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, August 20, 2019

Please Don't Repeat As Another Superficial Gimmick

The bold announcement of Singapore eyeing a spot in 2034 World Cup by Edwin Tong, the vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), sent a shockwave around the local football fraternity in recent days.

It came at a time when local football is still trying to pull itself out of the bad patches it is experiencing now and barely a surprise such a lofty target is met with skepticism from all corners and once again it brought back sad memories of the "Goal 2010" project which was launched in 1998.

I shall not dwell on why and how the "Goal 2010" was mooted but here to share what I witnessed at the fanfare at Suntec City - the venue where the whole project kicked started on 5th December 1998.

GOAL 2010 WAS LAUNCHED AT SUNTEC CITY
It was a huge turnout with everyone was eager and excited to play a part of this historical day that was supposed to see Singapore adhere to a blueprint to see her qualify for the World Cup in 2010 (although FAS clarified it was not the case in the first place years later).

The launch event was further divided into a few workshops where participants were engaged in idea sharing and discussions on the topic of the workshop they attended, such as marketing, coaching, competition, etc.

The name tag given to me at the "Goal 2010" launch 
I was assigned by my editor to cover the proceedings inside "infrastructure" workshop which I had no slight idea of what it was about, given the fact that I was at the early days of my involvement in the scene.

I recalled, if not wrong, the workshop was moderated by former Singapore national coach Seak Poh Leong and among those in room was the late Straits Times journalist Joe Dorai and half way into the session, the then national coach Barry Whitbread joined in the discussions by voicing his thoughts from the back of the room.

After the workshop was over, all the attendees were ushered into huge auditorium where a panel discussion took place and among the speakers was veteran journalist Jeffrey Low who shared his candid thoughts on the difficulties facing Singapore should we want to achieve the targets set by the project.

The demographical composition of Singapore Football had evolved ever since
Unfortunately, much of this project did not materialize due to various factors that the lofty ambition finally hit its death kerb in June 2004 when FAS declared the "Goal 2010" project was over.

However, the name "Goal 2010" lives on and more than often being a butt of the joke when come to ridicule local football when opportunity arises.

"JUST TO SHUT THEM UP!"
Years later, another blueprint was unveiled in 2010 with the aim to be among of the top echelon of Asian football.

Aptly named as "FAS Strategic Plan 2010-2015", the comprehensive blueprint covered wide range of aspects such as Development, Competition, Participation, etc.

While the regime in charge back then time to time assured the unconvinced public and media that the Strategic Plan was "always on the track"' to ensure things were kept in place and never short of naming some of the game's luminaries given their endorsements to the blueprint, it was seems to me this 2010 blueprint was not different from the one launched in 1998 when a peer remarked bluntly "it's a merely plan to shut people's mouth up!".


The Launch Video of "Strategic Plan"

Probably it was the case when personally I felt one of the key objectives the "Strategic Plan" failed to deliver was to have the Singapore national team play regularly, if possible, against "Top 15 in Asia and Top 50 in the world", as spelt out under the "Football Excellence" of the plan.

To sum it up, following the failure of both "Goal 2010" and the "Strategic Plan" that was supposed to guide Singapore to be among the top footballing nations, this latest chest-thumping statement that first appeared in the Straits Times, is seen by many a mission impossible given the huge handicap we facing in local football at this present moment.

The thing is we can have blueprints with fanciful names but if we cannot stick to them and unable to face the truth when issues pop up, it is pointless to have all these stuff which are nothing but some superficial gimmicks.

The logo of the "Strategic Plan"
Furthermore, it is not difficult to single out which are those areas constantly highlighted being the most problematic - the poor grassroots development, the national service issues, the lack of quality coaching, etc.

