Monthly Archives: May 2011

Singapore athletes in top form overseas, setting three national marks over the weekend

It looks like the Taiwan Open was a happy hunting ground for a number of our athletes over the weekend.

According to newspaper reports, our contingent went there and plundered one national open record, a national junior record and a season’s best timing.

Our women’s 4x400m relay team also came a whisker away from qualifying for the South-east Asia Games.

The two national records came in the hurdles.

Dipna Lim-Prasad broke her national 100m hurdles record of 14.56sec twice twice – clocking 14.49sec in the heats before finishing fifth in the final in 14.23sec. Her time means that she is now just 0.02sec from qualifying for the SEA Games.

Raw diamond Zaki Sapari was also in record-breaking form.

The 19-year-old former middle distance runner, who switched to the hurdles only seven months ago but who has since qualified for the SEA Games, broke the national junior mark of 54.02sec with his flying run of 53.59sec.

Zaki also had a good outing in the 4x400m relay with his teammates. Together with Firdaus Juhari, Ng Chin Hui and Kenneth Khoo, they blazed the track to finish in a season’s best timing of 3min 15.09sec.

The hurdles aside, Dipna was part of the women’s 4x400m quartet (which also included Valerie Pereira, Wendy Enn and T. Piriyah) that came agonisingly close to qualifying for the SEA Games. The foursome clocked 3:50.09, just a sliver away from the must-beat time of 3:49.28.

There was also joy for Singapore athletics in Japan as triathlete Mok Ying Ren set a new long distance record.

Competing in the Tokai University Time Trials in Tokyo, he clocked 14:51.09 in the 5,000m to shatter the 16-year-old record of 14:57.61 set by Nadarajan Ganesan in Germany in June 1995.

My heartiest congratulations to all of you for breaking the record. And for those of you who narrowly missed qualifying for the SEA Games, fear not. You guys are definitely going to get the job done. It’s only a matter of time.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan




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Hougang United – Etoile brawl: Why has Aide not been able to control his Cheetahs this season?

The report:

This report on the brawl between players from S-League clubs Hougang United and Etoile FC  appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times :

Fight was on the cards as teams had clashed before

(The Straits Times, 26 May 2011)

By Terrence Voon

IT WAS a fight that was waiting to happen.

That was how the football fraternity viewed Monday night’s pre-match brawl between Hougang United and Etoile FC which saw four people seek treatment at a hospital and further tarnished the reputation of the S-League.

While shocked by the disgraceful scenes at Hougang Stadium, observers were not surprised that the fracas involved the home side – the team with the league’s worst disciplinary record – and Etoile – the much-maligned defending champions from France.

There is no love lost between them. At their last encounter in March, both sets of players squared off after the final whistle, before being separated by officials.

‘The pre-match security should be tightened for matches which have potential for trouble,’ said a seasoned S-League observer.

‘In this case, there was potential because of their history. The authorities should have seen it coming.’

Hougang, known as the Cheetahs, have acquired a reputation for being one of the league’s most physical sides.

‘They are the roughest team we’ve had to play against,’ said the coach of a local S-League club who did not want to be named.

‘Some of their players are very temperamental and I’ve told my boys to stay calm, even when the tackles fly in.’

Hougang are currently bottom of the disciplinary charts, having received 42 yellow cards and two red cards in 14 matches.

The best-behaved team, Albirex Niigata of Japan, have collected just 11 yellows.

Woodlands Wellington defender Graham Tatters, who has faced Hougang twice this season, conceded there were a few ‘hot heads’ in the Cheetahs’ squad.

‘But it’s the same in any other team,’ he added. ‘Something must have triggered the fight.

‘I’ve seen it happen in other leagues, and it’s usually something between two players or a clash of personalities.’

Etoile, who revamped their squad after last season’s title-winning exploits, have tended to attract trouble.

Local players say the French side come across as cocky, and win few friends with their on-field theatrics. But the sentiment in the Etoile camp is that they have been unfairly singled out for rough treatment.

Matters almost came to a boil last October, when a match against Singapore Armed Forces FC nearly ended in a free for all. SAFFC’s Federico Martinez had celebrated a goal by mimicking a cockerel – the national symbol of France – sparking angry reactions from the French players.

Woodlands coach R. Balasubramaniam, who was Etoile’s team manager last season, says they are a misunderstood side.

‘Being French, people think they have their noses up in the air,’ he said. ‘But they are what they are, and you can’t say they are intentionally being arrogant.’


My thoughts:

There’s a reason why I’ve highlighted parts of the report.

I am surprised to be reading all these assertions and claims about Hougang United simply because of who they have as their coach.

During his time as a player with Home United and the Lions, Aide Iskandar was undoubtedly one of the most respected men on the field.

