Wednesday, October 05, 2016


Singapore's Strategic Plans

Time for another Singapore rant? Why not! With Albirex Niigata seeming set for their first SLeague title after Tampines Rovers slipped up last night, losing 1-0 at home to DPMM, I thought it would be depressing to look back on my time following football in Singapore.

My first season was 2007 when I watched the East Coast Derby between Geylang and Tampines at Bedok Stadium. God, I was so excited as I followed the crowds from Bedok MRT to the stadium, crossing the road to avoid brawling hooligans near a housing block. Queues snaked out past the swimming pool as excited supporters rushed to get a ticket for this most crucial of local derbies. Nah, that's all shite.

The year 2007 saw 12 clubs in the SLeague playing each other three times.In 2012 we had 13 teams and by golly the SLeague was expanding. Surely the masters at Football Association of Singapore with their strategic plan were doing the business and driving the local game forward in the face of local apathy and negativity. 

But no, that bumper season was a one off and, no doubt as part of the much heralded strategic plan, we were back to 12 teams for 2013 and 2014 with 
The league was split into two halves after matchday 22. Teams in each half play every other team from their half once, for an additional five matches. Results in the 2nd phase were added to that in the 1st phase for overall standings.
The following season we were down to 10 as we lost two sides and currently we have nine sides in the top competition in Singapore...and three of them are foreign. Never mind, That strategic plan for Singapore football goes from strength to strength.

Since 2007 I have seen Woodlands Wellington and Gombak United leave the SLeague, hoping in vain to return. Foreign sides Super Reds, Liaonang Guangyuan, Dalian Shide, Beijing Guaon, Etoile, Harimau Muda A and Harimau Muda B and local side Tanjong Pagar have come and gone. DPMM have come, gone and come again. No doubt this constant chopping and changing of teams is all part of the said strategic plan.

Some of the clubs that have stayed have changed if you know what I mean. I used to go and see SAFFC, Geylang United and Sengkang Punggol. Now I go see Warriors, Geylang International and Hougang United. Young Lions, meanwhile, have had two sponsors affixed to their name in recent years.

Ok so there is massive uncertainty from one season to the next. Why have promotion/relegation when the league chops and changes like this of its own accord. But what about on the pitch. Surely there is much for Singaporeans to be proud of?

In 2016 two of the top three are foreign
In 2015 the SLeague champions were a foreign side. The third placed side were foreign.
In 2014 the runners up were foreign
In 2013 the third place team were foreign
In 2012 the runners up and third placed team were foreign
2011 was the last time the top three in the SLeague were local sides. 
In 2010 a foreign team were champions.

What of the much maligned League Cup? In its 10 years of existence it has been won by foreign sides seven times! (Albirex Niigata, DPMM 3 times each, Etoile).

Against that backdrop the people at the helm of the FAS feel the time is right to take their skills to a higher level. For us mere mortals the idea seems ludicrous. They have overseen the steady demise of the world's most popular game in one of the world's richest countries and beyond their strategic plan, whatever that may be, they have done little to address the issues that are damaging the game in their own backyard. That they should be rewarded seems farcical but that is the way the world works in the land inhabited by suits, PR types where hubs and leveraged are the lingua franca. Look at Tony Blair!

Singapore football is best shot of these people and the sooner the better. A new broom is needed and soon. There have been doomsayers predicting the death of the SLeague in recent years, indeed even FAS officials have been reported as mentioning it, despite their strategic plan, but I have always tried to swim against the tide on this. No longer. Singapore needs a new Football Association peopled with experienced professionals, not politicians, people with football know how and business acumen. If it doesn't get them soon then we will know for who the bell tolls. RIP.

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