Monthly Archives: January 2010

Tan Eng Yoon dies in car accident; my deepest condolences to his family

It is a very sad day for Singapore sports.

Former Olympian and national hurdler and jumper Tan Eng Yoon died this morning at 630am when he was hit by a car along Upper Thomson Road.

He was crossing the road on his way to church when the tragic accident occured. He was 82.

Here’s the report from Channel News Asia:

Former Singapore Olympian Tan Eng Yoon dies

(CHANNEL NEWS ASIA, 30 Jan 2010)

By Philip Goh

SINGAPORE : One of Singapore’s sporting stalwarts, Tan Eng Yoon, has died after a road accident on Saturday morning.

MediaCorp understands he was knocked down by a car while crossing Upper Thomson Road on his way to the Church of the Holy Spirit.

He was 82.

As an athlete, Tan represented Singapore at the highest levels, participating the in 100-metre sprint and triple jump at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

In 1959, he won Singapore’s first medal, in the 400-metre hurdles, at the inaugural South-East Asian Peninsular Games, the pre-cursor to the present-day SEA Games.

He also won the Triple Jump gold and his national record for this event stood for 32 years.

Tan was the National Track and Field coach from 1958 to 1970, and was responsible for spotting and nurturing the careers of several outstanding athletes, most notably Singapore’s sprint king C Kunalan.

As a sports administrator, he oversaw the construction of the National Stadium in Kallang, and was Deputy Executive Director of the Singapore Sports Council until his retirement in 1988.

He was also the General Secretary of the Football Association of Singapore from 1993 to 1999.

Most recently, he was elected the President of the Singapore Olympians Association.

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Mr Tan leaves behind his wife, a son and a daughter. My deepest sympathies and condolences to his family.

For younger readers, who may not know who Mr Tan is and his place in Singapore sport, please click on this link, which will lead you to  a comprehensive write-up of the man as a top athlete, a beloved and well-respected coach and an able sports administrator.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Local football fans blast FAS for selecting Etoile FC and Beijing Guo’an

The reports:

I’ve found two very well-argued opinion pieces about the Football Association of Singapore’s inclusion of the two new foreign clubs – Etoile FC and Beijing Guo’an – into this season’s S-League.

One, from The Online Citizen, protested vehemently against the exclusion of the Yishun Super Reds while the other, a letter in TODAY, lambasted the FAS for constantly changing the foreign teams in the league:

“While bringing in foreign talent may work for table tennis, having foreign-based teams play here for one or two seasons before they wave goodbye is not the way to go. How are we to breed local talent if half the league consists of itinerant foreigners?”

Reading the write-up from the TOC also got me thinking: Yes, it seems that in rejecting the Yishun Spuer Reds, the FAS may well have missed the opportunity to create a new version of Sembawang Rangers.

I have fond memories of Sembawang – although they were always in the bottom half of the league, they were memorable because they were unconventional.

They were the first club to go almost all Thai in their selection of four or five foreign players. And we all knew the Thai players from their exploits for Thailand in the Tiger Cup in the late 90s and early Noughties (now known as the Asean Football Championships).

Coached by Voran Chintavanich (now with Tampines Rovers), that Sembawang side featured the likes of defender Niweat Siriwong, midfielder Thawatchai Ongtrakul and the biggest catch of all, midfielder Tawan Sripan, who back then was arugably the second most popular player in Thailand after Kiatisuk Senamuang.

Their brand of attacking football drew the crowds – not just Thai nationals working in Singapore but also local football fans. And my most enduring memory of the crowds was how a group of fans would always gather around the team after a match, listening to Vorawan debriefinig his men before breaking out in cheers and giving all of them a standing ovation.

This is the sort of fanship money can never buy. And from the looks of it, there was a chance that the Yishun All Reds could have become a Korean version of Sembawang Rangers, becoming a magnet for Korean nationals working in Singapore, and once again, a club for the neighbourhood to identify with.

Sadly, they will not be getting their chance to build on that platform this year. Instead, it looks like the FAS has been blinded by promises of European flair (yucks, so snooty, as though Asian players are not capable of flair) and the potential to recruit young China players for future national teams (double yucks)

Here are the two write-ups. Like I said, very good. I devoured every word and re-read them a couple of times. I hope you will enjoy them too.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Latest fiasco from Football Association of Singapore

(The Online Citizen, 19 Jan 2010)

By Lim Mingji

Two weeks from the start of the 15th season of the Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League, the S-League announced the winner of the two teams that were competing for the final spot in the new S-league season.

To the surprise and amazement of all the S-league fans, the winner of the coveted final spot went to Beijing Guo’an, rather than the highly committed and motivated, successful in previous two seasons, and now going all local, Yishun Super Reds.

Super Reds FC (Korea), is the most successful foreign team ever to grace the S-league. Barring their first season when they finished bottom, they have been pretty successful for the last 2 seasons, finishing 2nd in 2008 and 5th in 2009 (ahead of 8th placed Albirex Niigata FC (S) by 12 points). Super Reds FC decided to go local at the end of the 2009 season with the intention to qualify for continental football to represent Singapore, and to develop local football talents. They re-branded themselves as the Yishun Super Reds.

S-league fans and supporters were ecstatic about Super Reds intention to turn local and had been looking forward for their participation in the new season. The local football scene had been turning stale with Sengkang Punggol FC and Balestier Khalsa FC perpetually rooted to the bottom of the table, and the Singapore Armed Forces FC (SAFFC) dominating with their 4th S-league title in a row.

Backed by their local Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Lee Bee Wah, Club Chairman Charlie Yoon had big ambitions to make a challenge for the S-league title within 3 seasons. Other than improving the club house, he also planned to groom young players, such as sending them for football exchange programmes in Korea, implement player-attachments to Korea-based teams as well as giving out scholarships to their local recruits to further their studies.

“In over two years as chairman, I’ve spent $2.7 million on the club, and in the end we’ve got nothing,” Mr Charlie Yoon exclaimed in an interview with Today on 27th November 2009 (see photo above). “Now I want to set up a local team, create jobs and develop local players, at least that will help Singapore football in some way.”

As a result, the selection of Beijing Guo’an over Yishun Super Reds has shocked local football supporters and astounded even the non-fans.

People like Halim Wahab, who posted the following comment on the Football Association of Singapore’s facebook page, spelled out the general mood among local fans:

“I am really disappointed with the FAS decision on the clubs for the S-League. Shouldn’t we be looking after our own local clubs first before choosing a foreigner? Yishun Super Reds take the bold step to become local after 2 season of wonderful football as a Korean team – for the reason in helping to develop more local players and play a bigger role in helping local football – now that is something that we should applause the team for and give them the opportunity to do so…

And there is no harm in taking another team is there? So lets give the 13th slot to the Yishun Super Reds… u will do local football a lot of good – after FAS is suppose to be looking after local football isn’t it?!!!”

The selection of a China team is going to spell controversy. In 2003, Sinchi FC (China) became the first foreign team to participate in the S-league. Poor performance and rough play marked their legacy as they bowed out in 2005 due to financial reasons. In 2007, Liaoning Guangyuan become the 2nd China team to participate in the league, but the club was embroiled in a match-fixing controversy and was not invited to participate again in 2008. Dalian Shide Siwu became the next China team, replacing Liaoning Guangyuan, but ultimately, was booted out of the league after finishing 3rd from the bottom.

This selection snafu looks poised to evoke greater repercussions in the future: foreign teams may no longer consider turning local as an option, seeing how the Super Reds had been snubbed despite being prepared for the new season and having already formed the team; potential new local football clubs and their investors will be discouraged by the authorities’ disinterest in supporting new local teams; local footballing talents will be further discouraged to see football as a viable career path; or perhaps worse, the development of a perception that S-league and FAS’s ultimate goal is simply to get foreign talents to be naturalised for the national team.

