Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Misunderstanding The Beautiful Game

I love Singapore. I love sitting in a coffee shop early in the morning eating roti pratha and reading the nonsense stories in the local tabloid. I enjoy being able to jump on a bus and get to almost SLeague ground from the area I stay in. Changi Airport is a great place to wait for a connection.

You are never far from a local guy wearing a Liverpool or Manchester United shirt and coffee shops are packed when there is a live game on TV. The price of watching the EPL or the World Cup is a national debate that fills the newspapers and on line message boards. Futsal is thriving.

Singaporeans love football.

But why is it the people who run the game don't get football?

Take the recent hoo haa which greeted a decision to limit the number of players aged 30 and over. With that decision, surely Singapore would have been the only nation in the world to implement ageist policies in football? The reaction was so powerful they were forced, after the face saving 'serious consideration' to rescind the policy but it was just one of many in recent years that suggests a massive disconnect between them charged with running the game and those that love the game.

What about Tampinese Rovers from the eastern suburb of Tampines no less. What a spiffing idea that was to move them to distant Clementi in the west while a new stadium goes up in their home town.

The classic example in recent weeks was the decision to have pole dancers at the league award nights!

Then there was the time when a league official told players from one club that is taking a year off that they 'must understand...'. Yes sir, of course sir, you are our better sir, bow, scrape, grovel.

And we have a decision to merge Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington. Two clubs with distinct identities, it has been decreed from on high they are to merge. Probably to form some super club with a hub in the north east where it can leverage on the local population's interest in football and become a hub for the region offering bespoke business school bullshit la di da di da.

There is also the small matter of how Singapore welcomes visiting fans. Specifically fans from across the causeway.

There was an incident earlier in the season when fans of a Malaysian side travelling to catch their team play LionsXII were refused admission to the country! Not the stadium but the country. Others were not allowed in the stadium either!

And reports circulated following the Malaysia game against Myanmar in the AFF Championship that travelling fans were again being refused to enter Singapore.

Away fans are an important part of football, check out my piece on Prediksi 90, they add to the atmosphere and god knows the new national stadium was crying out for some against Thailand. But to stop them even entering the country, even when they possessed tickets? There are plenty of crowd control experts out there who could advise on how to channel fans to and from a stadium with the minimum of fuss.

What would happen if for example the biggest team in Singapore, Liverpool, were to play Manchester United in the new nationa stadium? Would the authorities ban United fans from travelling south?!

I still maintain the SLeague is as exciting as any other league but the lack of marketing and the growing disconnect between those in charge and the potential fan is only widening and it is difficult to say it getting better any time soon.

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