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"Some Thought Singapore Could Beat Arsenal"

I met up with a reader who emailed me shortly after I posted the piece on the Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament back in March.

In his email, he mentioned he has a copy of a magazine that included some write-ups and pictures from those matches played in the 1977 quadrangular.

I visited his abode after accepting his invitation to take a look at the said magazine.

The magazine turned out to be "Asian Soccer" with the late Mohd Noh, in action wearing the legendary Admiral blue outfit, fronting the August 1977 cover.

The feature on the Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament (Asian Soccer)
The feature on the Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament (Asian Soccer)

The features of the Metro Tournament were incorporated in that above-mentioned magazine which consisted of a picture of the trophy of the competition on the same page that included a team photo of Yugoslavian titans Red Star Belgrade, one of the four participants of the quadrangular.

"UNJUSTIFIED" AND "NOT IMPRESSED"

The first page of the aforementioned included the starting paragraphs of the match report of the opener between Arsenal and Red Star spread over the following pages.

Apparently, "Asian Soccer" was not impressed with the performance by both the Londoners and Balkans in front of the 40,000 at the old National Stadium.

The trophy of the tournament and Red Star Belgrade (Asian Soccer)
The trophy of the tournament and Red Star Belgrade (Asian Soccer)

" ... But going through the paces with 22 players (professionals or not) for 120 minutes with so little to offer in the way of soccer skills was hardly the kind of match to justify the hundred thousand dollars the sponsors of this tournament had put up as winning stakes." wrote the now-defunct publication noting the presence of Arsenal's stars like Malcolm Macdonald and those players Singaporeans fans seen on "Star Soccer" - a television program that showcased English football in the 1970s.

According to the match report, the encounter was such a dreadful one that many fans did not stay behind to watch the extra time when the match, officiated by the legendary Jack Taylor, was deadlocked at one piece each at full time.

Action from Arsenal-Red Star opener (Asian Soccer)
Action from Arsenal-Red Star opener (Asian Soccer)

It was suggested the humid weather could be a factor that resulted in the lacklustre display

"The heat began to affect my players as the game progressed and, although the spirt (sic) is willing, their legs were not. They were jaded before the game went into extra time" opined Arsenal manager Terry Neill being quoted, as saying, after losing 3-1 to the Yugoslavian side despite proclaiming before the game had "all the ingredients of a top-class match".

"YOUNG LIONS" IN SAFARI SUITS 

Flipping to the next page saw a picture of a group of men decked in safari suits, marching in single file onto the field behind a man carrying a sign with the word "SINGAPORE" imprinted on it.

"Young Lions" in Safari Suits in 1977 Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament
"Young Lions" marching in wearing Safari Suit (Asian Soccer) 

I believe this was part of the opening ceremony when the participating teams were introduced to the crowds before the opener between Arsenal and Red Star Belgrade who were also photographed marching in single file in their game outfit in one of the preceding pages.

The Singapore side or the "Young Lions" (yes, as what they were labelled in the subsequent write-ups) took on Celtic on the following day.

Unlike the critical stance they took on the previous evening's match between Arsenal and Red Star Belgrade, "Asian Soccer" softened their tone and praised the performance of the team that claimed the Malaysia Cup months earlier in spite of losing by a huge margin against the 1967 European Cup winners.

Quah Kim Song in action against Celtic (Asian Soccer)
Quah Kim Song in action against Celtic (Asian Soccer)

"In the final analysis, however, the amateurs (Singapore) deserved the bouquets, not the boos. It was never a match they really wanted, but they were no quitters either."

"Where the opening night was a yawn, this one was a consolation. We had expected a total eclipse. It was satisfying to see the home side go down fighting- after all, that was the most we could have bargained for when we reluctantly dished out the four hard-earned dollars to come and see some good football and yet fearing the slaughter of our Lions which seemed so inevitable."

Singapore coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee fielded Malaysia Cup hero Edmund Wee in between the posts before replacing him at halftime after he conceded two goals, his replacement Eric Paine faired no better with the army regular plucked the ball from the back of the net three times.

SOME THOUGHT "YOUNG LIONS" WOULD UPSET THE "GUNS"

I was not flabbergasted but chuckled when I first read the following lines in the opening paragraphs of the Singapore-Arsenal match report.

