Thursday, June 15, 2017
Singapore v Argentina
In an ideal world my plan was simple. Head to Phnom Penh to watch Cambodia v Indonesia, down to Singapore for their game with Chinese Taipei before returning to Indonesia for their friendly with Puerto Rico. I would like to have caught Thailand v UAE but the Thais, in their infinite wisdom, make it difficult for foreigners to buy tickets for games, something the mainstream media, which dotes so much on the kingdom, would do well to address amid their usual fawning gumpf.
Anyway, plans are designed to be broken. Especially when you have a seven year old son at the end of the school year. Meeting his teachers meant I had to cancel Cambodia. I mean for goodness sake I am glad I came to this middle age lark now and not 20 years ago! And this seven year old, once he heard Argentina were in the manor, so to speak, was most insistent. 'Daddy, we go Singapore or no?' Yes, son.
He loves football, my little boy. But his football and mine or generations apart. He loves the big name players like Ronaldo, Messi and Reinaldo, he knows more about the latest football boots than your average shop assistant and he was telling me about Dyabala long before I knew anything about him beyond his nationality (Disclaimer - I don't watch Italian football). For MyLittleGooner football is a world of celebrities and products, everything I loathe about the game. Hell, he says if Mesut Ozil wants to leave Arsenal and can't find a new club he can come and stay with us and play football with my son after school!
Seeing football through my son's eyes is seeing modern football at its ugliest yet his thinking is perhaps more common than mine. We only had to go see Singapore v Argentina to see that. As far as a footballing experience went, and I was watching one of the best teams in the world here, it was a non event. There was no atmosphere at all inside the stadium. Organisers wanted to #BringBackTheRoar. All we got was #TheSoundOfSilence.
Singapore's new national stadium holds 55,000. Ahead of the game organisers were saying they hold sold more than 20,000 tickets. Alarm bells! How the hell can there be so little interest when your own national side were playing one of the best in the world? Seriously, this wasn't a sell out because?
At the weekend Brazil played Argentina in Melbourne in front of 95,000. Yet it wasn't that long ago when some foolish organisation more interested in sponsors and headlines declared with a straight face Singapore was the world's best sports city!
In the wake of the Melbourne game it was revealed Lionel Messi would not be playing in Singapore and oh boy, the whining with some fans demanding a refund 'cos one player would not be there. But the fact is 20,000 tickets had been sold before Melbourne? Why were ticket sales so poor when people thought Messi would be there? Why the apathy?
On the day of the game I went to the FAS offices to see what was going on. There was one poster advertising the game. That's it. Their 125th anniversary game against one of the biggest football nations in the world and the best they could come up with was a poster?
So, we walked along the river through a park to the stadium and a very nice walk it was. Very quiet. Follow the crowds? There were none. Just us and the greenery. Even as we crossed the bridge and headed into the stadium area there was little in the way of crowds. And no merchandise on sale. No indication a big game was about to be played.
Around the stadium concourse there were more people. Large numbers of security of course. I wonder if they, and the ubiquitous ushers inside, were included in the final attendance figure? Only then would it make sense. We played count the football shirts and of course there were more Singaporeans wearing Argentina shirts than their own. Why? I don't know. My seven year old son, I can understand to a certain extent. Peer pressure, TV coverage dictates his world. But I was looking at grown adults who had never been to Argentina transforming themselves into fans of a nation thousands of miles away.
And of course Liverpool shirts. Loads of Liverpool shirts. Including many wearing the new 125th anniversary shirt which was released less than a month ago. Getting the irony here?
Inside the stadium, I bought some beer and we took our seats. Me, my wife and my son. We must have looked proper naughty sitting their, laughing, joking together, my son munching on his crisps, my wife complaining about the number of beers I had under the seat. And then I cheered for Singapore. Bloody hell, this woman in front turns round, takes one look at this family sitting together and she was off. What the hell had upset her so much that one fat git cheering for her country, her country mind, was on her toes. When she looked back from her new seat her face was one Stephen King could describe better in one of his horror books than I ever could. I smiled and raised my beer towards her.
Maybe it was the fact I tried to get involved in the match. If I was then I was alone. Apart from a few Argentine fans, the real deal, to our right, everyone was sat rigid for the game. It's fucking football, not the Queen's garden party! These people talk football and buy football but do they get football? In my area no one was cheering on Singapore. No one. Plenty of cheers when Argentina scored but nothing when Hassan Sunny was pulling off save after save.
If someone is scared by one guy cheering what the hell would happen if England came here. Or even Indonesia? Over the years I have been a big fan of the SLeague and Singapore football but when your own FA does FA to promote its own anniversary game then why should anyone else bother? Here was a massive opportunity to put Singapore football back in the spotlight at a time when it is hiding in the darkest shadows. The opportunity was missed. Again.
Next up for the Singapore football shirt collector is the International Champions Challenge or whatever it is called. Three European teams heading to town for a highly choreographed visit including games, perhaps a coaching clinic or a photo opportunity. It would be interesting to see how many turn out for those games.
As we walked away from the stadium my friends and family were less than impressed by what we had seen. The only person who enjoyed himself was my seven year old son before adding the support was rubbish!