Picked up this alarming piece of news from the 93.8FM website tday (http://938live.sg):
Disappointing ticket sales for Spore Lions match in AFF semis
Ticket sales have been surprisingly slow, ahead of this Sunday’s AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final clash between our Singapore Lions and Vietnam at the National Stadium.
Since sales began 3 days ago, only 14,000 have been snapped up.
Almost 2 years ago, 55,000 tickets were sold in just under 2 days when Singapore played host to Malaysia in the AFF semi-finals.
Meanwhile, if you’re still keen to cheer on our Lions to their 3rd straight AFF championship, gallery and student tickets are still available today from 1-8pm at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
All unsold tickets after closing time tonight will be brought forward to Sunday and sold at the National Stadium.
2-time defending champions Singapore are the favorites, as they go into the return leg following a goal-less affair in Hanoi 2 nights ago.
The Republic is still on a record 21-match unbeaten streak with their last defeat in this tournament coming in 2002.
I have no doubts that there will be a surge in ticket sales over the weekend because Singapore footbal fans are notoriously last-minute ticket buyers. But whether this will eventually result in a 55,000-strong crowd packing the National Stadium to the rafters is another story altogether.
One reason for the poor ticket sales could be the timing of the semi-final. It’s the festive season now, and this weekend is the last weekend before Christmas. Which means a lot of people are going to be busy either shopping or going for Christmas parties and gatherings.
Add the fact that the match is being telecast live on Ch 5 and the average football fan has yet another reason to stay at home instead of heading down to Kallang.
But I alsowonder whether the gradual evolution of the ethnic composition of the Lions has progressively resulted in people becoming less interested in their national team.
Sure, without a doubt, this Lions team has come a long way and is far stronger than its 2004 and 2006 predecessors.
As former national midfielder Goh Tat Chuan once said on ESPN Star Sports’ Sportscentre, is made for competing on larger and more important footballing stages than the AFF Suzuki Cup.
But the citizenship scales are also rapidly tilting towards the naturalised foreign talent. These days, Raddy Avramovic’s first 11 is increasingly made up of more naturalised citizens than local talents.
And it would have been eight if striker Qiu Li had been allowed by world body FIFA to play in this tournament.
Now compare that to the Singapore squad that won the 2004 Tiger Cup.
That team only had three foreign faces (Agu Cashmir, Itimi Dickson and Daniel Bennett).
Two years later, the team that won thee 2006 Asean Football Championship had five naturalised citizens. While Agu was dropped, Precious, Shi Jiayi and Mustafic were drafted in.
And now we have seven to eight.
The way the national team has evolved can really be bewildering for the Singapore footbal fan. A surreal experience, in fact, because sometimes one just caches onself wondering: “Is this MY Singapore team, or a mini United Nations team at play?”
But I guess Avramovic doesn’t care for the changing ethnic mix of his squad. And to be honest, why should he?
As national coach, his mandate is to find the best players and craft together a team that is increasingly able to compete against the big guns of Asia. And in his eyes – and that of the Football Association of Singapore – all these foreign talents are now legitimately Singaporeans because they now hold Singapore passports.
The only problem here is that of the fans.
My sense is that the average Singapore football fan is increasingly losing a sense of identity with the Lions. And here we are now, starting to see the effects of this loss of affinity.
It’s a situation that has been occuring since the start of the year.
Look, even when Singapore played well in the World Cup qualifiers this year, its heart-warming performances did little to bring more fans to the terraces or result in full houses.
I’ll concede that I don’t have any concrete statistical data to back up my theory about this gradual loss of affinity with the Lions.
As such, maybe the mainstream media should consider doing a survey of 500- 1000 Singapore football fans to find out their thoughts.
But even if the results do back up my theory, will it result in any thing?
In other words, the question remains: will the FAS be willing to stem this trend and cast into stone a rule that the Lions first eleven must have X number of local players at any one time?
Or would it prefer to leave the situation as it is in favour of the string of good results it has been getting as a result of this policy of strengthening the Singapore team by drafting in more naturalised footballing talents?
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan