Friday, October 23, 2015


Singapore Football Could Learn From EPL Hype

Next weekend I will be in Singapore and hopefully catching a few SLeague games. Not for the first time in recent seasons the title campaign is shaping up nicely Tampines Rovers and surprise package Balestier Khalsa waiting for leaders DPMM to slip up. Further afield LionsXII won the Malaysia FA Cup for the first time in their short history while they have also qualified for the knock out stage of the Malaysia Cup with still a game to play.

The national team are handily placed in their group to progress further, if not to the World Cup in 2018 then the Asian Cup a year later being held in the UAE. Five games in they are sitting third in the group, three points behind leaders Syria and equal with Japan though the Blue Samurai do have a game in hand. Their last two home games saw two wins and barrels of complaints from the ultra critical home support. Two of their remaining three games are at home while surprise leaders Syria, who of course don't have a proper home these days, must travel to Japan and Kallang in their remaining games.

On the field Safuwan Bahruddin, who has appeared in the last few Jakarta Casual Awards Team of the Year, has been impressing people from Australia to Japan while goalie Izwan Mahbud has also impressed, especially with an eye catching performance for the national side away to Japan in their WCQ. Fazrul Nawaz suffered a disappointment at the start of the season when a move to Sabah fell through but he has been in fine form in the SLeague, rattling home 15 goals for the Warriors in what has been an inconsistent campaign for the champions and in the process making him the second top scorer in the league and the leading Singaporean scorer. And in Thailand Hassan Sunny has been receiving plaudits for his performances between the sticks for a struggling Army United. And don't forget the emergence of Balestier Khalsa as serious challengers for their first SLeague title.

From a footballing point of view and for the outsider looking in what is not to like?

But the Singaporean football fan is not a happy bunny. Recent WCQs saw low attendances despite the side's good form. Apparently they are boring to watch. I watched Paris SG play Real Madrid the other night and fell asleep. Football comes with no guarantees, what do these people want? Lose 7-3 at home?!

So why aren't fans flocking to fill the stadiums given the relative success and excitement going on? You can be sure if Sky Sports were broadcasting the SLeague there would be less negativity surrounding the game. Can you imagine R Sasikumar, a local legend, in a student adding colour comms to a game? Noh Alam Shah previewing up coming games and Aleksander Duric giving tactical advice? They would turn Harimau Muda v Hougang United into the greatest game since Sergio Aguero sealed Manchester City's first Premier League title and fans across the island would be wearing Fazrul Nawaz's name on the back of their replica shirts. Unfortunately there is no hype and there is no marketing of the SLeague. Period. Instead what we get are interminable calls for a strategic review revolving around whether LionsXII should carry on in Malaysia, how many clubs should be in the SLeague and let's all fantasise about the ASEAN Super League.

The irony is of course people sit down and watch the EPL week in, week out, stay up late and spend big money buying replica shirts. Yet those with the power to do so don't see a link between the packaging of the EPL and the emptiness that surrounds their own league.

If only we could get a new FAS and a Peter Lim could put just 10% of the money he has invested into Valencia into helping the local game...

Can't imagine...
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