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How I feel about soccer

I quit Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Too many of my friends use these sites and share things that I dislike. They make me unhappy. So I quit them. Turns out, I just rapidly lost my interests in a lot of things - including autism advocacy (though I still post here because I really feel supported here, and I want to share what I have with others), local politics (which is getting more predictable and less dynamic in my opinion), and... soccer.

I stopped watching soccer altogether lately. I 'switched' to NBA, and I enjoy watching Kevin Durant and LeBron James dominating the courts and winning :)

The reason being, as a Singaporean and a sports fan, basketball is 'un-Singaporean'. It's cheena or Pinoy stuff. My best mate disapproves my new hobby, but he understands my predicament.

To Singaporean people, only Filipinos, Chinese (I mean, those from the PRC), Chinese-speaking 2nd and 3rd generation Singaporeans of Chinese descent, and perhaps Americans, watch and play basketball.

Watching the Lions (the Singapore national football team) made me cringe. Yes, they won the Suzuki ASEAN Cup. Big deal. I detest (yes, strongly dislike) the team, and I'd rather support the Thai national football team (Singapore's traditional football rivals) over my very own team.

Before you call me a unpatriotic crybaby, I am saying this because I am just disappointed in the breakdown of the 17-year old professional football structure in Singapore. And we are doing far worse than New Zealand, a country with a slightly smaller population and an even smaller pool of talent playing soccer. They went undefeated in the 2010 World Cup, while Singapore did not even reach the World Cup, an expressed explicit goal, though they are the team with the most regional championships in Southeast Asia.

It reminds me of the things Singapore did wrong: in short - ministers who pocket millions of taxpayers' funds to have a national team full of professional footballers smoking and drinking.


Not even beating Selangor (Singapore's biggest football rival when it was still a state in Malaysia) will bring back the 'Kallang Roar' (the cheers in the old Kallang National Stadium), in my opinion. Even with a higher level of investment than New Zealand and Trindad and Tobago, they send players to the highest echelons of the English Premier League and other top football leagues, whereas our players like Nor Alam Shah did try to play in Indonesia for higher wages than they deserve for their booze, which is unacceptable in modern professional football in my opinion.

In short, the players may be somewhat technically competent, but there is little evidence that they play with enthusiasm as the best players in the world, from Demba Ba of Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, or even Leo Messi of Barcelona. They are known for doing their best to hone their football crafts - which all players should emulate.

Theoretically, the solution for Singapore to develop a sustainable football model would be developing the coaching and training framework for local football. Indeed, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) are doing it. Also, they also should have the ability to translate on-field success to attendance and hence, corporate and public support.

But ineffective leadership of the FAS dooms it. Its past president, a Minister had been a flop both politically and practically in the FAS. The current president, a 'Mayor' or appointed district head, may have won one Suzuki Cup and did well in other regional competitions, but attendance has been declining to its lowest levels. From what I read from my local papers, Singapore just had a few hundred football fans every time in the stadia hosting local 'professional' soccer matches, despite offers and attractive perks in football season tickets.

Even as a million Manchester United fans and a few hundred thousand or so Liverpool FC fans still turn up and support Singapore (known to be the largest city by supporter count of Manchester United fans).

Simply put, it seems to me that Singaporeans are interested in football, in terms of supporter count, as well as the stores selling football-related goods, especially those of Man U and Liverpool's in sports boutiques in Singapore. However, this high level of support doesn't translate to commitment in football.

If we really like football, we should play football anywhere and everywhere. We should make the lessons of football - commitment and team work - apply in our daily life. We should also treat football as a real career, regardless of the higher risks associated with the career path.

Unfortunately, this may not happen, as I really have other priorities in life - such as urban design, demography, economy etc. that I feel I can do better. Also, do not ask me to change within the system - the current FAS president is such stubborn, I had written letters 2 years ago about the state of our football, and gave him a few suggestions, such as co-operation with the real foreign clubs we support, as well as considering to promote under-21 players directly into the national squad, while replacing all senior players with younger players who display lackluster performance; he just doesn't care.

Sometimes I just wish Goal 2010 had never happened. It is just like a nightmare to me. Until the day some people on the top of the football hierarchy decides to apologize for the waste of taxpayer money spent on ineffective programs for Goal 2010, I will never support local, or for that matter, all forms of football. I'd rather do another sport where it involves less heartache and more fun to me. I loved soccer so much till I cringe.


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