Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The secret world of Singaporean football

To the outsider finding information about Singapore can be frustrating at times. The local media hardly touch the game at all and when the majors cover it you can be sure the story bleeds negativity.

There are a couple of websites and message boards that do a good job of providing information and some clubs even have web sites of varying quality.

But imagine a foreign tourist arriving in Singapore for a few days. He likes his football and would love to take in a game or two. He checks the local paper, probably in vain given the tiny space devoted to the game.

Imagine then our tourist gets lucky and finds a fixture list. He also sees a game being played conveniently close to where he is staying. Checking the buses and MRT schedule our plucky tourist heads out to the stadium in good time for the game.

He’ll first spend some time walking round the stadium wondering whether there is even a top flight game going on. Plenty of joggers, plenty of commuters but no one he can confidently point to as being a football fan.

Convinced finally a game is going on his next problem is finding out where to buy tickets. Because stadiums here are public facilities and not owned by the clubs it can be difficult to know which window or office to approach as things aren’t always clearly marked.

Assuming he has purchased his match ticket he will next seek a place to buy club merchandise keen fan that he is. If he ends up at Jurong East for an Albirex Niigata game he could end up with a double sided scarf costing $25 which he may find a bit off putting. Who ever heard of a scarf costing four times the ticket price?

Giving up on the idea of a club souvenir he goes inside the stadium where somebody asks him if he is carrying any drinks because he shouldn’t carry them inside the ground. He isn’t so in he goes and finds a slab of concrete to sit on. He looks around and sees people drinking and wonders how they managed to bring their drinks into the stadium when he was strictly advised against doing so.

He looks around for a match programme. Not knowing anything about the teams or the players he thinks it would be nice to put some names to the players on the pitch. Find out who is the top scorer, what the crowds are like, who is leading the league at that point in time. That sort of basic stuff that will give him some context to the game he is about to watch. But there is nothing.

He sees some fans with flags and wearing replica shirts. Hmm, where did they get them then if there was no club shop anywhere?

The announcer runs through the line ups at supersonic speed and our hapless tourist, struggling with the unfamiliar names, gives up trying to listen.

So he sits there watching the game. He knows who is playing but he is not sure which team is wearing which shirt. He sees 22 players but doesn’t know any of their names. He has money to spend on merchandise but nowhere to spend it.

Rather than being caught up by the experience he finds himself very much on the outside, knowing nothing about how the game being played out in front of him fits into the bigger picture.

But it seems he’s not the only one. The singing and chanting he sees is choreographed but happens randomly. He sees a winger go on a mazy dribble down the flank, crosses and a striker heads just wide. Silence. No oohs and ahhs that you might expect from an exciting piece of skill. Moments later the drums and chants start up during a turgid bit of midfield play.

Our tourist leaves the stadium feeling somewhat nonplussed. Yes, he has seen some Singaporean football and it was a good game, but is it an experience he is going to want to repeat? Truth be told, as he makes his way back to his hotel, he is feeling like he has gate crashed a private party. A party where those in the know, know. And those who don’t, don’t belong.

Hi "Me",

embarrassingly, you're spot on :(
shame innit?
It's all about putting heart into doing it...

First of all I think the game was meant to be for punters and gamblers. I find the gambling booth more visible than the ticket outlet when I was at Yishun Stadium on Monday night.

With the scoreboard so miserable, we can forget about the line-up been shown (i.e. like in Arsenal) I even had to cringe my eyes to check out the timing.

The absolute silence in the crowd is also something...When I tried to utter something all eyes were on me as if I am an alien...

I feel for you Anthony, even worse that I am a Singaporean.

Wreckidigidy @ fishoutofwaterspfc
for me....

"huh~? is there anything new? its sounds so much like Sleague" LOL!
This is uncannily accurate.

Publicity: programmes: team names: Player names; Stats, facts, figures.

All absent on match-night.

Never mind the lack of spontanety in cheering for good skill.. you do not just find it at sleague can also find that general level of lukewarmness when you pass by a coffeeshop in the neighbourhood when there is live football on tv...generally the only thing you will hear them scream is when a goal is scored...

sometimes when i go there to eat and watch football, i tend to be the only "mad man" clapping and cheering for good shots, good skills and obviously, goals...this is a very singaporean culture and no, it is not confined to stadiums alone...

cheerleaders are a good thing, but no one who is doing it presently is able to inspire...the cheers are not in sync, lack creativity and nonsensical that only they understand--the reality of the stands at the national stadium nowadays...

the real problem is not about the football...the real problem is down to singaporeans who have no creativity, love bureaucracy and saving money...and it is also not helped that sleague is not a profit making business...

do not blame the clubs, media and fas for not trying...perhaps only fault them for not being creative enough...i guess, to change the football culture here, we need to go broader, beyond football itself, to change the whole singapore societal outlook...then perhaps we can look again at how football per se...
good thoughts from gary

but what about the old malaysian cup days? everyone tells me that was the halcyon days of singapore football

the ineterst is there i m sure. look at the queues to see fandi and co the other day...
I guess fans had to associate with the footballers on the pitch.

Back in the Malaysian Cup days, Singaporeans can find idolhood in the likes of Fandi, Sundram and in the 1970s the Quah brothers, Dollah Kassim etc.

These days such associatian seems watered off.

I find the media plays an important part to glamorize our footballers but obviously they have no exposure here whatsoever
the malaysia cup days had been traditionally part of our lives before we pulled out of the competition in 1995, which co-incidentally also signalled the arrival of EPL big time on our TV sets to fulfill that football hunger in the vacuum left by the pullout...

the impact of the withdrawal was tremendous because football fans here were used to live, sleep, eat and breathe football...betting, kelong or no, the excitement and passion was definitely there as singapore often fought to prevail against the malaysian state teams...

ditto for the malaysians too, they are also missing seeing their state teams taking on the singapore national team (sleague club not acceptable to them as replacements) and they are suffering from the pandora box that was opened following the 1994 kelong-gate...

for the sleague and national team to regain some kind of resemblence to the heydays gone by will take more than a generation...because of the pullout of malaysia cup, singapore football immediately lost a generation of young people (say aged between 10-18 then) to continue watching domestic football...

Adding in the many changes seen outside football, there are more entertainment options and media demands are different and more complicated given the globalization...

People can say many things on what fas need to do to enhance the sleague or even rejoin the malaysia cup, but the atmosphere is so different from the 1990s, the challenge is on every element involved in football to keep up and be relevant with the times...

Going back to malaysia cup now will not attract the fans in droves as it did in the past, so the best challenge for the relevant authorities is to continue finding methods in what they can to improve the football scene in small and big ways in the midst of scorns, condemnations and criticisms... spending $$$ to bring in the big names even if it means keeping the fans for only the odd celeb game or 15 mins of HT for celeb entertainment :P (plus the first half), why not? (thats just one suggestion :P)

they will not get it right always, but only time will tell whether they have done the right thing...
the media does need to do more but the media is in business to make money. how to get them more involved? more fans thru the gate lah. how to get more fans thru the gate? more publicity...
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