We love football but we really really hate writing about Singapore soccer scene –because for a sport that we love so much, there are very few positives since 1994 (When Singapore won the Malaysia Cup).
Wages have been stagnant since 1996, contracts are getting shorter, sponsors have not been forthcoming and we even had to resort to getting two foreign teams (Brunei DPMM and Albirex Nigata) to join us just so we can have enough teams to play in a competitive league format. Oh ya, Singapore is also currently ranked 161th in the FIFA World Ranking, below Guam and Afghanistan, a constant slide since 1993.
Neil Humphreys, the football columnist argued that Singapore’s definition of football success is too narrow. Beating Malaysia is all that matters to most of us. Talks are always about the next SEA Games, the next Suzuki Cup and then the next SEA Games after that.
With a fixation on short term goals, there is just no leverage to form the basics and no strategy to address Singapore’s shortcomings over a generation. As a result a Suzuki Cup victory is suddenly followed by group stage failure. Triumph so often quickly turn into despair.
For the football fans, this means that we would rather buy a pirated box or subscribe to crazy cable subscription rates to catch the BPL rather than watch the free to air S-League games on television.
Today everyone in Singapore (except for those in FAS) has acknowledged the systemic failings of the S-League.
FAS Chief Zainuddin disagreed with the naysayers, explaining that FAS have been investing heavily in youth development which is one of the key pillars in FAS strategic plan. Over the years, promising players who have progressed through the youth development system include Adam Swandi, Irfan Fandi Ahmad, Safuwan Baharudin, Iqbal Hussain and Hariss Harun who have been singled out by foreign football coaches and officials.
Why than do Singaporeans still believe that the S-league cannot make it and that no one in their right mind will want to be professional footballers?
FAS latest technical director seems to have the answer. Since his appointment in April this year, he has spent his first four months immersing himself in the local football ecosystem, studying its intricacies and mulling over critical changes at the base to lift the sport.
At the end of it all he only has these words to say:
“What we need is a change in the system and we need to start working from the grassroots up”
It seems like he want to reintroduce football into the heartlands, back to a time when we enjoy kicking plastic balls below our void decks barefooted – but now with more structure and to slowly develop the skills from there.
Finally, someone in the FAS gets what Singaporeans were telling FAS all along. T
hank goodness that Zainuddin is stepping down by this year. Singapore in the World Cup before #SG100