So if the above-mentioned are going to be the main focus of any new blueprint to be unveiled soon, it would be advisable to retrieve a copy of the proposals of both "Goal 2010" and "Strategic Plan" from the attic to avoid any repetition of any failed aspect of the two.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Long Forgotten Anson Road Stadium

I first came to know the existence of the demolished Anson Road Stadium after I read a line from the veteran journalist Godfrey Robert's book "The Malaysia Cup" published back in 1990.

Prior to that, it was always in my opinion that Jalan Besar Stadium was the oldest football stadium in Singapore (even though the old arena used to function as a rugby and hockey venue as well) due to its aged facade which I noticed when I first visited the ground back in the early 1990s before the redevelopment program begun in December 1999.

Big turnouts like this were common at Anson Road Stadium (credit: NLB archive)
Field diagram for listeners tuned in for radio commentary in the old days (credit: NLB archive).  
Recently, when I chanced upon an online article which provides a scribe on the arena, it piqued my interest to find out where exactly was this stadium located at Tanjong Pagar area.

Armed with details given by the online article which was published by National Library Board's (NLB) "Singapore Infopedia" and old street map sourced from its sister site at "Spatial Discovery", I headed down to Tanjong Pagar to map out where the Anson Road Stadium used to be.

Based on the old map, it is clear that not far from where the stadium was located was the Telok Ayer Basin where in the early days served as a dock for merchant ships to unload their goods.

A rare bird's-eye view of Telok Ayer Basin (credit: NLB archive)

Locations as shown based on information (credit: map from "National Archives of Singapore")
    The Past And The Present of "Telok Ayer Basin" and its surrounding areas.
  • The site (1) is the site where Anson Road Stadium was and it is now the cross junction near to the Singapore Conference Hall.
  • The site (2) was where YMCA Sports Ground once occupied is now part of the AXA Tower.
  • Across (2) is the plot (3) where it used to be Nanyang Chinese Student Sports Field (presently the MAS Building).

    I traced the map using Prince Edward Road and Anson Rd/Robinson Rd as the "anchor points".

Diagonally across it was the YMCA Sports Ground with Nanyang Chinese Student's Sports Field next to it and because of its location near to the port, it wasn't uncommon to see facilities like godowns, quarantine centers within the vicinity.

Years of redevelopment took place in the area had largely altered the look of Tanjong Pagar and sad to say there is nothing visible like a commemorative marker or signage to indicate the site of the Anson Road Stadium.

Information from the "Singapore Infopedia", however, did mention the site where Singapore Conference Hall is now is next to where the stadium was, as such this could possibly be the only closest indication of the stadium which was once known as the "Wembley of Malaya".

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from sources like NLB online newspapers archives, 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)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Matchpix" - June/July 2019

  • Lions Training Session 060619
Coach Yoshida briefs his players at Geylang Field
Spotted two staff coaches, presumably, from Albirex Niigata (Singapore) observing the training session conducted by new national team coach Tatsuma Yoshida by taking notes of what they saw and noticed.

The Lions will be playing two friendly matches at the National Stadium against Solomon Islands and Myanmar.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE PICTURES

  • SGPL - Geylang Int'l 5-0 Balestier Khalsa 160619
Geylang's Barry Maguire brace for an aerial ball 
Geylang International crushed Balestier Khalsa 5-0 at Our Tampines Hub following the resuming of the AIA Singapore Premier League after the international week.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • SGPL - Geylang Int'l 2-2 Hougang Utd 050719
"Guys, I am just focusing on my shot"
Thought the match was an evenly-contested one at Our Tampines Hub that ended two-two for both Geylang International and Hougang United, although my main grouch is the flickering floodlights that I need to adapt to.

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  • SGPL - Albirex Niigata (S) 1-2 Hougang Utd 130719

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) missed their chances to close their gap with leaders DPMM FC at the top of AIA Singapore Premier League table when they were defeated 2-1 at home by Hougang United.

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  • ICCSG2019 - Tottenham Hotspur Training 190719
Son tried to get past Kane in the training
Tottenham Hotspur held their open training session at the National Stadium, they are due to face Juventus on 21/7/19 at the same venue.

