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[Guest Column] - Unleash The Roar: Do it well, or lose the fans forever

This article is contributed by Mr Stanley Ho who is sharing his opinions on the recently announced "UNLEASH THE ROAR!" initiative by both SportSG and Football Association of Singapore.

Disillusioned local football fans must be convinced this is not yet another paper exercise

IF COMMENTS on social media pages are anything to go by, a plan that was drafted to unite the nation through football has divided it.

On the one hand is a relatively small group of proponents who embraced the lofty blueprint with cautious optimism. And these are made up largely of people who are involved in some way in the local football ecosystem.

"Unleash The Roar!" was unveiled last week (credit: FAS)
On the other is the majority of your ordinary citizens who greeted the mere mention of 2034 World Cup with ridicule. Many of these people just couldn’t care less, especially when there are more pressing needs to be met amid a pandemic.

But, among the non-believers is a particular group that intrigues me - the jilted lovers of Singapore football.

They were fans. In the past, many of them believed too. They had shared the dream and believed in the process. Alas, year after year, they were fed false hopes during glitzy project launches and suffered one disappointment after another. They witnessed some highs and many lows of the national team; they grieved at the decline of the local league; they were appalled at scenes of police officers raiding clubs and association; their hearts palpitated with every failed polygraph test; and eventually gave up after anecdotes of grossly underpaid young players convinced them there is no pathway towards sustainable professional football.

Even prior to anyone unleashing the roar, they have already heard and seen it all before: Milo Scheme; Goal 2010; National Football Academy; mini football; grassroots football; LionsXII; Prime League; Foreign Talent Scheme; foreign clubs in local league; ever-changing U23 quotas; play the Danish way, then Belgian way, then Japanese way and they wonder what’s the flavour of the month next? Gegenpressing? Ja, das ist richtig.

The football authorities rightly pointed out that a “whole-of-society” effort is required in order to succeed. That means having an entire nation believing in the cause and putting their weight behind it. A national buy-in. Herein lies the problem: The jilted lovers have lost faith in Singapore football after years of systemic failure, and they have chosen to get their football joy from fading YouTube footage of the 1994 Malaysia Cup Final and weekly doses of English Premier League.

Minister Edwin Tong started the ball rolling in 2019 (file picture)
Metaphorically, they have walked out of the stadium during a 8-0 thrashing before full time is up, hoping to spare themselves more misery. There will be no national buy-in, the society will not be whole. Years of neglect had left Singapore football fragmented, with the victims doubtful and fearful of being hurt once again.

It’ll take hell of a lot to win back the hearts of these jilted lovers. But it can be done. Prove that you mean business by unleashing the roar and not meow out a whimper; prove that your actions match your gumption; prove that this is not just another paper exercise that ends up beside Goal 2010 along the hall of shame.

The folks who were disappointed during Goal 2010 are now parents of the very kids we are trying to groom for 2035. Disappoint them once again and there may not be a third generation to convince.

Fail and Singapore football will lose these fans forever. I know, for I belong to the jilted too.


ABOUT THE WRITER

Stanley Ho spent almost two decades in the newsrooms of Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) before entering the social service sector as an advocacy and communications professional. A multiple award-winning journalist, his career highlights include breaking a series of high-profile stories on match-fixing in football; leading a digital news team at Mediacorp’s TODAYonline; and being synonymous with Facebookie, his SPH Headline of the Year in 2013.
  • Opinions expressed may not be that of the blog owner
  • The copyright of this article belongs to Mr Stanley Ho

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