day, it's all about consistent engaging with the community we are working with.” he added.

Echoing the same sentiments was Daniel Lau, a long-time Home United supporter and local resident in Bishan.

“Now that they (Home United) are back at home in Bishan, I hope the club will double the intensity in reaching out to the residents here even though I thought they did a good job like the Chinese New Year's house-to-house visit in Yishun (where the Protectors were based last year).” said the undergraduate who caught his first S.League action at the Bishan Stadium when he was a primary school student.

GAUGE AGAINST THE THAIS
Following the interactive session, the team will embark a training tour on coming Monday (25th of January) to Thailand where they are scheduled for three matches which included an outing against Army United whom Singapore international Hassan Sunny is playing for.

Coach Philippe Aw signs on the limited edition poster
Said Coach Philippe Aw of the upcoming tour:“The three matches will be a good test for us to see where we stand and we will have different objective for each game, for example we would like to see how our attacking are up against the Thai sides'.

“Given the young and dynamic squad we have this season, I hope this trip will allow the team to gel together without any distraction to shape our team spirit.”

(P.S: All these snaps were taken using my mobile.)

Friday, January 01, 2016

Last Ditch To Salvage A Legacy?

Lim Chin is thinking a way to "fit S.League into ASL system".
Even though many are skeptical, but they still seen it as an opportunity to place the ailing S.League as the priority again after Lions XII's acrimonious exit from the Malaysian league.

Unfortunately, it will not be the case when the top man of the league, himself, declared:"If we agree that the ASL (Asean Super League) will be a good platform for us to build a strong national team, then we should all work together to achieve that... We have to find a creative way to transform the S.League into a system to fit into the ASL model,"

The presser of the recent FAS AGM (credit: FAS)
Those words by S.League 'CEO' Lim Chin at the recent concluded FAS (Football Association of Singapore) AGM shattered those who harboured hopes to see the country's only professional sports league to be given attention it badly needed to unplug itself from life support.

But with the game's local governing body's pet project - ASL to be given the priority, as perceived, the "poorer cousin" is set to be the second fiddle again like the last four years in the shadow of the disbanded Lions XII despite assurance it would not (just like what it was mentioned four years ago).

Instead, the folks at JBS have painstakingly trying to convince the S.League is still an important component in the setup to majority out there who had registered their unpleasantness online during the last few days.

And at the meantime, enticing the masses the benefits ASL is going to help Singapore football out of its doldrums proved to be a mammoth task.

Thailand is miles ahead of the rest in this region. 
FAS president Zainudin Nordin pointed out 'the ASL as a stepping stone for players in South-east Asia, before they make the jump to the bigger leagues in Europe, Japan and South Korea.' (source)

Yet when Thailand's Teerasil Dangda on two separate occasions plyed his trade in Europe, there wasn't anything called ASL since he was transferred there from his club Muangthong United and not that long ago a Chonburi player (Worachit Kanitsribampen) was offered a trial with a J-League club in Japan.

Moreover, with their clubs assured a spot in continent's top-tier club tournament - the Asian Champions League's (ACL) group stages and a place in the same competition's qualifying play-off, so how is it going to ensure powerhouse like Thailand to whole-heartedly committed to this project by sending their best players to ASL when former SAFFC star and current Chonburi FC coach Therdsak Chaiman openly denounced the proposal in a recent interview?

Therdsak Chaiman (right) is now head coach of Chonburi FC (file)
Time to time we are told the necessary groundworks are laid to prepare for inauguration in 2017, the latest date provided after this new ‘league’ failed to materialize its scheduled kick off this August.

Such an uncertainty with lack of tangible update of progress to this ambitious project would be hard to see any entity or individual keen to associate with amid chorus of disapproval among the Singapore football supporters.

It's certainly not what I envisaged when I first came to know this ASL gimmick in 2010, thus given the fact that S.League is now being declared the feeder base to the pet project, I thought it would be another case of not willing to swallow the bitter pill by seeking another quick fix in order to cement a legacy?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

[Annual Review] - Was "HE" There on 28th of November 2015?

I hope that guy, who dropped me an email on first day of Lunar New Year in 2012 to chide me for not covering the Malaysian League, did turn up for the game on 28th of November at the Jalan Besar Stadium (JBS).

If he did, I am not sure how he felt now when he expressed his disappointment on me in that email for not witnessing a "saviour" in the form of a newly formed team - LionsXII that were set to be the "next conqueror" after making "our Great Return to Malaysian football" which he opined was "better than any S-League game" he seen.

The KGS is gone - a symbol of Lions XII's MSL involvement
I would only say I made that decision without any regret and glad I did, as I merely adhere what "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee envisaged long time ago when he said playing in the Malaysia Cup will not see improvement in our game when we are facing their state teams using our national team that we should be aiming for pinnacle of Asian football instead.

Which we did when SAFFC (now Warriors FC) twice made it to the group stages of Asian Champions League (ACL), the pinnacle of the continental club tournament in 2009 and 2010.

Following the capture of our fourth Asean title in 2012 (which I thought would be a launchpad to breakout from where we are, after all what is there for us to prove in Asean region?), it seems that thing has never been the same ever since the signing of the MOU in 2011 between Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and their Malaysian counterparts (FAM).

It is a terrible feeling for me to see this picture (file picture: FAS)
Touted to be a move to revitalize the sagging interest of the game by banking on nostalgic factor of the tournament which Singapore was the 24-time winner of the Asia's oldest domestic competition before the pullout in 1994.

The first two years of four-year agreement did see numbers swell at the JBS to see V Sundram moorthy's men took on sides from across the Causeway amid heavy publicity prior the start of the season.

