and she smiled

Congratulations, Team Singapore! Well done! Fantastic achievement! Thanks for making us proud by winning the ASEAN Cup for the third time! Now, Asia, here we come!

Accolades after accolades kept pouring in since the Lions beat Thailand 3-2 on aggregate in the football final. It’s no wonder. This is about the only tournament we have experienced reaching the top so far. I’m happy for the team. I’m happy for the coach. I’m happy for Khairul Amri. And I’m happy for Noh Alam Shah. I think the Lions have been playing what I would call ‘effective football’. Not pretty, but effective. Loads of soaking…varying degrees of high balls…good knock-ons…striking the killer blows at the right time.

However, I call for a reality check. The matter of fact is Singapore football team lacks the qualities and finesse needed to succeed at a higher level. And such elements must only be honed at a young age. Knowing how our system works, it is extremely challenging for Singapore football to be treated seriously at schools level. Education is still the utmost important part of the children’s lives (whether they like it or not). This means that no kid is able to train football full-time, unlike in other countries. The lack of full-time training speaks volume of the kind of players we have locally. Yes, we can compete. Yes, we can conquer South-East Asia. But that’s the furthest we can go, I reckon.

We don’t have to look far to prove my point. Look at the title-winning squad now. Precious, Itimi, Jiayi, Daniel and Mustafic are all foreign-imports. And all are first-team players. If we are not going to depend on our younger kids to carry the torch because they need to concentrate in a sound education, then we have to look abroad to bring in talents. The truth is painful, but must be mentioned. Our kids do not have the time and energy to be trained full-time to be our future heroes in the world of football.

As we looked back at how Singapore had won their third crown, thus sharing the same honour with Thailand for winning it thrice, one must say that they didn’t really win it convincingly. Barring the 11-0 annihilation of the pitiful Laos, Singapore drew almost all their matches against the top sides. 0-0 with Vietnam, 2-2 with Indonesia, 1-1 twice with Malaysia and 1-1 with Thailand in the final. It’s not exaggerating to say that Singapore did not really dominate their opponents in these matches. Even that 2-1 win against Thailand at the National Stadium would not have been made possible if not for the referee’s blunder. In the second leg tie in Bangkok, Singapore were struggling against a rampant Thai side. Somehow I can’t help but feel that Lady Luck was really working her wonders for Singapore in that match. In fact, I think she was smiling all the way for Singapore from the moment the first ball was kicked to the lifting of the trophy by the Singapore skipper. I think she’s still smiling. Thanks, Lady Luck!

However, I don’t want to take the credit off the Singapore players. Though some players were disappointing, most of them really worked their socks off for each other in the team. Noh Alam Shah has come of age by claiming two individual awards. He has really been THE ONE for Singapore. Mustafic’s job in midfield has been highly potent. Jiayi’s physical presence and play bear some resemblance to a certain Xabi Alonso. Khairul Amri’s speed and work rate have contributed much to the team’s success. Ridhuan’s never-say-die attitude gives his team-mates confidence. And coach Raddy must be applauded for moulding a team of fighters. Team Singapore, well done!

But this team of fighters need more than a willing spirit to go further, unless, of course, she chooses to continue to smile with them.

Published in: on Monday, February 5, 2007 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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the kallang roar

The Kallang Roar!

It was back! It was back to push the Lions to a hard-fought win over our northern neighbours.

And yes! I remember those good old days!

I had been to the National Stadium several times to support the Lions during the Malaysia Cup days. Each time, I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. The atmosphere was electrifying with the Kallang Roar – the fans stomping their feet, the vulgarities and insults directed at the referees, the goal celebrations we shared with one another and the passion for football. It had also always been pleasing to know that whenever I was present at the stadium, the Lions never lost a game. I can only remember the 8-1 demolition of Brunei and a certain 1-1 draw between our Singapore ‘Dream Team’ and arch rivals Selangor; and there were a 3-0, a 7-0, etc. Putting such scores aside, it is no exaggeration to say that the Kallang Roar could actually bring the whole nation together.

If I want to witness national togetherness at a grand scale, the Kallang Roar is the answer. I would rather spend my time watching football with fellow Singaporeans at the National Stadium than participate at the National Day Parade. The truth is I felt a strong sense of patriotism whenever I watched football with fellow fans supporting the Lions. If there were a Singapore goal, we would jump for joy together, embracing each other regardless of race and religion and gender and age. The bond amongst the Singapore fans was always amazing. It was like we all had known each other for years. We could talk, cheer and jeer together. I could see these clearly all the time. If the referee made the wrong decision, we would echo one another when we hurl insults at the referee, “REFEREE KAYU!!!” All these elements of the Kallang Roar were never present when I was at the stadium watching the National Day Parade. I believe such spirits could never be seen at the NDP.

It’s a pity that we are not going to see such scenes anymore soon. Probably for most Singapore fans, Wednesday’s 1st leg tie with Thailand will be the last chance to savour and relive this national togetherness. The Kallang Roar will probably make its last presence felt on that day. I will not be there. But I believe all those who, like me, had wonderful memories of Kallang and the national togetherness will seek to bring out the Kallang Roar in us wherever we are on that day. May this roar inspire the Lions to a memorable victory over the Thais.

Hail the Kallang Roar!

Published in: on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 11:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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win again? doesn’t matter…

Singapore football team crushed Laos 11-0 in the ASEAN Championship, much to the delight of those supporters who still faithfully back their national team even after a spate of dismal results recently. Congratulations to the boys! As long as I have lived on Earth, I’ve never seen Singapore winning by such a big margin in an international tournament. But honestly speaking, I’m not really totally bothered, and I don’t think they will win the tournament for the third time.

Yes, they are the defending champions. Yes, Noh Alam Shah scored 7 goals. Yes, they might still beat Indonesia to top the group. But no, I don’t think they can overcome Thailand. As a matter of fact, Laos were a poor, poor team. Their coach had already thrown in the towel before the match by declaring Singapore a much stronger team. He even predicted goals galore. He also highlighted the fact that his team are made up of students who treat soccer as a leisure activity. This mentality probably had an effect on the players even before the ball was kicked. They knew they would lose big. Their hearts and minds and souls and strengths were not present even before the game commenced. All Singapore had to do was to take advantage of the situation, and the Lions were rather ruthless at that.

They attacked with confidence, passed the ball well and scored some good goals. Credit must be given to the Singapore team for working hard to slaughter their opponents. But really, Laos also put in effort in making the hosts look good. Let’s not get carried away and think that Singapore are going to win the tournament again. Indonesia might still surprise if the Lions are not careful. And don’t forget that Singapore struggled a bit against Vietnam in their first match.

However, I do think that if Singapore play to their strengths, they are good enough for the final. And that’s where they will probably be stopped in their tracks by Thailand.

My head says Thailand, and you would expect me to say my heart says Singapore. No, my heart says it doesn’t matter at all.

Published in: on Monday, January 15, 2007 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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