News Analysis

Don't let fever die down, bring the tournament back

Apart from the action on the field, the Barclays Asia Trophy also included other activities like football clinics.
Apart from the action on the field, the Barclays Asia Trophy also included other activities like football clinics.PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Three hours before the third-place play-off started, the Stadium MRT station and Kallang Wave Mall were already brimming with football fans eager to catch the Barclays Asia Trophy finale.

Parents rushed to kit their children in football jerseys at sports stores, while fans backing opposing teams exchanged friendly banter.

You could feel the football fever radiating from match-goers on Saturday - except this wasn't just evident at the finale.

All week long, fans traversed the island to chase their idols, with many camping out at the teams' hotels or at venues with scheduled public appearances. 

 

The Barclays Asia Trophy helped put the football spotlight on Singapore, a result of having some of the world's best footballers in town. And that is exactly why officials should endeavour to bring the biennial competition back.

The Premier League, which bears all the organising costs, has also shown a willingness to invest in football here. If the tournament is held here multiple years, it can give rise to generations of children disposed to the idea of going to the Sports Hub for elite sporting action.

How often would a top-tier English team post a video of an Indian boy in Singapore scoring a scorcher in a football clinic?

How often does a World Cup winner like Mesut Oezil take a picture of Marina Bay Sands and tweet it to his 9.68 million followers with the caption "The #Singapore skyline is simply awesome"?

Top football teams have been here many times but this is the first time we have them competing for a trophy in a tournament format - and boy did it rock the nation.

The Sports Hub has played host to over 100 sporting and lifestyle events but the record attendances spoke volumes - that nothing still captures the imagination of Singaporeans like English Premier League football. Let's not kid ourselves that we can fill the National Stadium with an S-League or LionsXII match - at least not yet.

But the Barclays Asia Trophy has proved itself a formidable tool to reach out to the masses and draw them to the National Stadium.

The Premier League, which bears all the organising costs, has also shown a willingness to invest in football here.

Over the past week, it held various coaching and refereeing clinics to ensure that the local fraternity benefited from having one of the most successful football leagues worldwide in town.

If the tournament is held here multiple years, it can give rise to generations of children disposed to the idea of going to the Sports Hub for elite sporting action.

It could help make the ground ripe for officials to create a vibrant sporting culture - all these, while fans get to enjoy top-class sporting action right at their doorstep.

The Asia Trophy and Singapore have proven a good fit. It would be a shame if this relationship was just a one summer fling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Don't let fever die down, bring the tournament back'. Print Edition | Subscribe