Enough said about the dismal state of the Singapore football scene since the 1980s when Singapore decides to leave the Malaysia Cup and set up its own football league. More than 20 years have passed and hundreds of millions injected and wasted, the national team, instead of improve, slips to one of the weakest teams in the region. Some VIP from the Sports Association and the then PM once set the goal of our national team making it into the final round of the World Cup. It has since become the biggest joke in Singapore short history as a glaring example of goal go unwryly wrong.
One final effort to save the Sinking league
Finally, a never-before-released statistic that beggars the Singapore imagination: The average ticket sales for nine S-League soccer matches from Aug 30 to Sept 5 is a miserable 214. And this is 14 years after the League was born prematurely, forced upon Singapore by Malaysian officials who wanted to squeeze more money out of gate collections at Malaysia Cup matches played here.
There was some apprehension when the decision was taken at the very highest levels that we should cut the Malaysia Cup umbilical cord whether the S-League would do well, even survive. Such naysayers were rubbished as unpatriotic doom devils.
There was a lot of jingoism that tried to appeal to the national pride that we should not allow Malaysian soccer officials to push us around.
Between then and now, a lot of things have happened.
First, the wish of the League’s first chairman of its board of directors, Mr Kwek Leng Joo, that there would be a kind of constituency spirit to support the teams in the League did not materialise. Somebody should have told the housing developer that with Singaporeans treating their property as lottery, moving in and out of a constituency was becoming a national hobby. Sinking roots into a constituency, and thus supporting the soccer team bearing that constituency’s name, was not going to happen. Singapore’s small size made the shift even easier; constituency loyalty was a non-starter.
Second, the power of the English Premier League and the pervasive influence it began to have on the Singapore soccer fan was underestimated. Millions of pounds chasing the top stars and the power of the live telecast made the S-League look like a slumdog cousin. The S-League was thrown into the lion’s den for Geylang and Woodlands to fight with Manchester United and Arsenal for spectator support and interest. Well, we all know what the result of that fight was.
Third, the kind of money that you need to run a successful League could not be squeezed out of the big companies.
The big Temasek-linked companies like SIA, Keppel Corp, SingTel and home-grown private companies like CDL and FairPrice were not convinced to dig into their pockets. Asia Pacific Breweries, the brewer of Tiger Beer, was an exception in the inception stages. But that revenue stream dried up after it began to become a global company and switched its loyalty to the EPL.
With fans deserting and big-time companies not convinced of the League, is it time to bury the S-League? Pulling the plug will have consequences on those who earn their keep playing soccer and on providing a regular flow of players to the national team.
Is going back to play in the Malaysia Cup worth a shot? That has been discussed and debated to death and found to be a retrogressive move because it does not really help the development of a truly Singapore league.
With the patient all ready to be wheeled into the intensive care unit, what he needs is urgent surgery. All the patch-up jobs of the past 14 years have made this patient a propped-up zombie all set up to blow up in our faces and embarrass us to no end.
The way to breathe new life into this dying patient is to get a retired chief executive who has run a successful company and has an interest in and some knowledge of this beautiful game, give him a tidy sum of money, preferably from Singapore Pools, and tell him: We are giving you three years, just fix it.
Let him start with a blank sheet of paper and no interference please; not even from civil servants and politicians.
Is that too much to ask of a system that prides itself in creating a country, and a successful one at that, out of nothing?
P N Balji is the director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship, a joint initiative of Temasek Foundation and NTU.
Two reasons why football is in the doldrums
source: The Straits Times 2 Aug 2012
THE key reasons why football is a losing proposition in Singapore are not new (“Suppiah lashes out at FAS”; Tuesday).
First, key officials leading the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) are appointed. Without elections, we cannot expect consistent rejuvenation and fresh ideas. Similarly, the S-League suffers from having a surfeit of the same, tired leadership.
Second, the tiny pool of talent has been made tinier because the sport is dominated by members of only one community who play the game seriously. There are no obvious game-changing efforts to enlarge the pool by attracting the largest community – Chinese Singaporeans. The FAS should create tournaments for the races to play, maybe among the community development councils, for a start.
The absence of Chinese Singaporean footballers is even more glaring given the active participation of this community in other sports, several of which are major.
If the association sticks to its current attitude and plan, football will remain in the doldrums for a long time.
While it may be all right to inject foreign players into local teams, the S-League should not allow foreign teams to compete.
It is gratifying to see that Singapore is taking part in a Malaysian competition once more as it keeps the interest in local football alive.
Louis Francis Albert
Baffled by FAS chief’s reaction to state of football
source: The Straits Times 2 Aug 2012
I AM baffled by Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin’s rejoinder that there are so many good things happening in local football now “but some prefer to focus on the negatives” (“Suppiah lashes out at FAS”; Tuesday).
Despite spending millions of dollars over the past two decades, what have we to show for it? Our team were ranked 73rd in 1993 but have plunged to 158th now.
The association’s stock reply – that Singapore football did not deteriorate, but other countries improved – does not wash.
The last time the national team put up a decent show was in the 2007 Suzuki Cup. Since then, we have been embarrassed by ill-disciplined players and dismal performances. S-League support is at an all-time low.
If football is (to) enjoy a revival, the relevant ministry and the Singapore Sports Council must step in and rejuvenate the sport.
Overrated and overpaid over here
FORMER Singapore national coach Barry Whitbread seems to think too highly of foreign coaches and lowly of Singaporean coaches (“Time to give locals a chance”; Oct 11).
The Englishman doubts Singaporeans possess “that kind of international exposure” to guarantee success.
Mr Whitbread realised success – Singapore’s 1998 Asean championship – partly because defending champion Thailand fielded second stringers, only eight of whom were picked for Thailand’s 22-man “A” squad that eventually reached the Asian Games semi-finals that year.
Before SEA Games football was downgraded to an age-group contest in 2001, the gold medal was Asean’s most-coveted soccer crown.
Only Singaporean coaches Jita Singh (1983, 1989) and Hussein Aljunied (1985) have led Singapore to the SEA Games final.
Mr Whitbread failed twice – in 1995 (bronze) and 1997 (fourth) and failed to win a single match in the 1997 World Cup qualifiers, or to avoid finishing last.
Mr Jan Poulsen of Denmark matched that dismal World Cup record in the 2001 qualifiers and had to quit after Singapore was thrashed 4-0 at home by arch rivals Malaysia in the 2002 Asean championship.
Mr Whitbread may have a point about Mr Poulsen’s local predecessor Vincent Subramaniam under whom Singapore ended the 1999 SEA Games without a medal and crashed out spectacularly in the 2000 Asean championship.
But the facts do not largely justify Mr Whitbread’s opinion about underperforming local coaches.
Apart from Mr Jita and Mr Hussein, another excellent tactician is Mr P.N. Sivaji, the only coach to have engineered a Singapore victory over a top-tier team in World Cup qualifying.
Singapore was Asia’s 15th-best performer in the 1993 qualifiers when the Lions beat Qatar 1-0, the only time they defeated a team that had previously reached the final qualifying round.
Current coach Raddy Avramovic guided Singapore to an Asian top-15 finish in the 2008 qualifiers too.
However, the Serbian was helpless when Singapore capitulated in the 2011-12 edition and lost every group-stage match, a dubious Singapore first.
Foreign coaches may have more international exposure. But they have eked out inconsequential victories compared to the officially impressive credentials upon which they were hired.
After a total of 15 years under foreign coaches who probably cost Singaporeans no less than $5 million, Singapore has gained triflingly little.
The national team remains ineffectual beyond the Asean game even as it continues plumbing new depths in the official world rankings.