Monday, May 31, 2010


ASEAN's Premier Rivalry

Football thrives on good old fashioned rivalry. Look at England v Scotland. England v Germany. Guam v Faroe Islands. Netherlands v Germany.

The rivalry comes from a number of sources. England v Scotland of course is geographical with dashes of politics thrown in for good measure. England's rivalry with Germany dates back to 1966 and all that with various military conflicts thrown in to the mix but perhaps that has been replaced by England v Argentina.

As far as I'm aware there was no real rivalry with Marge and Tina until the 1980s when a couple of incidents saw us cross them off our christmas card list. Yes, Antonio Rattin had tried back in the 60s but it was the 80s when it took off.

First was when the Argies invaded a couple of islands which were home to a couple of thousand sheep. Loyal subjects of her maj. Nothing like a war to generate some on/off the field hatred. Then of course when that cheating drug using dwarf punched them through to the semi finals of the World Cup in 1986.

ASEAN lacks such a pedigree and anyway memories are short in this part of the world. But in football terms one fixture stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Thailand v Singapore.

Until 2008 these two countries dominated the ASEAN Cup and even now they consider the Vietnamese are just looking after it for a few months. That later this year one of these two will have it back in safe keeping.

It's also a rivalry of different styles. Thailand with their movement, off the ball running. Singapore more disciplined, more measured, less flamboyant.

Last year in the Asian Cup qualifiers the Thais beat Singapore 3-1 with a wonderful display of pacy football. And yet had the Singaporeans been given a pen early on the outcome could have been more different.

That word if again. Looking back at that game the Thais mullered Singapore but a fine line divides success from failure.

No one gave Singapore a chance in the second leg in Bangkok days later. How do you stop a team which can't keep still? The Lions won 1-0!

Then in an Asian Champions League Qualifier SAFFC came up against Muang Thong United at Jalan Besar. There could surely have only been one winner. Muang Thong's flair would prove too much for SAFFC's efficiency. And over the 120 minutes then yes, Muang Thong had the better of the game. Shahril Jantan was inspired in the Warriors goal but it seemed only a matter of time before Muang Thong would break the deadlock.

But SAFFC won on pens. All the flair in the world couldn't break down a resolute, disciplined defence.

Last week we had SAFFC again up against Thai opposition. This time Bangkok Glass in the Singapore Cup. Coming from behind the home team were soon in a 3-1 lead and the game should have been theres. But the Thais were always a threat. SAFFC corners were a worry for jantan who knew that any lost possession at the other end of the field would soon have three or four Glass Bunnies bearing down on him.

Which is what happened. 3-1 soon became 3-5. Ney Fabiano was the pivot, Suttee the executor. After the game SAFFC coach Richard Bok was lost for words. He was disappointed that on three or four occasions the Thais were allowed to dance along the byline before pulling back unhindered.

It was a fascinating game to watch. I'm not a coach but how do you stop a team that moves the ball around so quickly? Blackburn and Bolton don't bother. Those two teams from northern shit pits in England are cast firmly in the mould of the walrus faced, gum chewing manager Sam Allardyce and their aim, against teams who play football is to stop the player. Not pretty but effective.

Teams like Birmingham and Everton, even Wolves at times last season, tried the other option. Hard work and discipline. By denying space, by closing down.

Like I said, fascinating stuff watching the contrasting styles.

Ah yes the rivarly with Singapore. I blogged about that way back:
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