Friday, March 14, 2014


A Journeyman's Tale

Not too long ago it was annonced Wayne Rooney had secured a new deal with Manchester United worth something like 300,000 quid a week. A week. The guy could buy four houses a month and still have more money left than most of us earn in a year.

Yet hardly anyone raises a voice in protest. The media, with so many ex pros on the pay roll came out with blurge like 'supply and demand' if we need economics lessons from them!

Truth is, who else, beyond Chelsea, really expressed an interest in 'world class' Rooney playing in the 'best league in the world'?

At the other end of the scale is all those players released after their contracts end and are left scrabbling for a team while clubs snap up below par foreigners on the cheap.

Happens everywhere, not just England and has long since ceased to be a story.

Yet it was exactly this type of story that has made so many waves in Singapore.

Duncan Elias will admit he is no world beater. In fact, he said just that when we met yesterday. His wiki page hasn't been updated since 2012 for god's sake!

Just another player kicking a ball for a living and loving the job. No 300,000 grand a week for him. No being stopped in the street and asked for autographs or pictures.

But his story has gone viral in Singapore...which means more than a hundred people read it I guess!

Many players get released every season. Some find clubs; some don't. When Singapore international goalkeeper Lionel Lewis decided to hang up his gloves, there was little reaction why someone supposedly at the peak of their powers, should feel it better to find a career away from football.

But Elias' tale seems to have caught the imagination. Not because it is unique and not because he is a super star but perhaps because he is the antithesis of all that. No glamour, no headline, no profile. Just a normal guy doing a job.

What makes it interesting is that Elias is lifting the lid on something that is never talked about in Singapore football. He highlights the fragility of a career in the game in a city state not exactly known for any passion towards the local game. And, perhaps, he tells a story that many would prefer remained untold.

Lionel Lewis has called for a player's union to be set up in Singapore like they have in Indonesia...but the idea that footballers be seen as stakeholders in the game seems far off in Lion City. Players are chattels and treated as such, especially local players.

Elias told me the kind of money he would have accepted. Annually, a fraction of Rooney's weekly wedge. The club said no.

Clubs are being encouraged to spend big on 'marquee' foreign players by the Singapore FA yet the jury is out as to whether that particular policy has been a success yet. But another price is paid when good, honest pros are driven out of the game to make way for them.

Don't shed too many tears though for Elias. The story went viral and he received offers from a number of local clubs, as well as the support of many players past and present, but former Singapore international Sasikumar stepped in and offered him some work.

'It's ironic, I am more famous now I have stopped playing than I was as a player,' said the former full back, now excited about new opportunities talking about the game he loves.

Catch the original story here

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