"After all, it had appeared that Arsenal was the weakest of the three visiting teams. Some fans even dared to relish the thought of Singapore passing the wooden spoon to Arsenal in the tournament, what with the latter's dispirited desplay (sic) on the opening night (against Red Star Belgrade). So much for the dream."

 Robert Sim (right) kept Malcolm Macdonald in check (Asian Soccer)


Action from Singapore-Arsenal match in Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament in 1977 (Asian Soccer)
Action from the Singapore-Arsenal match (Asian Soccer)

Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan when the north Londoners emulated what the Scots did by putting five past the hapless Singapore side.

Ace striker Malcolm "Supermac' Macdonald accounted himself with a hat-trick for Arsenal with the late "Raja Gelek" Dollah Kassim brought cheers to the home fans when he scored Singapore's only goal of the quadrangular when he broke the duck.

FINAL CHANCE - MAKE IT OR BREAK IT

The opening lines of the "Asian Soccer" match report described the grand final match of the Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament should more or less summarise their thoughts after witnessing the other three matches that were played on the previous nights.

Action from Red Star-Celtic of the Metro 20th Anniversary Tournament final in 1977 (Asian Soccer)
Action from Red Star-Celtic final (Asian Soccer)

"Fifty thousand die-hard soccer fans came to see the type of football they had been promised but somehow never saw in the three previous matches. This was the one last chance. If these teams mould (sic) persist with their lazy hazy pace under the pretext of the heat and humidity, then our tolerant fans would have made up their minds once and for all: we're not gonna buy it, pros." penned the discontinued monthly in the first paragraph of their account of the match between Celtic and Red Star Belgrade that shedding some lights on their disappointment of the three previous matches.

But thank goodness it was not to be the case when the following paragraph described the ultimate encounter of this one-time tournament, as follows.

"At last, the National Stadium came alive with genuine professional football. The pace was still a little relaxed but the polished professional skills were unmistakable. Celtic came out with the characteristic British hit-and-run style while Red Star were contented initially with their knock-about possession football."

Celtic's Roddy Macdonald (right) sticks to his target (Asian Soccer)
Celtic's Roddy Macdonald (right) sticks to his target (Asian Soccer) 

The match report proceeded to highlight the flow of the match during saw the Yugoslavians being the more dominant side of the two in the game but had one of their players receiving the marching order from Taylor for a foul committed by Susic Sead on Alfie Conn.

Just as the crowds thought the Balkans would maintain their consistency by maintaining their tempo and saw them win the match, "lazy football" reared its ugly heads again once Red Star chalked up a 3-0 margin.

"Red Star appeared satisfied with a 3-0 lead and resorted to lazy football." wrote "Asian Soccer" not mincing their words when they spotted the signs of it.

On the other hand, Celtic's performance was lauded by the monthly despite being on the losing end by saying it "would be a little harsh" to say they were being outclassed by Red Star whose staunch defending was the reason why the Glaswegians could not find their way past the wall.

It was no rocket science if you read this statement in the report - "If you don't break defences, you don't score goals." underlined the plight of the Scotsmen.

The match ended 3-1 when Bobby Lennox made no mistake from the spot after Danny McGrain was fouled in the box by Nikola Jovanovic late in the game.

DID LAMBOURNE BROUGHT THIS TO HONG KONG?

One important discovery I made when flipped through the pages of this copy of "Asian Soccer", I stumbled upon a short write-up filed by its Hong Kong correspondent.

Under the subheader "Soccer spectacular may fizzle out", it was mentioned the match promoter Reg Lambourne planned to stage the quadrangular in Hong Kong featuring the likes of the same European trio and local club side, Seiko SA.

It was not known if the tournament had taken place, as the article reported there were some disagreements between Lambourne and their Hong Kong partners.

But one thing is certain, the tournament never returned to Singapore in spite of the plans to do so.

(P.S 1: Some images in this entry were reproduced from 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)

(P.S 3: Some copies of "Asian Soccer" can be found in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at the National Library Board HQ)

Comments

  1. Any photos of all the 4 Teams?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry I don't have and couldn't locate them during my research

      Delete

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