He exuded calmness, leadership (he was captain for club and country), he was a clean player and as captain and one of the most senior players in his teams, he also ensured discipline among the players.

Which is why I am surprised to be reading all these negative observations about Hougang. The fact that they came from various people just shows that this is a commonly-held view of the Cheetahs.

And the stats don’t lie: 42 yellow cards and two red cards in just 14 matches. That’s an average of three yellows per game so far.

Which begs the question? Why has Aide not been able to assert his authority as a coach and maintain a tight rein on his players’ discipline? Why have Hougang United turned out like this? Has player power to do with this? Are the hotheads in the team exerting player power?

Just wondering if anyone out there is able to help shed some light on this. All feedback are welcome.

Then again, maybe this current situation is the club’s perfect opportunity to axe the trouble-makers? That would be a blessing in disguise.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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After notching first win, Terry Pathmanathan’s Jaguars will continue to improve

This short news snippet (right) appeared in The Straits Times on 18 May.

The news snippet on Tanjong Pahar's first win of the season (The Straits Times, 18 May 2011)

But don’t let its brevity fool you. I think we could see its significance unfolding over the next few months.

Today’s version of Tanjong Pagar United may be a far cry from the glory days of the once-proud club’s early years (ie 1996-2002) in the S-League.

Back then, with Robert Alberts and later Tohari Paijan at the helm, they boasted of local stars like Lim Tong Hai, Steven Tan and S. Subramani and exciting foreign players like Dragan Talajic, Aleksandar Duric, Sutee Suksomkit  and the Senegalese Twin Towers of Nicodeme Boucher and Boubacar Seck.

However, I think their narrow win over Woodlands Wellington on Wednesday, which snapped their 13-game winless streak, could mark  a turning point for the Jaguars.

Today’s Tanjong Pagar would be more akin to the Young Lions of 2009.

Significantly, Terry Pathmanathan, the coach of that Young Lions team, is the man in charge of the  Jaguars today.

I remember that Young Lions team well.

Although it was made up of many young players, and the average age of the team was 19, they surprised many people with their tenacity, discipline and great fitness.

Many of the top teams that season always found it hard to play against them and would often come away with narrow wins at best

What Pathmanathan did was to continuously work on his players’ fitness and technique. He made sure they played simple football as he worked on raising their fitness levels. As the season went on, the Young Lions grew in strength.

Their football wasn’t that attractive, at times it was even dismal,  but it was nevertheless enough to help them to go on occasional small, unbeaten runs.

In the end, the Young Lions finished the season in eighth spot with nine wins, seven draws and 14 defeats. Not a bad record for a bunch of youngsters.

But the best was yet to be.

The squad then went off to Laos for the SEA Games where they surprised every one by winning a bronze in the Under-23 football competition, equaling the bronze-medal effort by the more star-studded Young Lions of 2007.

Tanjong Pagar coach Terry Pathmanathan

For this season’s S-League, Pathmanathan and the club were dealt a terrible hand by the Football Association of Singapore, one that remains an indictment of the state of our professional league.

 Tanjong Pagar’s application to join the S-League was only approved in late December, leaving the former Singapore captain scrambling for players a month before the start of the new season.

He was practically scrapping the bottom of the barrel as most of the better players had already been snapped up by the other clubs.

Apart from a number of former national U-17 trainees, he had to conduct open trials to fill up the remaining spots in his squad. He eventually managed to do so – with amateurs and even tertiary students.

Although he did also manage to sign Koreans Kim Jong Oh, Kim Syeong Kyu and Japanese Takaya Kawanabe to add experience and more steel to the spine of the team, the fact that they are all relatively young (all are under the age of 24) means that there will always be a limit to the sort of influence they can exert on proceedings during matches.

But I am sure Pathmanathan has been going about developing this rag-tag team in the same way as he did with the Young Lions.

I am sure he will be doing the same things as in 2009 ie focusing on bringing up their fitness levels and working on their technique and making sure they play simple football.

It’s just that unlike the Young Lions of 2009, he has had to do it with players of a much lower level of competency in football this time.

Still, I am confident that Tanjong Pagar’s win over Woodlands will not turn out to be their only triumph of the season.

In fact, I will stick out my neck to say that, now buoyed by the confidence-boosting win, the Jaguars will continue to improve from here on, manage a couple more wins and draws for the rest of the season and end up either ninth or eighth.

Mind you, it is very possible because right now, they are only three points behind the Young Lions and five behind a very poor Geylang United.

If they can do so, it will really be a feather in Pathmanathan’s cap, and can only add to the former Singapore skipper’s growing stature as a highly talented and capable coach.

Pathmanathan has already shown before that he is blessed with the ability to make lemonade from lemons. I am sure he can do it again this season.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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