Beside these two teams, Manchester United and Inter are the other two participating sides of the International Champions Cup (Singapore) tournament.

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  • ICCSG - Man Utd 1-0 Inter 200719

Manchester United beat Inter 1-0 with a 76th minute goal scored by 18-year-old Mason Greenwood at the National Stadium in this International Champions Cup (Singapore) tournament opener in front of 52,897 fans.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

  • ICCSG - Juventus 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur 210719
The iconic "Siii" goal celebration
It was definitely a better game between Juventus and Spurs as compared to Manchester United and Inter.

What more can the fans asked for when you had a late stunner from England captain Harry Kane and the iconic "Siii" celebration by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although a lapse of concentration saw a boy ran across the field in the second half just to have a selfie with Ronaldo.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SEE THE REST OF THE MATCH PICTURES

Monday, July 22, 2019

Kane's Halfway Loop and Ronaldo's "Siii" Marked A Memorable End to 2019 ICCSG

With due respect to the past visiting teams, this year's International Champions Cup Singapore (ICCSG) Tournament was probably be the most glittering since Singapore Sports Hub first hosted the event in 2017 under an ongoing four-year agreement.

Not only because two of four participating teams - Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs are two of the best supported English Premier League sides in Singapore, Juventus, who back in Singapore for the first time since 2015, were boasted by the present of talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo and the impressive 19-year-old Matthijs de Ligt, the new signing from Ajax Amsterdam following his notable performance that won him admirers among the top clubs in Europe.

Credit to the man in cap for started the Kallang Wave on last Saturday
Apart from the largely cold shoulder response by the Red Devils to their adoring fans upon their arrival at their Ritz Carlton Millenia base, the players of other three participating sides duly obliged to requests for selfies and autographs when approached by supporters who camped patiently outside hotels such as Swissotel The Stamford, Marina Oriental to catch a glimpse of their footballing idols whom they usually see on television sets.

Despite that less-than-enthusiastic acknowledgement from their idols, it did not dampen the spirit of the Old Trafford faithfuls who turned out in large numbers on the first day of the tournament when they took on Italian giants Inter in front of 52,897 fans who were mostly decked in their red outfits and turned this cornerstone of the venue to a sea of red.

Marcus Rashford met with some resistance from Inter's defence

Ivan Perišić tried to make his way past.
Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fielded largely his best eleven to start the game before replaced the entire troop in the second half which saw Juan Mata, the only player reported to oblige to request for selfie and autograph upon arrival, came on to the field with Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku not named among the substitutes due to injury.

Nontheless, it further fuelled the speculation of the 26-year-old's future with the team following his known desire to leave Manchester and with one of the suitors of former Everton striker being Inter, it was inevitable to see Inter coach Antonio Conte being asked to comment on his club's failed bid to sign Lukaku.

The match ended one-nil in favour to United with a clinical finish from 18-year-old Mason Greenwood in the 76th minute to rock the roof of the stadium.

BETTER GAME BETWEEN JUVENTUS AND SPURS
The second match between Juventus and Tottenham on the following day was a more keenly-contested affair in front of a lesser crowd of 50,443.

Ronaldo did what he is best at - terrorizing the opponent's defence
Expecting more shots like this between Juve's De Ligt and Spurs' Kane on international level
The Lilywhites and England captain Harry Kane ensured the fans at the stadium can go home early when his late stunner from halfway helped the Londoners to beat the Italians 3-2 in the last match of the tournament.

The match also saw crowd favourite Ronaldo scored in the 60th minute for the "Grand Old Lady" to place them on the lead before Lucas Moura drew level five minutes later to set up the dramatic ending towards the end at Kallang.

A boy managed to grab a selfie with CR7
During the second half, a boy broke through security and invaded the pitch while the game was in progress, it was later captured on the film that boy eventually made his way to the Juventus dugout with the help of coach Maurizio Sarri for selfie opportunity with superstar Ronaldo.

