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Third Time Lucky For A Players' Union?

In a poll conducted on this platform's IG Story months ago, I asked if anyone is aware there was once an organization representing the players.

The outcome of the result revealed a majority are not aware of this when there was once an organization meant for this purpose.

Rahim Omar (pictured, as credited)

It was during one of those random searches online for materials, it came to my attention of a meeting that gathered a group of disgruntled footballers in the early 1960s that piqued my interest to learn more about this short-lived organization.

On 15th August 1962, a pro-tem committee was formed with renowned footballer Rahim Omar named as chairman of this committee.

According to The Straits Times report that was published on the following day, the main objective of the group was to "seek better treatment for the players, who had in the past been duped by false promises".

Among those who attended the inaugural meeting were Quah Kim Beng, Umar Rahmat, Ivan Vass, etc. with Quah being named secretary of the association.

One of the group's proposals was to have one representative, preferably an ex-Malaya Cup player, sit in the Singapore Amateur Football Association (SAFA, the former name of Football Association of Singapore (FAS)) council, the selection committee, as well as the coaching committee.

The poll was conducted in May 2021 

Months later, a trade unionist and former school teacher Seah Yun Chong accepted the invitation and was formally elected as the first president of the "Association of Football Players" (AFP) in the meeting that took place in Farrer Park in late October 1962.

In his first speech of the AFP president, Seah pledged to secure a "fair deal" for the players at both club and "state" (Singapore was still a self-governing state under the British) levels.

There are not much information about this erstwhile organization, although several media reports, like this, detailed its runs-in with the game governing bodies on both sides of the Causeway.

FAM did not recognize AFP (as credited)

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) refused to recognize the legitimacy of AFP despite its status as a registered body with Singapore's Registrar of Societies and having one delegate attending the SAFA council meeting in one of those spats in 1964 when the island state was still a part of Malaysia.

The AFP was formally dissolved on 22nd September 1967, as informed by the Registry of Societies in an email reply to a query put up by this platform.

Since then, the fraternity has not seen any organization like AFP to represent footballers in this country, and any matters pertaining to players would be referred to FAS' Player Status Committee like this 2014 case involving Sevki Sha’ban and Home United.

Several attempts were made to revive such an organization when the S.League was launched in 1996 but failed to materialize.

One such attempt was by ex-national defender R Sasikumar and a few senior players back in 2001 to form a players' union.

The former Home United defender felt having a union "is a logical step forward" in an interview with the TODAY newspaper in January 2001.

The plan to start a union by S.League players (as credited)

"I think many of the players feel there is a need for a union, especially when it comes to contract negotiations, and looking out for the rights of the players." added Sasi in the said interview which also mentioned the idea gathered support from players like the then national captain Nazri Nasir, S Subramani, Aide Iskandar and Steven Tan.

The proposal received a boast when TODAY reported that then FAS president Mah Bow Tan and Director of Competitions Chris Chan supported the idea of the formation of a players' union in April 2001.

Surprisingly, given such a strong backing from the top, the whole idea did not take off and it was miscarriage along the process without much fanfare.

Thirteen years later, the Mediacorp tabloid reported another attempt to form a players' union by Hafiz Osman and Zulfadli Zainal.

“We are not looking to oppose the FAS, but to work amicably and professionally with them. It is time the players have a voice in policies, and not just merely accepting whatever decisions that are passed down,” explained Zulfadli the motive behind the duo's proposal of a footballers' union in their interview with TODAY in November 2014.

The idea of setting one came about after changes were made to the S.League with the reduction of 12 teams to 10, players' age restrictions, etc. which "sparked anger over the abrupt announcement and claims that players and staff were not consulted first.", as mentioned in the above-mentioned article.

Similar to the 2001 attempt, the plan failed to see the fruition of the organization too.

Till today, Indonesia and Malaysia are some of the countries in the region having a representative organization for professional footballers affiliated with FIFPRO (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels or International Federation of Professional Footballers in English), the worldwide representative organization for professional football players.

Fifpro - Graphics, HD Png Download - kindpng
The logo of FIFRO (credit)

Hong Kong recently formed its own Professional Footballers Association of Hong Kong (PFAHK).

With the recent controversies surrounding players' welfare in the AIA Singapore Premier League, are we likely to see an attempt to form one representative body to look after the players' welfare and rights?

Maybe third time lucky?

But ultimately it is up to the players, themselves, to see if they going to make it happen.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from online sources, as credited, should anyone feel it's inappropriate to have any of the media shown, please kindly email me as soon as possible and I will remove them upon request.)

(P.S 2: I stand to be corrected should there be any mistake in this entry, please feel free to email me if there is, thanks) 


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