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Intriguing Moments Leading to the Landmark Moment on 29/4/17

Something in local football needs to be fixed

The election scheduled for the office bearers to the main organ of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is meant to be a watershed moment for the beleaguered sport in this country that has been besieged by woes with no solution within sight.

Stagnancy on and off the field had further stalled any effort to lift the game out of the doldrums when there is not a clear direction to govern the sport's state of affairs since the government-appointed provisional council could not make any strategic decision on major matters before their term ended at the end of last month.

When caught in a situation like this, it is hardly a surprise that nobody wants to "act like a hero" to get their hands dirty to fix the loose ends with such a mammoth task given, in spite of some individuals came forward (source 1, source 2) before their enthusiasm fizzled out due to reasons only known to themselves.

Nonetheless, by the closing of registration on the 25th of March, two slates of candidates of nine with 16 individuals put their names forward to vie for a seat in the 15-member FAS Council before an evaluating process saw the final list being confirmed on the 18th of April.

Not unlike any election that occurred around everywhere, fiery exchanges of words between contesting factions begun right from the beginning when two prominent figures from "Team LKT" questioned the motives of the other group, known as "FAS Game Changers", in contesting in the upcoming polls that is scheduled to take place on the 29th of April.

Krishna Ramachandra of "FAS Game Changers" (left)

Those claims drawn a strong rebuttal from Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who is part of the "FAS Game Changers" slate, on those remarks made by both Lim Kia Tong and Teo Hock Seng in a video clip that went viral on cyberspace.

Lim, whose tenure as FAS interim president ended on 31st of March, also had to rubbish off claims suggested he and few senior officials had leveraged on their positions to travel overseas to attend football events outside Singapore than putting energy to revive the ailing sport locally.

At the same time, resonated why the fraternity should not see "Team LKT" as the "incumbents" (a term they are commonly associated with for having a number of the slate served in the past councils), the 64-year-old Lim, who is a lawyer by profession, said: "The previous president (Zainudin Nordin) had his plans and his own leadership style that will be very different to what I have.

"Yes, I was on the previous councils, but being inside the council doesn’t meant that you have a lot of say because most of the decisions are made by the executive committee." as quoted in a TODAY report on the official unveiling of his slate late last month.

(L-R) Lim Kia Tong and Edwin Tong of "Team LKT"

The claim was echoed by "Team LKT"'s Razali Saad, one of the three former national skippers campaigning in this election, in a separate interview with the Mediacorp newspaper.

In a move to distance themselves from the Zainudin regime, the "Team LKT" denounced the formation of the controversial Asean Super League (ASL), even though several members of this slate, in various capacities, spoke favourably of the pet project of the former Central Singapore CDC mayor in the past (source 1, source 2) which, unsurprisingly, drawn skepticism from some fans.

Proclaimed Lim: "ASL is a commercial outfit which has nothing to do with the FAS. The FAS does not develop a team purely for participation in the ASL." as mentioned in The New Paper, on the brainchild of the one-time Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Being the first election to be held for the first time after many decades, stringent checks on the candidates are put in place by the relevant authority to ensure only those who fulfilled the strictest criteria can run for the office.

Apart from one candidate who did not meet the cut even after the appeal, another incident that caught the attention was the controversy that surrounded National Football League (NFL) Division 2 club Kembangan United's secretary Moklas Ma'arof's decision to withdraw his candidacy.

Following media reports that portrayed the 62-year-old as part of the "FAS Game Changers" slate, Moklas came out with a statement to explain his decision behind his withdrawal and denied he was part of the slate headed by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.

That side episode did not deter both "Team LKT" and "FAS Game Changers" from partially filled up their slate and independent candidates aligned to them with those of NFL background, given how important the role in this election is to be played by the amateur football circle.

Given the sizable chunk of voting rights (23 out of the 44 votes) held by the NFL bloc, securing a strong mandate from them is a must with many of those often-felt-neglected teams see this landmark exercise of their right as an opportunity to highlight their plights with hopes to see the new administration to resolve those nagging problems such as lack of pitches to poor scheduling of fixtures.

2017 NFL season is being sponsored by AJINOMOTO (credit: FAS)

Some of those plights were reiterated by Zaki Ma'arof, the president of NFL Division 2 side Kaki Bukit SC, during his official unveiling as part the of "FAS Game Changers" slate when he lamented the lack of proper pitches to train and play matches.

It was on the same occasion had the slate's presidential candidate Ng questioned the decision made by the government-appointed provisional council in the absence of an actual one, on the extension of contracts of both V Sundram moorthy's and Michel Sablon's as the national coach and technical director respectively not that long ago.

But those were merely appetizers before Ng sent shockwaves within the fraternity when he revealed donations of substantial figures were made by both Hougang United and NFL side Tiong Bahru FC (TBFC), another club helmed by him, in recent years to FAS.

Bill Ng (right) takes a look at a mug at "FAS Game Changers" unveiling

Such revelation from Ng prompted the FAS to respond by issued an immediate statement from its secretary-general Winston Lee to clarify those matters raised and added the willingness to come up with evidence to back themselves up while insisted Ng's awareness of the purposes of those donations (which was later claimed by FAS those donations were made at the request of former president Zainudin).

Those answers did not satisfy the "FAS Game Changers" who disputed those details by released a statement of their own and called for those who are perceived to be involved to be accounted for this saga.

As the result, Lee replied and produced carbon-copies of letter and payment vouchers on the 18th of April to prove it was at Zainudin's request that a total sum of $500,000 was donated to Asean Football Federation (AFF) for the developing of the Football Management System (FMS) - a claim backed by AFF who clarified their position with a statement of their own, as reported in the media.

On the same evening after Lee's statement, the "FAS Game Changers" Facebook Page posted the reply from Ng who gave his side of the story that had everybody talking about it over the past few days.

The development of events eventually caught the attention of the local sports governing body Sport Singapore, the custodian of FAS funding, who demanded a full explanation of the incident.

The whole saga reached a boiling point when the authorities raided the offices of FAS, TBFC, etc. to conduct an investigation following a police report that was filed against TBFC for "suspected misuse of club funds" by Sport Singapore after those fiery exchanges of words between Ng and Lee.

With the D-Day drawing closer after each day passed, it's likely to see the much-anticipated contest for the holy grail be clouded around by the above-mentioned investigation of alleged financial irregularities and some would actually wonder if the main problems plagued the sport are overlooked during the campaigning?

Since there are hardly intense discussions on those printed on both factions' manifestos I, particularly, take an interest in a suggestion to revive the popular Singapore Business Houses Football League (SBHFL) which I think is a good idea to put the corporate league back in the league pyramid system.

However, before we can revive this mentioned corporate league, we should be asking how it can fit into the existing football league pyramid?

Would be a good idea to revamp the existing NFL setup with that bit of Business Houses League element infused in it by getting corporate entities' involvement in the management of some of the NFL clubs?

Hopefully, this would be one of the key areas to explore from the 30th of April onwards after whoever takes control of the oldest football association in Asia.


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