Five on Friday: 5 ways to save the S.League

Five on Friday: 5 ways to save the S.League

SINGAPORE: With days left to the Football Association of Singapore elections on Apr 29, the local football fraternity is not in a good way.After weeks of claims, counterclaims, allegations and denials around the elections to choose a new leadership team for the FAS, the police on Thursday raided the offices of the FAS and three local football clubs.What’s been lost amid all the drama – and the hustings – is that it won’t matter a jot who wins the elections if they aren’t prepared to make the tough calls needed to lift Singapore football out of the doldrums.In the past few years, Singapore’s Fifa rankings have tanked all the way to 165; that’s out of 206 teams. The Lions have also failed to progress to the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup – a competition they’ve won on four occasions – in the last two editions.The S.League, the premier division of Singapore football, is a failing project – with paltry crowds, financially insecure teams and unmotivated players, most of whom are only paid for 10 out of 12 months in a year.Needless to say that for Singapore football to emerge from its coma, a complete overhaul of the S.League is needed. Here’s how:WEED OUT THE NO-MEANING TEAMS  Harimau Muda in their match against Geylang International FC on Oct 16, 2015 What’s a team like the Garena Young Lions doing in the league? It plays in front of empty stands at the Jalan Besar Stadium because it’s hard for people to muster any kind of enthusiasm for a side that has no connection to the community.  And besides, it’s a fallacy to think that putting youngsters in a team to play against other professional sides will raise their standards. Players don’t improve by playing against better players, they improve by training day in, day out with more skilful and more experienced players.  Plus, losing game after game, as the Young Lions are wont to do, only breeds a losing mentality among Singapore’s brightest footballing prospects. Young players who only know how to lose: How’s that good for the national team?Similarly, it is time to rethink whether the so-called uniformed teams – Warriors and Home United – are really needed in the league. While these sides have historically been a part of Singapore’s footballing landscape, it is perhaps time to turf them out of the top tier. Wouldn’t it be better if Choa Chu Kang Stadium and Bishan Stadium housed teams that have a stronger affinity with those neighbourhoods? Like say a Choa Chu Kang United or a Bishan Football Club. Ang Mo Kio, Singapore’s largest housing estate, doesn’t even have a football club – and it’s just a stone’s throw from Bishan Stadium.And how have Japan’s Albirex Niigata and Brunei’s DPMM being in the S.League improved local football? They really haven’t … and they look odd in this league. Singapore can easily rally eight geographically based teams as part of its top tier.  RESURRECT THE TRADITIONAL CLUBSJurong Town Football Club’s D Tokijan takes on defenders from the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association in the 1998 President Cup final at the Toa Payoh Stadium. So, let’s have an eight-team S.League that will have strong ties to the communities they are based in. For that to happen, the powers that be ought to look at reviving some dormant footballing giants.  Surely Singapore’s northern footballing hotbed would welcome the return of the Sembawang Rangers – Woodlands Wellington derby. And a booming town like Jurong deserves the return of Jurong Town Football Club, which was based at the 6,000-seat Jurong Stadium and had current national coach V Sundramoorthy as its star player from the late 80s to the early noughties. And while Sengkang Punggol Football Club morphed into Hougang United, that heavily populated north-eastern corner of Singapore is crying out for a team to root for.Also crying out for teams to call their own: Residents in Queenstown, where Tangjong Pagar United and Tiong Bahru used to be based, and residents of Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak where Gombak United once ruled the roost.Yet, the S.League has over the years failed to cater to the local fan – experimenting with having a Chinese , African , French , Korean , Malaysian , Japanese and Bruneian teams. PROMOTION/RELEGATION Tampines Rovers celebrate after winning the 2013 S.League. So how would an eight-team league tentatively look like? In the east you could have Geylang International and Tampines Rovers; in the west, Jurong Town; elsewhere, Tanjong Pagar United, Balestier Khalsa and Hougang United; and in the north, Woodlands Wellington and Sembawang Rangers. Simple formula: These eight teams play each other home and away twice for a total of 28 games a season. And make it competitive, too…