I can only hope that FAS and the S-league would open up an unprecedented 13th slot for Yishun Super Reds FC and prove the prevailing perception wrong.

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Foreign faux pas

(TODAY, VOICES, 21 Jan 2010)

EARLIER this week, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) unveiled the two teams that will complete the lineup for the 2010 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League: French side Etoile FC and Beijing Guo’an.

Foreign clubs in general have not performed well in Singapore. Sinchi FC, the first foreign club allowed into the S-League, withdrew after three years after they were punished for the indiscipline of their players on the pitch. Liaoning Guangyuan was engaged in a match-fixing scandal in 2007. Brunei DPMM were withdrawn from the league competition five games before the end of the last season. Sporting Afrique was involved in a salary dispute which drew international attention of the wrong sort.

Have you heard of any top-class leagues elsewhere in the world where they switch teams around every other season?

Having one or two foreign teams is okay, as they give us a platform to see if we are up to par, but having too many foreign teams in Singapore will not improve the standard of football here. On the contrary, many may instead choose to stop following the S-League. Will locals want to watch a match-up between Beijing Guo’an and Albirex? Or Albirex versus Etoile?

While bringing in foreign talent may work for table tennis, having foreign-based teams play here for one or two seasons before they wave goodbye is not the way to go. How are we to breed local talent if half the league consists of itinerant foreigners?

The foreign-based clubs mainly use their squads here as satellite bases to test youngsters or as a reserve team, and thus have more financial stability than most of the local teams, which struggle to make ends meet.

Local football will not thrive unless the FAS pumps in more resources and finance into breeding a whole new bunch of footballing talent. We need better infrastructure and more playing fields.

I’m honestly worried about the future of the local league. Already national players like Baihakki Khaizan and bad boy and fan favourite Noh Alam Shah have left to flaunt their skills in the Liga Indonesia.

It’s been too long a time since local greats like Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy lit up the footballing scene. Meanwhile, many of us fans are fed up with appalling performances and unrealistic targets – think Goal 2010 – set. The latest developments will not improve standards or increase crowds.

Aaron Wee Jun Jie

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What, yet another start-from-scratch foreign club in our S-League?

The report:

The report below appeared in today’s edition of TODAY:

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Get ready for some French flair

(TODAY, 19 January 2010)

FAS boss banking on new addition Etoile to bring ‘excitement’ to the S-League

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Football fans here may well be chanting “Allez les Bleus!” when the 2010 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League season kicks off on Feb 1, with the addition of French side Etoile FC to the competition.

Etoile and China’s Beijing Guo’an were officially confirmed yesterday as the final two teams to contest the coming S-League season, after both clubs met Football Association of Singapore (FAS) requirements, including bankers’ guarantees of about $500,000 each.

Etoile, who say their entire playing squad will be made up of French nationals, will be based at the Queenstown Stadium, while the Chinese side will operate out of Yishun Stadium.

No Europe-based club has featured on the S-League roster since its launch in 1996, and with possible signings like former Cameroon defender Lucien Mettomo, the S-League could be a different ball game this year. Mettomo, a former Manchester City, Southampton and Kaiserslautern player who holds dual French and Cameroonian citizenship, is in the club’s sights but the 32-year-old will need to pass a medical test first.

Speaking to the media yesterday, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said he expected both teams to “finish in the top half, making them among the strongest foreign sides we’ve had in our league so far”.

“When you have a team from Europe, there’s an injection of excitement, which is the value they will bring,” said Zainudin. “Having Etoile FC, and new players signed (by the other clubs), we’re looking to more people coming to watch the games.”

Comprising a mix of young and experienced players, including footballers currently competing in first and lower division leagues in England, France and Spain, Etoile are looking to rally the French community here to fill the 2,000-seater Queenstown Stadium.

