Category Archives: Football Association of Singapore

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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Why paid vendors should just focus on what they are paid to do, and stop tweeting rubbish

I saw this on Red Sports’ Facebook page. It’s a tweet by Ian Mullane, the CEO of Vanda Sports, which has been hired by the Football Association of Singapore to be the branding and marketing consultant for the Young Lions in this season’s S-League:

@voxsports &@redsports are a joke. They claim to do sport and they haven’t even mentioned or covered the start of the S League.

That was four days ago.

Today, he continues his online assault:

Happy to see ST and Today giving solid #SLeague coverage. Still some supposed sports news services embarrassing themselves though.

Basically, Mullane was criticising Red Sports and Vanda Sports for not covering the S-League.

This is what I can’t stand about these types of people.

Hired by a national sports body to promote a local football team, and by extension, a local football league, they suddenly think they are the authority on local sports coverage in Singapore, and on deciding who is doing a good or bad job on local sports reportage.

There is a term for this in Malay: Kurang ajar.

There is another term for this in Hokkien: kay poh.

I share mr brown and mr miyagi’s sense of outrage.

Seriously, why should Mullane care what Red Sports and Vanda Sports are choosing to cover for their own sites? Why should it be anybody else’s business but theirs alone?

And think about this: if Mullane hadn’t been HIRED to market and brand the Young Lions, would he be going about clamouring for more local coverage of the Young Lions, the S-League or local football for that matter?

Would he then be so fawning towards the local press and other media outlets and so generous with his praise of them because of their coverage of the S-League?

Bottom line: Dude, you are a PAID VENDOR, hired to deliver a particular service. You are not a God-send. So please, know your place and stop being such an embarrassing eunuch.

By going on like this, you are no better than Andy Gray, the ‘jabbering baffoon’ you dissed in one of your previous tweets.

End of the day, remember what they say about the proverbial empty vessel…

To the guys at Red Sports and Vox Sports, keep up the good work.

Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan

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