Wednesday, May 16, 2018
The Singapore Cha Cha
Honestly can't remember the last time I wrote about Singapore football' it was probably a whine about Albirex Niigata and the lack of any domestic rival being able to take them on. There is a new leadership at the Football Association and apparently a rebranded league, featuring the same number of teams, is a sign of a new era but let's not go there.
Rather, let's look at a couple of events from Lion City over the last couple of days which are, hopefully, more meaningful in the long run than any name change of the local league.
1 Step Forward
Well, what can we say about Home United? After they defeated Persija 3-2 in the first leg of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone Semi Final surely those two away goals by Ramdani Lestalahu were enough to give the Macan Kemayoran the edge in Jakarta? And come on, how many Home United players are familiar with 62,000 fans getting behind their team in the intimidating atmosphere that can envelope Bung Karno at times?
One of the few Singaporeans who did know a thing about playing in front of a hostile, baying crowd was former Persib striker Shahril Ishak and he played his part in this thrilling tie, scoring twice and missing a penalty to set up the minnows for a famous win. Yes, we can point to Persija losing their totemic defender Jamerson towards the end of the first half and yes, they were without Andritany. But this game was lost over two legs and Home thoroughly deserved their triumph.
From a commercial point of view no doubt the AFC would have preferred to have seen Persija go through, a packed Bung Karno with the Jakmania in full voice makes for better TV than a few uncles at Jalan Besar eating chicken and rice but it is kind of nice to see football being won on the pitch rather than in respective balance sheets.
2 Steps Forward
I have to hold up my hands and say yep, I am an unabashed Noh Alam Shah. It's a shame he is more fondly thought of in Indonesia than he ever was in Singapore. Since he hung up his boots for the last time Singapore football has been a poorer place for his absence and I have often felt he could at least have been given a media gig once in a while.
I was delighted therefore to hear that the former Tampines Rovers striker has been called up by the FA and asked to help new acting coach Fandi Ahmad as the Lions prepare for the AFF Suzuki Cup later this year. Moaning ninnies could argue what does NAS bring to the table? After all he hasn't set the world on fire recently (fortunately). But just imagine his presence in the dressing room ahead of big games. Home United have proved Singapore teams have what it takes to go toe to toe with the big boys, the appointment of NAS can only inject more spine into the game and hopefully excitement in to the fans and media.
1 Step Sideways
As mentioned the Lions have turned to Fandi Ahmad to take Singapore to the AFF Suzuki Cup. Apparently he is a stop gap, a short term measure. Why? This has happened before, the FA appointing a coach insisting it wasn't a long term appointment? What is with this short termism? Either give him the job and a contract or not, don't fanny round with short term this, short term that.
1 Step Backwards
Albirex Niigata have won the last three Singapore Cups, the last three League Cups, the last three Community Shields and the last two league titles. They are currently top of the league table with seven wins from seven games, 11 points clear of their nearest rivals. Last month they beat Home United, yeap them that beat Persija, 6-1! To paraphrase a long dead English monarch who will challenge these serial victors?