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, 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.

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  • 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.

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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?

Thursday, March 05, 2020

"Our Unity Is Our Strength"

(This entry is formulated by the media release issued by Tanjong Pagar United Football Club)

The logo of TPUFC (credit)
Having stabilized the club's finances during their sit-out period with measures such as prudent budgeting which allowed them to reduce their debts and accrue savings that saw them received the nod to be back at the highest echelon of Singapore's football pyramid, staying financially viable remains one of the utmost priorities as Tanjong Pagar United is set to embark their unfinished journey they left behind in 2015.

In a media statement released to the media a day prior to their first Singapore Premier League (SGPL) match against Lion City Sailors at Jurong East Stadium, club chairman Raymond Tang added another challenge of the Jaguars is to stay competitive in the nine-team league.

Said Tang:“Our squad is a blend of experience and youth. We did not fill our team with plenty of star names but our players are humble, hungry and hardworking..., now our challenge is to be a competitive team and stay financially viable.”

Indeed, a glance at the team roster provided by the club in the said media statement saw 10 players of the 21-man squad aged 23 or younger with a number of those, however, are seasoned campaigners in the local professional scene such as team captain and Lions defender Faritz Hameed who joined the team from Home United, ex-Hougang United midfider Raihan Rahman was signed from Balestier Khalsa with 28-year-old Delwinder Singh returning to the club where he started his senior career back in 2011.

Raihan Rahman is one of the club's signings for the campaign (file)
Entrusting the task to lead the team in this new campaign is 46-year-old Hairi Su'ap who will be making his coaching debut at the top-tier level of the Republic's soccer scene, the former Yishun Sentek Mariners gaffer will be assisted by former Geylang International head coach Hasrin Jailani with ex-Singapore striker Noh Alam Shah named as the team manager of the club.

On top of that, Tanjong Pagar also recruited two Brazilians and two Japanese players to fill up their import quota for the coming season.

No stranger in this region, former Brazil U-17 striker Luiz Carlos Junior plied his trade last season with Sabah FA in the Malaysian league and turned out for Persija Jakarta and Madura United in Indonesia back in 2017, his compatriot 20-year-old Yann Motta will be filling up the U-21 foreigner slot together with defender Takahiro Tanaka and midfider Shodai Nishikawa who used to play for Rudar Pljevlja and FK Kom in the Montenegrin league.

Noh Alam Shah (black outfit) is the Jaguars' team manager (file)
Despite the short preparation period given to them, Coach Hairi is happy with the positive attitude shown by his players during their pre-season trainings

“I can feel that they all want to prove their worth.” said former SAFFC defender “Even though there are no easy fixtures in the S(G)PL and we can expect a tough game every round, we are committed to playing attacking football. Our squad is not the deepest but every player can contribute. Our unity is our strength.”

Saturday, February 29, 2020

"Matchpix" - November 2019, February 2020

  • Singapore Cup Final - Tampines Rovers 4-3 Warriors FC 021119
Tampines' players in jubilant mood
Tampines Rovers claimed their fourth in history and first Singapore Cup win since 2006 after defeated Warriors Football Club 4-3 in nail-biting final at the Jalan Besar Stadium. The two last met in the final of the same competition in 2012 and saw Warriors (then known as SAFFC) walked away with the Cup on a 2-1 scoreline.

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  • AFC Cup - Tampines Rovers 2-1 PSM Makassar 120220
Stags celebrate after another Boris Kopitovic's strike
Tampines Rovers Football Club kept Singapore football's flag flying proudly after beating PSM Makassar 2-1 in their AFC Cup Group H opener at JBS last night (12/2). Goals from Jordan Webb and Boris Kopitovic were enough to seal the win for the Stags in front of 1266 fans.

Ferdinand Alfred Sinaga reduced the deficit for the guests in the 67th minute after Kopitovic's low driver three minutes earlier gave the hosts a two-goal cushion.

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  • Friendly - Lion City Sailors 4-0 Singapore Football Club 150220
LCS' Andy Pengelly (9) couldn't get past SFC's 'keeper Yazid Yasin 
New signing Gabriel Quak scored the first goal to give LCSFC a goal advantage before the interval and added his second after the break, Shahril Ishak came on in the second half to add his brace.

The newly-formed club assumes the ownership of the club formerly known as Home United and is the first privatized club of the AIA Singapore Premier League under the pilot project initiated by both Football Association of Singapore and Sea.

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  • AFC Cup - Hougang Utd 2-3 Ho Chi Minh City FC 250220
Nguyễn Công Phượng (21) ripped Cheetahs apart with his pace
"Vietnamese Messi" Nguyễn Công Phượng (jersey number 21) taught Hougang United an AFC Cup lesson the latter will never forget as his exploits single-handedly helped Ho Chi Minh City F.C. to beat their hosts 3-2 at JBS.

The Vietnamese were dominating for large part of the game before Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat's double in the 77th and 79th minute helped the home side to reduce the deficit.

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