When asked on his thought of the boy's invasion at the post-match press conference, the former Chelsea coach merely replied:"To me, it's not an invasion but an joyful occasion."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

First, Get Your Basic Right Then We Talk

Probably by now the newly-appointed Singapore national team coach Tatsuma Yoshida should more or less have a rough idea where our level of football is after the two recent matches that served as an orientation for the Japanese tactician.

Coach Tatsuma Yoshida is the first Japanese coach of the Lions
When his name was mentioned on various media reports prior to the official unveiling by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) early this month, many skepticism clouded over his appointment which mainly targeted at his less-than-impressive curriculum vitae.

Still the former Jurong FC player pressed ahead and went straight down to business by taking charge of the Lions in the recent friendly matches against Solomon Islands and Myanmar at Kallang.

THE USUAL BRICKBATS
Barely surprising after an unconvincing 4-3 win over Solomon Islands and a 2-1 defeat to Myanmar, critics were quick to jump onto the bandwagon to make their voices heard although there are those who felt it's still early days for Yoshida to conclude anything from the aforementioned outcomes given the fact he barely took over the hot seat.

With the resuming of the Singapore Premier League (SGPL) following the international week, it will be no surprise to see the new gaffer be making his rounds at the four venues to have a closer look at the limited playing pool for his upcoming assignment - Asia's World Cup Qualifiers (draw is scheduled later this month).

Former Lions' skipper Nazri Nasir (left) is Yoshida's assistant
Limited in a sense that do we have a pool of players readily to put on the red Lions jerseys when the past two seasons already saw an influx of young, raw talents filling up the starting line ups week in and out?

Don't get me wrong for singled out young players for any wrong reason, if we do have guys like the impact made by Hariss Harun years back, we should be happy and have that sense of comfort but in an old post I blogged some times ago, are we doing the right thing to push those "wet behind the ears" players to the professional ranks?

HAVE THE RIGHT PLAYERS FOR THE LIONS?
The SGPL being the top tier tournament of the local football pyramid supposedly to be the platform where the best of the land to compete among others and ideally, we should gradually allow young players with good potential to slowly blend into the system.

But have we actually turned it into the developmental league in the pursue of having our raw talents "fast track" to improve their game while lower the overall standard of the league?

This is the thought that came to me when I was told privately a former SGPL coach lamented his players are not equipped with strong fundamentals in order to allow them to play according to the tactics he had in mind.

Tactical board was used in tactical planning
And when coach Yoshida was quoted in a Straits Times report after his first session with the Lions, I can't help but having them in the same synergy to highlight one of questions we have to think really hard.

"The quality is not too bad, but not very good. Some players have better technique, while some have not enough but make up for it with energy." said coach Yoshida to the broadsheet.

Kudos for the Japanese coach for being candid in his first assessment and it certainly affirmed the fact that we do have players who are not strong in their basic foundations of the game.

We seen it for ourselves in those two matches played at the National Stadium and it was not hard to see who were the guilty ones for not living up to the expectations for some of those basic mistakes committed in those games.

Coach Yoshida showing example in training
I had the opportunity to see one of the training sessions conducted at Geylang Field and based on one of the drills used, it was not hard to tell what coach Yoshida wants from his players - quick decision making, quick passing, quick movement on and off the ball.

WHAT IS A 'NATIONAL COACH'?
The role of the national coach is, after all, to get a group of players to represent the country and execute the game tactics, etc. when all other essentials are supposed to be pre-requisite for any national player. ⠀

As such, for players who are selected to represent the country to play at the highest level, it is unacceptable to commit any schoolboy's error during any game when they should already have those fundamentals embedded in their football DNA.

Nonetheless, if the players done their part and failed to deliver despite adhered to what their coach wanted, it would be another story.

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