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[Annual Review] Twenty Years in the Circus ...

Years of involvement made me learn to adopt a precautionary stance on almost everything that came along as a way to buffer myself from disappointment.

Even though I stick to that belief, it's no difference again when we are drawing close to another year with things ending sour again and no improvement to the scene when we thought it would at the start.

Some painted a picture of optimism that our own S.League would gain from Lions XII's acrimonious exit from the Malaysian league with a large part of their playing staff, long perceived to be the best in the country, being snapped by various clubs in the beleaguered setup.

Jermaine Pennant graced the league not long ago

Furthermore, setting things into the groove saw big spending Tampines Rovers, under new chairman Krishna Ramachandra, acquired the biggest name in the league history by recruiting former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant, inked a partnership with Brazilian legend Ronaldinho to set up a football academy and named former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as the club ambassador.

Things got off to a roaring start when I was actually queueing up for tickets when Hougang United took on Home United at the Hougang Stadium with the latter facing Tampines at Bishan weeks later to record the biggest turnout of the year when 3,500 packed the main stand on a weekday.

When was the last time you queued for S.League tickets?

Strong turnouts in the early phase would also indicate to former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin that the local fans aren't going to accept his ambitious Asean Super League (ASL, which is likely to hit a kerb following a revamp to the AFC Cup competition announced by the continent governing body, AFC) which many fear the S.League would play second fiddle once more after it did during the Lions XII's involvement across the Causeway during 2012 to 2015.

Unfortunately, the rosy start to its 21st season did not sustain and the only professional sporting league in this tiny island republic slipped back to oblivion which it has been long associated with.

Zainudin Nordin - The ASL salesman

Just like the domino effect, problems began to surface one after another with news breaking out on Tampines' cash-flow difficulties which the Stags pleaded unsuccessfully to get the league authority to release early part of the subsidies entitled to them to ease the financial hardships.

On the higher level saw the local game governing body, themselves, embroiled in a controversy of their own doing when "Big Brother" - FIFA came knocking on the FAS's doors and resulted in the oldest football association in Asia having their first elections in more than thirty years by next May after being given a new constitution, following media reports (source:1, 2) seeking clarification from Zurich if FAS was doing the right things, all these while, by having government-appointed personnel to hold key appointments (which is something strictly against the FIFA's policy of non-interference by third parties in affairs of local FA).

May 2017 is the deadline for the FAS elections

The appointment of former national striker V Sundram Moorthy as the national caretaker coach came at a time when the local sentiment (source:1, 2) felt "it's time for one" given the familiarity of a local coach would have on the scene.

Things soon turned bitter when undesirable results occurred one after another with fans started questioning if it was the right decision to get the 51-year-old former idol to take the hot seat on a "caretaker" basis following a training trip to Japan that was concluded with a stunning away defeat to Cambodia at Phnom Penh.

Much had been said after the Lions' disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign that I shall not dwell much on it when those issues aren't new at all.

Whether was it right of Coach Sundram to deploy the "bus" or selected largely those who used to play for him during the Lions XII era for the biennial event is not something worth debating now.

National Caretaker Coach V Sundram Moorthy

It is a mere recurrence of problems faced by any national coach before the "Dazzler" when Serbian Raddy Avramovic could only notably unearth Hariss Harun with German Bernd Stange had none significantly to account for (if anyone dispute, please let me know) during his time here.

So when the conveyor belt is not working properly, how would we expect the national team to do well when choices are limited to exercise flexibility in those tactical deployments?

However, it is also fair to say the pragmatic former Jurong FC head coach should exercise flexibility and courage in his planning and not cause unnecessary anxiety when only revealing his final list of 23 prior to the opener against the Philippines when the mood in the camp should be kept things in focus by then.

Since the exit from the regional showdown, various post-mortem pieces had surfaced to give their earnest thoughts on the undesired outcome.

Ken Ilso (left) is one of those who left Singapore recently

It isn't hard to conclude that the consensus among those thoughts is - CHANGE must take place with all eyes will be on the new office-bearers who will start their term upon elected to office.

But easy to say than to be done, when we are being told changes and reviews were in place in the past to correct those shortcomings which never seems to arrest those perennial problems bugging the scene.

It will be a thankless job for whosoever is going to take over upon the conclusion of the landmark elections but since keen parties had declared their desire to turn things around, they must be prepared to be subject to all kinds of scrutinization.

Unkind words and venting of frustrations will be a norm when things failed to deliver, as what we have seen all along when patients are already worn thin that any sugar-coated and chest-thumping rhetoric will be taken lightly after years of deception.

CHANGE is a word ALL can SAY but NOT EASILY FULFILL after seeing it for twenty years in the circus.


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