This report appeared in The Straits Times on 17 October. It has been edited for length:
FAS fights back
(The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2009)
It will unveil 5-year strategic plan to counter ‘negative impact’ of the Lions’ exodus
By Wang Meng Meng
THE recent exodus of national players, led by the fiery and controversial Noh Alam Shah, to the Indonesia Super League (ISL) has taken the shine off the S-League.
But Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin intends to fight back with a five-year strategic plan that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The plan is aimed at filling the vacuum, said the 45-year-old Zainudin, who is also the Mayor of Central Singapore District.
Last month, Alam Shah, who moved from Tampines Rovers to ISL club Arema Malang, blasted the S-League for its paltry crowds and lack of atmosphere. In the days that followed, five other national players also headed for Indonesia’s ISL.
They are Baihakki Khaizan and Mustafic Fahrudin (Persija), Precious Emuejeraye and Aleksandar Duric (Sriwijaya) and Ridhuan Muhamad (Arema).
The six national players’ departure is the biggest exodus in a season.
In 1991, five players – Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoorthy (both Pahang), K. Kannan (Kuala Lumpur), Malek Awab (Police) and Ahmad Paijan (Terengganu) – played for state teams in the Malaysia Cup.
Mr Zainudin, who took over the FAS presidency from Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee in April, admitted the outflow of talent would have a ‘negative impact’ on the S-League.
But the FAS will revive and improve the 13-year-old S-League, he added.
‘We will be unveiling a five-year strategic plan,’ he said. ‘There will be increased subsidies to clubs to engage local and foreign talent of higher quality.
‘And we will be doing a lot more to ensure that the clubs won’t struggle when it comes to talent spotting.’
Currently, local clubs receive $500,000 annually in seed money from the FAS while the foreign teams (Albirex Niigata and Super Reds) get $150,000.
Mr Zainudin declined to reveal the amount, but said an improved scouting network is already in the works to help clubs unearth gems from the transfer market.
In July, Lions coach Raddy Avramovic, national team manager Eugene Loo and FAS technical director Slobodan Pavkovic were in Shandong to watch China’s national Under-20 tournament.
Besides China, the FAS will be tapping other nurseries in Romania, Croatia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Britain.
The FAS will then make its recommendations to the S-League clubs.
Mr Zainudin believes the exodus is a sign that the S-League has a good production line.
He said: ‘Their departures have made the S-League less attractive in the short term. But look at Switzerland and Denmark. They are small countries with most of their star players based overseas and yet, their national teams are successful.
‘I hope our Lions can become better players during their ISL stints. They will learn to cope with the pressure of playing before big crowds, spending long periods away from their families and learning how to behave like professionals.
‘At the end of the day, I expect a positive impact. Besides, young players who did not have a chance to play before will now get to shine in the S-League.”…..
I hate to say this but I felt worse about the S-League after reading Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin’s remarks.
Can someone explain this to me please?
Why is the FAS only unveiling a five-year strategic plan NOW, after the exodus of the Lions to the Indonesia Super League?
Zainudin said the aim of the plan is to ‘fill the vaccuum’.
But isn’t this a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted?
So does that mean that the FAS and the S-League would have been content to let things stay at the appalling state that they currently languish in if there hadn’t been the departures to Indonesia and if striker Noh Alam Shah hadn’t come out to publicly blast the S-League for its poor crowds and atmosphere.
If that’s the case, then I am sorry.
I used to want to give the S-League a chance but I am now really turned off it.
There was a time when the S-League was really entertaining, and games could really draw crowds of 4,000-5,000 on their own merits.
That was the golden period between 1996 to 2002 when each club had their own distinct identities and had their fair share of good quality foreign players alongside the national players.
Remember how we were entertained by the likes of:
– Vlado Bozinowski, Ernie Tapai, Egmar Goncalves (Home United)
– Dragan Talajic, Boubacar Seck and Nicodeme Boucher (Tiong Bahru/Tanjong Pagar United)
– Surachai Jatturapattarapong, Surachai Jirasirichote, David Cervinski, Niweat Siriwong (Gombak United)
– Mirko Grabovac, Nenad Bacina, Bojan Hodak, Jure Eres, Velimir Crljen, Ivica Raguz, Kiatisuk Senamuang (SAFFC)
– Tawan Sripan, Thawatchai Damrong Ontrakul (Sembawang Rangers)
– Jason Ainsley, Park Tae Won, Itimi Dickson (Jurong FC)
– Stuart Young, Max Nicholson, Simon Clark (Woodlands Wellington)
Heck, even perennial strugglers Balestier Central had some decent players in the form of Darren Stewart, Esad Sedjic, Marko Kraljevic and Goran Paulic.
Those were really heady and entertaining times.
Even going to the homes of smaller clubs like Gombak United (Gombak Stadium), Jurong ( Jurong East Stadium) and Sembawang (Yishun Stadium) on match days felt like stepping into cauldrons of fire. For the clubs truly had their own distinct identities and were all backed by substantial crowds made up of residents from the neighbourhoods.
Compare all that to the S-League today:
a) we have no new exciting foreign faces,
b) all the current foreign players seem to be playing a game of musical chairs as they change clubs every one or two seasons and
c) crowds figures have dropped.
And yet, only now does the FAS come up with a strategic five-year plan?
It’s not only ridiculous, it makes me angry because it sounds like the FAS were simply content to continue taking local football fans for granted for years before the Indonesian exodus made them sit up in shock.
And for that, I say shame on you, FAS.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan