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[Annual Review] - "Heaven Knows"

To be honest, when "Team LKT" and their allies were sworn in as the new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council - the highest decision-making organ of the game's local governing body, this blogger wondered if those voting delegates ever regretted their decisions after witnessed what was unfolded subsequently following that controversial landmark election?


Banking on the experiences of those who served in the past councils and despite the "historical baggage" embedded in them, the team headed by lawyer Lim Kia Tong, who convinced some of their fiercest critics to join their camp, crushed their challengers - "FAS Game Changers" convincingly to take office.

Can Lim Kia Tong and his council bring the faith back to Singapore Football?

However, little time was given to these newly-elected office bearers to acclimatize their roles, the new Council soon realised it is going to be a tough battle to pull the beleaguered sport out of the doldrums from the moment they were voted in by the majority of 44 affiliates on 29th of April.

With various national age-group sides showing no sign of improvement in tournaments such as the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers (for the national 'A' team) and the South East Asia Games (for the Cubs), FAS was dealt with another blow when news of a pending reduction in subsidies from the Tote Board surfaced.

It will be a devastating blow to many clubs in the so-called professional S.League whose lifeline depended heavily on those Tote Board subsidies.


After reading this, it would hardly be a surprise if the clubs are being told subsequent funding from Tote Board, which is administered via the local sports governing agency - Sport Singapore will be "A DOLLAR TO MATCH A DOLLAR" basis.

The subsidies have been misinterpreted as something taken for granted by some clubs that even during those "good times" when big bonanzas were dished out in the past, there were reports of some clubs still "pleading for more help" in this aspect.

S.League clubs are struggling to stay afloat.

While being someone not in the shoes of those struggling club administrators but it's fair to say after more than twenty years in business, some clubs just don't deserve any sympathy for having mired in this malaise.

It is kind of painful to read those woeful tales that have been made around the circle detailing the dire situations to keep things afloat.

Tanjong Pagar United was one of the founding clubs in the S.League

That is the reason why little sympathy should be shown to either Gombak United or Tanjong Pagar United when the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to revoke the jackpot licenses of these two clubs under the revised criteria.

One comment that replied to the posting on the above-mentioned by this blog's Facebook page sums it up well.

Said Shawn Lim: "Gombak had 19 years, while Tanjong Pagar had 21 years to find an alternative revenue stream. So, hard to feel sorry for their predicament at the moment."


Rather than taking steps to turn things around, the approach initiated by the folks at Jalan Besar Stadium suggested they are going to make do with what is available for them if the reduction is going to take place.

It will be a huge disappointment for the lack of willpower and determination to rid away from the existing operating model that failed us for more than two decades.

Questions will have to be raised on why is the S.League facing the same stagnancy with little effort by the decision makers to get things back on track despite having the mandate to bring the local football forward?


Following his side's successful retaining of the Great Eastern Hyundai S.League title, Albirex Niigata (Singapore) General Manager Koh Mui Tee said: "If you aim for mediocrity, you will get mediocre results."

This a strong statement that shall be seen as a wake-up call after for the second year on a roll had all four major honours in local football swept by the Yuhua-based side who also boasted the tightest backline in the nine-team league.

Albirex Niigata (S)'s success in recent years is hard to be matched by local clubs.

The rise of the Japanese club in the League in recent years has been a phenomenon and concluded they are no longer one of the whipping boys like in their early days.

The irony part is the team is filled with many youngsters who barely started off their professional playing career in a setup with a high turnover rate annually.

Having witnessed how Albirex youngsters ripped apart his team - the one-time powerhouse of Singapore football - Warriors FC, Coach Razif Onn could only echo what his Garena Young Lions counterpart Vincent Subramaniam said weeks earlier that the gap will only be narrowed between local and those Japanese players if the former are willing to put in more efforts and disciplined in their game.

Both Warriors and Geylang Int'l fought for AFC club tournament qualifications.

The wide gulf of standard between the White Swans and the rest of the League led to an awkward situation where other clubs (except for another foreign side - Brunei DPMM) were jostling to be the second or third best at the end of the day in order to qualify for the continental tournaments such as the AFC Cup.

It has been an embarrassment for local football when Singapore, for the last two consecutive seasons due to regulations, was not represented by teams who were neither league champions nor premier domestic cup holders (DPMM and Albirex won the S.League title and RHB Singapore Cup respectively in 2015).


In an attempt to resuscitate the ailing competition, it was announced a proposal to enforce all local S.League clubs (except for Albirex Niigata (S), Brunei DPMM, and Garena Young Lions) "to recruit at least six Under-23 footballers for their squads, with a minimum of three Under-23 players to feature in the starting 11 for each match."

The aim of this move, on top of the reduction of import quota to two from three, is to allow more local young players to play in the S.League in order to widen the pool for the national team selectors in the near future.

Hougang Utd's coach Philippe Aw and his fellow coaches will have some headaches ahead.

Prior to that announcement, this blogger shared the following views in a TODAY article, as quoted below.

“Given the ‘heavily-centralised grooming’ of our players using the National Football Academy system and results of late of these age-group teams at international level, I am not sure if these players are ready for the intensiveness of a professional league,”

“We could see more young players in the league if this ruling is enforced but they may not necessarily be good enough for the national team, as international football is more demanding in areas like pace and tactical awareness, and the S-League isn’t able to provide that kind of environment at the moment.”

Whilst the intention is to allow more exposure for players of that age group to a higher level of competitive football, several factors should be taken into account during the implementation of this weird ruling, as highlighted in one of the articles that appeared in the Straits Times and a commentary published by TODAY.

1) Is the current pool of Under-23 players big enough to cater to the demand in events of non-availability due to injuries, suspensions, etc.?

2) Is the quality of the available Under-23 players good enough to cope with the demand of a professional league (after all, clubs can't blindly sign players for the sake of complying with the ruling)?

3) Would it also mean coaches no longer have their final say in their team selection when the "minimum three Under-23" ruling is confirmed, since they may able to field their ideal starters in their mind?


We are always told never to pass judgment after the job is done.

Sad to say though, such a luxury is never to be accorded to Singapore Football at this juncture after a number of setbacks and disappointments it is hardly surprising to see the lack of faith by many the decision-makers to restore the faith in it.

Hassan heading back to the Thai League is a positive jab to local football.

What the local game needs most is a tangible injection of positivity to put that faith back into it and perhaps the news of national custodian Hassan Sunny's pending return to Thai League football and interest shown on Irfan Fandi by Thai side Bangkok Glass could be singled out as one such positivity as it proved Singapore players can play at a higher level.

After the Lions' exit from the Asian Cup Qualifiers, national coach V Sundram Moorthy had set his target to do well in next year's AFF championship which has always been seen as a "faith restorer" of local football.

Having said that, are we likely to do well next year? Heaven Knows.

(P.S.: This blog entry was prepared the way before yesterday's (18th December 2017) announcement and it was already scheduled to publish on 19th December 2017.)


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