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The odd Dozen... Annual Review 2008

"That's the sad fact.. all in the name of "grooming" youth players for the bigger stage but fail to realize professional league is not a developmental league" Ko Po Hui

INTRODUCTION 

Ok, this annual review will depart from the previous ones, and as such, I would like to talk about the milestones this blog been achieved so far. ".com" finally BoLASEPaKO.com made its debut on the 1st of January 2008, just as the world ushered in the year 2008 simultaneously.
 
It was a dream fulfilled after a decade of sharing views, thoughts, and ideas via the website (newsletter) format and later in blog format (just imagine the fact that I wondered if the site would survive then as it was first created out of a shared computer). 

Blogging from Stadium Shah Alam

OVERSEAS BLOGGING

The year also marked the blog's first overseas blogging entry from Shah Alam, Malaysia. It may appear insignificant but for an OMO (One-Man-Operation) blog, it's a moment to be remembered. Many thanks to the organizers and the coordinating parties that I was part of the Singapore entourage that took part in the annual Sultan of Selangor Cup, which featured the heroes of the past and present eras.

PRODUCT REVIEW

Initially, I thought it was something too good to be true and it caught me by surprise when I received an email from "soccerpro.com", an online store specializing in the game's equipment.
 

A straightforward proposal saw me get a pair of this Nike First Touch Pro futsal boots from them after a product review was done and posted on the blog. And the next thing I knew was that whenever someone googled for this particular model of boots, quite of them were diverted to this entry. Many thanks again to the guys (Travis and Mason) at "Soccerpro.com" for the opportunity given.

APPEARED ON "REUTERS"

Another like-minded blogger (Mr Sean Grybos of Soccercity FC) dropped me a mail and asked if I could be part of his set-up in covering S.League football on a regular basis. Unfortunately, given the nature of how this blog is work and coupled with my day job commitment, I declined his offer as I doubt I doubt I able to produce the kind of quality he expects from me. But nonetheless, I did contribute an article that was eventually picked up by Reuters!
 
The "screen-shot" of that Reuters article
WE ALMOST MADE IT 
Yes, and how close it was when we were at the second last stage of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. No doubt and to be frank that the cruel and ugly sides of the local sports journalism surfaced after the Uzbeks game.
FLASHBACK: 2nd June 2008

Sad for the fact that not all remembered the good works we had done to get to that stage but the gigantic thrashing in the hands of the Uzbeks at the National Stadium.

Enough of bashing though, as weeks ago I was delighted to come across a The New Paper (TNP) article (abovementioned) on how some former footballers are still involved in the game, either with the local game governing body or with various S.League clubs as coaches.

As a paper that relays heavily on football news to boast its readership, I do hope the TNP, as it's commonly known, could do a bit more by covering such similar stories to raise the awareness and profile of the league, and at the meantime see themselves as an "auditor" of any shortcomings surrounding the league.

RED TSUNAMI 

Having got themselves ridiculed last year, the Korean-based Super Reds redeemed themselves this season by finishing among the top three of the league table.
 
The mastermind behind the revival - Jeon Kyeong Joon.

Having completely overhauled the entire setup of the club, the Koreans made everybody drop their jaws and set themselves as the early pace-setters of the season.


Even if their brave effort did not land them the title, the Koreans' 360-degree change this year certainly made this season a memorable one for their exploits this season. 

Yet, I still had my reservation when the club announced some plans to turn their Yishun stadium into a sort of entertainment hub (Clementi Khalsa, now part of the merged Balestier Khalsa, had a similar plan for Clementi Stadium years ago but never materialize.)
 

View Larger Map
Something like this in Yishun Stadium?

Proposal talks they may be, it's up to how they can convince the landlords - SSC. Over to you guys, SSC

THE GREAT FST DEBATE 

An unresolved issue here as the general population on whole is still "struggling" to come to terms with how the authority has been trying to convince us that this is the way to go to achieve sporting excellence.

 
Clockwise from left: Daniel Bennett, Agu Casmir, and "MIA" Itimi Dickson

I'm not sure if my stand on FST had tweaked a bit, as I am an advocate for this scheme, however having seen the recent "come-and-go" of several athletes upon the "completion of their mission", I begin to doubt if this "short-cut" scheme does really benefit us after all.

Sustainability after their sporting career is the missing piece of this jigsaw puzzle and unless we are able to solve this shortcoming of the FST, if not skeptics out there will continue to see these naturalized citizens merely "mercenaries" than being "one of us".

I felt it's nothing to do with as if we are going to accept these foreign-born players as "one of us" in the first place, rather we should be asking if there's anything that would make them rooted here than leaving once they playing days are over and only then the question of "accepting" would be more logical to ask.

Sustainability followed by integration is the key for Duric and his fellow naturalized citizens.

Still, a word of caution to those foreign players who are keen to don the red top - think very carefully before committing yourself, as we are not mentally prepared to see more following to the likes of Egmar Goncalves and Mirko Grabovac, both left because of the lack of sustainability.

Foster a greater sense of belonging 

As refer to one of my entries weeks ago - "Using newsletter pinned on the lift lobby to keep the fans informed on the club's latest happenings", I had a chat with one official of a leading club on this topic and realized his club had actually "pushed to the limit" in trying such integrating into the vicinity they based, but the result is far from satisfactory.

