Meet the Kawan League, a home-grown version of fantasy football league

That's what Kawan football league members enjoy doing in free time

Kawan League member Jeffrey Lee, 41 (right), acting as the auctioneer for the ''managers'' of the league at the auction. Each team in the league gets $100 million in theory to build a team on paper but with actual football players, such as Manchester
Kawan League member Jeffrey Lee, 41 (right), acting as the auctioneer for the ''managers'' of the league at the auction. Each team in the league gets $100 million in theory to build a team on paper but with actual football players, such as Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Everton's Romelo Lukaku. The team ''buys'' these players at the auction. -- ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
Mr Sivaganesh (above, third from left), the man credited with starting the Kawan Fantasy League, interrupting a bidding session last Friday at the Pyramid Sports Bar in Beach Road. The group of football aficionados has been around for about 17 years,
Mr Sivaganesh (above, third from left), the man credited with starting the Kawan Fantasy League, interrupting a bidding session last Friday at the Pyramid Sports Bar in Beach Road. The group of football aficionados has been around for about 17 years, and has some 40 members now. -- ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

They are lawyers, doctors, teachers and business owners. But last Friday night, drawn together by their love for the beautiful game, these 40 or so grown men were like rowdy children as they bid for players in a home-grown version of fantasy football.

Called the Kawan League, which translates to "Friend League", it has been going on for about 17 years.

Mr S. B. Sivaganesh, a 44-year-old who is in the education service, is credited by his league buddies as the man who started it all.

While studying law in the 1990s, he started playing the game with a bunch of his National University of Singapore mates. And when he graduated, he decided to start a league of his own.

First, it included only people he knew. Then, they invited others, who brought in their own friends, brothers, nephews and sons, and now the league of football aficionados has grown to about 40.

Some members of the football-crazy group have even made several trips to watch the World Cup in different parts of the world.

Lawyer Alvin Chang, 43, one of the early members of the group and who co-manages a fantasy team with Mr Sivaganesh, said: "This makes my weekly viewing of British football games more exciting. I never miss an English Premier League game."

It is a football fanatic's dream to manage a top club, and this is what these men get to do, virtually.

Each team in the league gets $100 million in theory to build a team on paper but with actual football players, such as Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Everton's Romelo Lukaku.

The team "buys" these players at an auction just before the Premier League season kicks off.

When the players score goals in real life, they get points. The one with the most points at the end of the season, wins.

The latest auction took place last Friday, ahead of the start of the Premier League season yesterday. The auction is the only time in the year they all gather together - the rest of the action takes place through e-mail.

The auction took place around two pool tables at Pyramid Sports Bar in Beach Road.

When the auction began over food and beer, so did the shouting. Everyone was armed with a calculator and a spreadsheet of the players available this season. Each time someone bought a player, they struck the name out with a pen.

Between the strategising and budgeting, they made fun of each other's balding heads and paunches, using indelicate language that can be only described as colourful.

And there was no shortage of competition or boasting. Mr Rajesh Mulani, 44, who owns The Cage, a sports arena with five-a-side football pitches, said his team, Mulani's Men, has won the fantasy league three times, and holds the honour of being the first-ever winner in 1997.

Said Mr Mulani: "There may have been other champions since then but when you talk about winners, you always remember the first one."

Private tutor Arbind Tiwari, 30, said there are a lot of online fantasy football sites "but this is special".

"The friendships, the banter, the jokes... They bring us together," said Mr Sivaganesh.

"There were many years when I thought we may not have time to do this any more. But each time I threaten to stop this fantasy league, these people would tell me to continue."

When asked what his better half thought of his hobby, he said: "I think most of the wives think we are crazy. A bunch of grown men talking about millions of dollars that we don't have."

leepearl@sph.com.sg

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