The success in clinching the MSL title in 2013 and the Malaysia FA Cup months ago by LionsXII didn't cause the projected "spill-over" effect into the ailing S.League, which is perceived as a "second fiddle" as compared to the Malaysian tournaments.

S.League clubs struggling in AFC Cup in recent years
Making things worse was the continuing declining in our clubs' performance on international front (i.e.: the AFC Cup) when they struggle against teams they used to steam roll over easily in the past on top of dwindling interest in its own backyard.

QUANTITY OR QUALITY
While the short stint was hailed as a successful project by its protagonists for supplying bulk of players to the national team in last four years but fallen FIFA ranking (source:1,2) had many questioned if it's quantity that took priority over quality in this aspect given last year's disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup outing and recent World Cup/Asian Cup joint qualifiers to serve as a clear indication that gap is widening between us and rest of the region.

Can clubs afford Safuwan's (left) wages paid by Lions XII, if stay behind?
So when one recent article portrayed the Lions XII players as a group of messiahs if they are to play in S.League next year because of the experience and exposure gained from their adventure across the Causeway together with their national team representation, I thought the writer's argument is lack of conviction, citing those reasons mentioned.

Swift action taken by FAS after that acrimonious MSL exit to assure the livelihood of those affected players can only be interpreted by some quarters where their actual priority lays when the proposed revamp for the local league has been dead silence, despite the fact that Lions XII were officially disbanded a week later following the ouster.

Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya
FEEBLE
Furthermore, the unceremonious exit shown by the folks from Kelana Jaya (FAM) had shown how feeble our football authorities were on this matter when officially made known of the decision after the public were already debating on it.
  • 1994 - WE SALVAGED OUR PRIDE AND PULLED OUT TO BE OUR OWN.
  • 2015 - PRIDE WAS SWALLOWED TO BE VOTED OUT.
Sadly, there may be things that will never change but it's even worse when one never learnt the lesson after all these years.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Making Up For The Lost Time ...

"This was for me the hardest night of international football in my career. The two players on my side were like horses, running up and down, and I didn't expect that (Almawas) was that fast, or that (Al Shibbli) was that good."

Those words expressed in the papers by defender Shakir Hamzah after Singapore's 2-1 defeat to Syria last month came as a shock to me.

"I didn't expect ... was that fast, or that ... was that good." were those key words tersely summarized by the 23-year-old on both Mahmoud Almawas and Alaa Al Shibbli who rugged him that night at Kallang.

Shakir Hamzah (right) got it pass Japan's Keisuke Honda (4)
Moreover, it wasn't the first time we faced the Syrians whom we narrowly lost to weeks ago on road which was why I was taken aback by those quotes.

To be honest, I would never anticipate thoughts like "didn't expect ... was that fast ... was that good" to be said after an international competitive match by a player representing his country when adequate preparation should be in place for that kind of intensity.

And when those words were uttered, what could it be interpreted as? To say the lack of adequate preparation for the recent World Cup Qualifiers could be something hard to accept when there were not much shuffling in recent selections that gelling up shouldn't be much an issue.

THE INVISIBLE GAP ...
Yet, I am more inclined to the suggestion by some that lack of sparring matches against quality opponents is one of the factors that triggered those thoughts from Shakir.

It is widely acknowledged the huge gap between domestic and international football that many players who may thrived domestically had found the transition hard when earning their caps on a bigger stage (just think hard to recall who were those called up to play a few games before diminished from the radar).

Jamil Ali (left) has been consistency at a point being overlooked, why?
Part of the Strategic Plan unveiled in 2010 is "to expose our National Teams against the Top 15 in Asia and Top 50 in the world where possible" and there was a time it was hardly possible when the National Stadium was not ready yet to attract any marquee team to play against the Lions.

Just when the cornerstone of the Sports Hub is ready to their arms open, several well documented controversies surrounded the playing surface which hogged the sending out those invitations.

Imaging the tourist dollars revenue if we often versus teams like Japan
And when we are ready to do so, news revealed the standoff between the stadium operators and leading international media rights company MP & Silva who are planning to revive the Merlion Cup to allow Singapore national team to complete against some notable sides.

QUESTIONS ... QUESTIONS ...
If that breakdown eventually see the Merlion Cup to be shifted out of Singapore, as reported, some questions in regards to the partnership inked between FAS and MP & Silva (MPS) in February would have to be asked.
  • If that agreement had granted MP & Silva any exclusive right to negotiate on behalf of FAS on staging the Merlion Cup, which took its name from the uniquely Singapore icon?
  • If so, does that meant FAS do not have any say in that negotiation between MPS and Sports Hub over the staging of the said tournament which prompted the shift of tournament venue outside Singapore in deadlock can't be resolved, as mentioned?
High rental costs of the National Stadium, as it may seems, to be the stumbling block in the ongoing wrangling but let us not forget it is still a new and prominent landmark of this country that shall be utilized in boasting the tourism industry by inviting some big name teams to face the Lions in the new arena which wouldn't mind hosting them given the FIFA international dates are already made available for the next three years, thus allowing some adequate planning ahead in aspects like marketing, drumming up of awareness, etc.

MPS-FAS linked up in February 2015
There must be somewhere things can work it out
Supposedly, schedule of these international friendlies are already made known in advance to players, hope it will motivate them to prove their worth to the national selectors who might want to try out some fresh faces in these non-competitive fixtures to accumulate some exposures (perhaps some FIFA ranking points too).

After all, isn't not the time to make up for the lost time?

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