One of the difficulties this club face is the RCs (Resident's Committee ) and other community-based organizations are less-than-enthusiastic in their approach.

However, he stressed that support from the club management is equally important and he's glad that his bosses have been very supportive in this aspect.

Based on his input, I decided to follow up with the rest of the 11 clubs, via various modes of communication (using email, as listed on their website, or getting through contacts, and fax), on this mind-bogging topic.

Out of the 11 clubs approached for comment on this topic, only a handful failed to respond.

At this juncture, I don't wish to conclude anything but it's regrettable that some clubs, despite a reminder, did not reply at all (even though the questionnaire was not obligatory) and I thought using email and fax is also a way to benchmark how responsive of each club is in dealing with ordinary folks like me.

Nonetheless, some of the feedback I gathered from those who responded showed that efforts were, indeed, made their integrating into the vicinity they were based.
 
Saw this signboard on a random day

Other than running the popular soccer clinics, some clubs also took part in community events organized in their vicinity, such as community fund-raising, making visits to the less-privileged, etc., in order to raise their profile and generate awareness in their allocated area.

Not surprisingly, one of three foreigner-based clubs (Super Reds, Albirex Niigata, and Dalian Shide Siwu) highlighted that being a foreign team in the S.League, it will take time and effort to persuade local residents to accept them "as one of them".

 
Albirex's players posed for a shot, with a female fan, last year after a match

In the meantime, the cultural upbringing and character of each individual also play a part in whether these foreign players, mostly in their late teens or early adulthood, are able to see themselves involved in such community activities in the near future in a multi-cultural society like Singapore.

While one club did admit that the ongoing unfavourable economic climate and lack of manpower deterred his club from carrying out these "integrating" programs and efforts to rent playing surfaces for their training programs in return by providing soccer clinics to these community organizations were turned down.

Interestingly, the demographical aspect was also mentioned in one of the replies, in which this particular club stated that being based in an "aging" estate literary makes it difficult to push for such awareness activities that normally targeted the youth.

Just as I thought I might not have a chance to speak to some grassroots organizations or schools on this topic (due to the limited contact), suddenly, out of nowhere, I got some interesting views from a school administrator.
 
This artificial playing surface is now a common sight in schools island-wide.

In his feedback, he commented that the absence of "notable" players (i.e: the national players) conducting the soccer clinics somehow failed to inspire these kids to become full-time players.

And this administrator has "serious doubt" if such interactions are going to have an impact in fostering the bond I envisage since based on his observation both players and coaches weren't making an effort to improve, like encouraging the kids to come down to the stadium to support them.

I felt it is all up to whosoever is involved to see if such bonding would eventually take place.

At times, it does put me off when people talk about local football and the first thing that comes to their minds are the odds and stakes.

Wondering that will there be a time for me to see something like this at our neighbourhood grounds?
 

Perhaps, one club official sums up pretty well "The challenge is promoting local football to everyone who is weaned on a diet of foreign leagues – it’s an uphill task. I guess it’ll take time to grow our audience." (and it's the case)

 NO-GO PLATFORM 

A lot of guys must be pretty disappointed with the "No-GO" on staging the Singapore Cup final at the Floating Platform.

  I agreed that location-wise, it is strategically located right in the heart of the trendiest spot in Singapore, but pragmatically speaking the main grouse lies in the fact that the pitch is too far away from the viewing gallery.

Players would love the idea to play the game with the famed skyline as the backdrop but the fans, especially those seated at the extreme ends, might swear that that would be the last time they go to the platform for a match if the cup final was staged.

So whose fault? Probably, the designer is not a football fan or some engineering difficulties might not have to seem my "already late" proposal fitted in the first place?

GAME OVER (NOT REALLY FOR THE CASE OF NATIONAL STADIUM)

The press reactions on the following day...

Don't dwell over the loss to Vietnam that caused us the Asean supremacy on 21st December.

Let's move on and aim higher, and setbacks like those should spur us on to qualify for the Asian Cup proper in 2011.

Although I do feel sorry for the "Grand Old Lady" (the National Stadium).

After countless "last" matches being staged since 30th June 2007 - the "official" closing date, the much-beloved arena is fast becoming an eyesore for some and its legacy of it is fast eroding as well.

The poor "Grand Old Lady" was used again for a "crucial" match...

I'm not sure if the current economic slump is the reason behind the delay in construction of the Singapore Sports Hub, which was scheduled to commence on Feb 2008 (as stated on the SSC website.) or just that happened to be so many "case-by-case basis" events that this 65,000-seated stadium is the only venue that is capable for hosting them?

Simply had it enough that I decided to drop a mail (below) to the papers (namely "mypaper" and "TODAY") in the hope the relevant agency will give the much-puzzled public a definite answer to this saga.

Comments

  1. Well done! Keep up the great coverage my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Pohui,I really love your blog as to keep in touch with local football.But I hope you use a nicer template design for the blog to attract more youth..

    On the other hand,your article is superb with great pictures..Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Guys..

    Thanks for the comments...

    Well "Ahan7", for your suggestion, I'll looking into and thanks for the compliments :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good original view points from one of the most loyal supporters of local football. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete

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Ko Po Hui

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