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[Guest Column] S.League - The ‘Poorer Cousin’ (For Now)

This article is a contribution by Asyraf Isnin, who is a keen follower of the local football scene and hopes that his writing(s) can contribute to the development of football on our shores. And here is his take on the recent occurrence in the local scene.

Great Eastern Yeo's S League has 243 players registered, of which 132 are Singaporeans (and therefore eligible for national team call-up). From this 132, only six are deemed to be good enough to be part of the national set-up in the upcoming friendlies. six out of 21 players selected by Bernd Stange. Of the others, 11 are from LionsXII and the remaining four playing abroad i.e. Hassan Sunny, Hariss Harun, Baihakki Khaizan and Shahril Ishak.

Of all these players, only four have not represented our LionsXII at some point i.e. Hassan Sunny, Zaiful Nizam, Ismadi Mukhtar and Zulfadli Zainal. All 21 of them (or maybe 20, not sure about Ismadi) have been part of the NFA youth teams.

Ismadi Mukhtar in action for Stags
So if you add all that information up, this is generally how the footballing structure in Singapore have been working for the past five-ten years: NFA coaching teams identify the best young talents and develop them via the NFA set-up, push them up to Young Lions to see if they can cut it professionally, and thereafter LionsXII i.e. the Promised Land, where if you are the best we have, you get offers from abroad. If at any point you are not good enough for one reason or another, guess where you would end up (if you still want to play professional football)? At one of the S League clubs.

So Football Association of Singapore, now you know why Singapore's only professional sports league is in a dire state? Stange wasn't wrong when he lamented about the standard of our domestic league. The bulk of the players were essentially not good enough somewhere down the road. We put all our eggs into the NFA/Young Lions/LionsXII basket and as a result, have lesser resources to help our S League clubs develop their remaining young talents.

"Stange wasn't wrong when he ..."
Yes, the bulk of the current LionsXII players will move back to the S League in the next few years thus balancing the scales in relation to the talent we have in the LionsXII team as well as the S League (hopefully). The spillover effect you were hoping for I guess? But the fans are all gone. Would they come back to support their teams just because our Malaysian Cup winners are back in the league?
  • Views expressed may not be that of the blog owner.


  1. For me, the League should always be the foundation of our football, and we should always aim to improve this foundation so that it becomes a platform for greater success.
    I like to use Japan as an example, since I like their team. While the core of the Japanese team is in Germany, and the Japanese coach now also lament about the J.League players, it did not stop the JFA and J.League management to try to improve their teams continuously. The J.League now not only becomes a platform
    for Japanese (and even some Koreans) players to go to Europe (the latest being Yoshinori Muto, who is having quite a sensational season), it has also become a base for returning Japanese players to re-establish themselves if they found their European experience not that satisfying (like Takeshi Usami, who has been around for so long, people forgot he is only as old as Muto, who is just venturing out). Neither would have been successful without a good J.League: Muto will have nowhere to play his regular first XI match in a top Asian top flight, Usami will not have a league to return to and play in the ACL.
    Until the S.League gets more attention


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