“The key is to sign decent players and bring up the standard of the S-League,” said Etoile FC chief executive officerJohan Gouttefangeas.

“We will work through the embassy, the French school, French chamber of commerce, Alliance Francaise, all the major companies here.

The French Ambassador is helping us with this.”

Filling the trophy cabinet is one of Etoile’s targets, but Gouttefangeas warned that adapting to the heat and humidity here initially could be a stumbling block for the 22-man squad.

“It’s -5 to -10 degrees in France currently, so it’s going to take some time,” he said. “But they have to and that will take a couple of weeks.”

Jita Singh, the FAS’ senior head, game development, who watched the team in training in Aignon last month, is confident that Etoile will be a hit.

“They have the potential to be in the top five,” he told MediaCorp.

“If they’re able to capture the audience and if they’re able to adjust and counter local tactics, then perhaps they may make an impact this year itself.”

S-league 2010 line-up

SAFFC, Tampines Rovers, Gombak United, Home United, Geylang United, Albirex Niigata, Young Lions, Woodlands Wellington, Sengkang Punggol, Balestier Khalsa, Etoile FC, Beijing Guo’an

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To be honest, when I first read it, I immediately had my apprehensions. And my feelings of concern had nothing to do with the report’s cheesey and presumptuous headline and opening paragraph.

My first thoughts when I found out that French side Etoile FC, one of two latest foreign clubs to join the S-League were “Oh no, not another start-up football club?”

Unlike Albirex Niigata and Beijing Guoan, the other new S-League foreign entrant, Etoile does not have a parent club in the French football league to tap players from.

Instead, it will be made up of players from, according to their CEO Johan Gouttefangeas, from the lower divisions of the English, French and Spanish league.

Thing is,  is that a workable model?

Remember Sporting Afrique? It was a start-up operation which saw a whole bunch of African footballers being signed to form a club to compete in the 2006 S-League as one of the competition’s foreign clubs.

Unfortunately, its S-League adventure lasted only one season but what a colourful and controversial season it was. The club found itself mired in all sorts of controversies away from the field including salary disputes.

The club also finished ninth in its first season, well below the top-three position that it had promised.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that Sporting was constantly losing its top players who were sold by its management whenever an interested overseas club came a-calling. Not surprisingly, the FAS called time on Sporting’s participation in the S-League after just one season.

You can read more about Sporting’s misadventures here.

Sporting aside, we have seen how other previous start-ups like Sinchi, Liaoning and even the Super Reds in their debut season failed to get it all together, and ended up being more of an embarrassment to the S-League than an  asset as they floundered about at the bottom half  of the table.

So let’s just hope that the players that Etoile gets are of a quality that will be higher than that of reigning champions Singapore Armed Forces FC, Home United, Tampines Rovers and for that matter, Gombak United.

If not, then really, what is the point of having a team made up of European players if they are not able to challenge for the title or a top-three spot at the minimum in their debut system?

How does that raise the standard of the S-League?

In that sense, Brunei’s DPMM was a breath of fresh air to the S-League last year as they were truly a tenacious and quality sidfe. They had a good coach, good foreign signings and the bulk of their local players were Brunei internationals.

They were so surprisingly good that they even won silverware (the League Cup) in their first season. And they would have finished second had they not been barred from playing in the S-League by Fifa.

Now that’s the sort of INSTANT IMPACT I am expecting to Etoile, none of that sit-on-the-fence “finish in the top half” predictions that are being made, thank you very much.

To be fair to Etoile, I will not expecting any great results or performances from it in the first three weeks as their players struggle to adapt to the humidty and tropical weather.

But once they acclimatise, expect my scrutiny on them to be even more intense. Because at the end of the day, these foreing clubs are still getting public money from the FAS to help subsidise their operating costs.

Likewise, I hope the local media will do the same.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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