The Flipside

What's plaguing Singapore football?

Singapore's team players and staff celebrate with the trophy after their AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 win over Thailand. (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)Singapore's team players and staff celebrate with the trophy after their AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 win over Thailand. …

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt and parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about the problems in Singapore football.

Here are three reasons why Singapore football is stalling.

1. Fair-weather fans

I am ecstatic that the Singapore football team won the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup this past weekend by beating Thailand 3-2 on aggregate.

Every time Singapore comes up tops, there will be plenty of people like us: beating our chests and going ape.

And then one weekend later, we'll be focussing on things other than Singapore football. Like shopping, eating and politics, for example.

Here's why: Singaporeans are pragmatic. Pragmatic people only like to support winning teams. This explains Manchester United and Chelsea fan clubs here.

And Liverpool's fan club is getting smaller.

Look, no one I know in Singapore is a self-confessed Reading fan.

Plus, the brutal truth is this: Week in and week out, the average attendance at a typical S-League match is 932 people.

This figure most likely includes the keropok seller, ball boys and grandstand cleaner. In other words, people who are paid to be there.

Therefore, as we all know, not many people in Singapore watch football for football's sake.

2. Not letting boys be boys

People who enjoy playing football, usually have a major chip on their shoulder.

Maradona did drugs. Catona did kung fu. Gascoigne struggled with mental illness.

But what is fairly clear is that football is an area in life that allowed them to express their genius.

Football was to these footballers, primarily, an expression. It allowed them to cope with their demons.

It was not a sport, like, say, chess or dragon boating, where you have to edge your opponent out convincingly and be gracious in victory. Or defeat.

That's for sissies.

So, when Kadir Yahaya, assistant coach of LionsXII complained in early February this year that Singapore's youth football team playing in the Malaysian Super League has developed a smoking and drinking culture, I wanted to email him to tell him to get over himself.

Because why not just let the record speak for itself?

On June 16, four months after his comments, the LionsXII posted the largest victory in the league competition.

They routed Sabah FA 9-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Three weeks after that, on July 7, the LionsXII finished second place overall in the MSL when the season concluded.

Not bad for young punks and first-timers in the Malaysian league and kudos to their smokers' lungs and drinkers' livers.

This puts paid to the notion that sleeping at 9 p.m. and eating your vegetables while abstaining from vice will get you far in life.

The Malaysians probably did that and all their teams, except one, finished behind our boys.

3. Lack of money

Now here's another fact: Singapore football is like The Straits Times.

Why?

First, the national team to the local football scene is what The Straits Times is to the media scene.

Second, both are ranked pretty closely internationally.

After the Suzuki Cup victory, the Singapore football team went up nine places to be at 154th position on the FIFA/ Coca-Cola World Ranking.

Singapore's media, on the other hand, was ranked 150 out of 197 countries in November this year by Freedom In The World 2012 rankings for its press freedom — or lack of.

However, credit has to be given to the Singapore football team only.

In terms of standing, a bunch of boys preoccupied with drinks and smoke are doing just as well as a newspaper backed by a behemoth billion-dollar media company with a truckload of resources at their disposal.

While making do with whatever paltry funding they're receiving.

Kudos to you, young lads.

Room for improvement

But how do we improve Singapore football?

It is easy. We need to start by creating a win-win situation for all, fans, non-fans and players.

The method is called "Injecting More Money".

In a clever manner.

Think about it this way: every goal that the national team scores, they ought to be rewarded, say, $20,000.

This will not make them awfully rich, but rich enough to only finance their alternative lifestyles. If they score.

It will also effectively breed This-Is-Sparta, Barcelona tiki-taka, aggressive, showboating, attacking football unseen anywhere else in the world.

And how do we finance such a scheme?

Simple. A portion of the money accrued from all parking fines will be directed towards funding the Singapore national team.

So that all fair-weather fans can be assured that they are still helping local football grow every time they are not paying attention to local football, as they are out shopping and eating while getting caught illegally parking their cars.

Belmont Lay is the editor of New Nation, an online publication that has its share of fair-weather fans.

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