Sunday, May 12, 2013


Lions X11 v T Team 3-0

I know Singaporeans like football. You know Singaporeans like football. Put a red shirt on a player with the Singapore flag on their tit and Singaporeans rally round; especially if they are winning. It's just they don't give a toss about the SLeague.

Most cities have a built in local identity that has been acquired over centuries or decades. The Krays or the Richardsons for example in London or the Crips and the Bloods in the USA.

It starts off at the most local level imaginable. School. Perhaps even the classroom. Us against them. Then perhaps your school will face off with another school from the area. But when another area intrudes then those schools will unite to repel the intruders. All come together on the terraces of the local team against the nearest and dearest rivals.

Imagine a Babushka doll. Lift one and you find another rivalry. And another.

Not in Singapore. The soulless heartland with its never ending vista of HDBs, void decks and coffee shops replicates itself around the island. The only difference between Choa Chu Kang and Punggol is the colour of the MRT on the map. Singapore is Singapore; till now there seems to be little rivalry between people from Woodlands and those from Tampines. There maybe gangster stuff, triads, loan sharking, that kind of thing but for most Singaporeans the idea you would want to slag someone off for where they come from seems, well, off. Unless they are mainland Chinese of course!

After years of apathy filled SLeague games where hysterical MCs do their best to generate their enthusiasm among tiny crowds of inveterate gamblers, friends and relatives of the players and old Uncles with nothing else to do by playing music as loud as possible it was a relief to encounter some enthusiasm at a Singapore football game, no matter how daft the name of the football club.

LionsX11 play in the Malaysia Super League and are top of the table. More than 6,000 fans filled the Jalan Besar Stadium for the game against T Team, another daftly named team in a league of daftly named teams
( ATM are second in the table) and they got behind their team in a way that is sadly lacking in SLeague games.

It helps of course that LionsX11 are a Singapore national team in all but name and they are top of the MSL. But going to the JBS and this felt like it was football. Fans were wearing club/country colours, there was singing from most of the stadium, including a few chunes familiar to Indonesian football fans, and it was fun!

The game wasn't. Singapore, sorry, LionsX11 were 3-0 up by half time and instead of going for the jugular allowed T Team back in the game. They didn't score, for a long time they never even troubled the home keeper, but inexplicably when the opportunity was there to build a healthy goal difference Lions didn'tt ake it.

T Team responded to the home team's onslaught in an interesting way. They pushed 37 year old midfield George Boateng, he once of Aston Villa, Coventry City and Middlesbrough, up front. I say interesting not because I know a thing about tactics and can read his mind. Interesting because in a recent article Boateng recalls a Middlesbrough game when we was no doubt younger and much fitter when they were looking for goals. Boateng says that he was the only guy left in the middle of the park as the rest went for that crucial goal.

As it happened he did go close, a deft flick hitting the cross bar in the second half. But in truth T Team were always chasing this game. They are 11th in the table and have the worst defence in the division.And only bottom club Negeri Sembilan have scored less goals than them.

They are obviously not a happy camp at the moment. Coach Peter Butler is apparently not allowed to coach the team and even had to pay his own way to the game according to local media reports.

If I was a Lions fan I would be disappointed. Yes, it was another home win and they have won all them but the table shows if goal difference comes into play then they are playing second fiddle to ATM.

1 - LionsX11 16 10 4 2 22-9 34
2 - ATM 17 10 3 4 31-17 33

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