2016 S-League season kicks off today

Ex-Lion keen to watch games again

Former international Goh Tat Chuan hopes to take his children (from left) Gareth, Caitlin, and Alexa to watch S-League games at Bishan Stadium – his old haunt. But travelling for work 80 per cent of the time might make it tough for him.
Former international Goh Tat Chuan hopes to take his children (from left) Gareth, Caitlin, and Alexa to watch S-League games at Bishan Stadium – his old haunt. But travelling for work 80 per cent of the time might make it tough for him. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The once-forgotten S-League is buzzing again. For the first time in more than a decade, Singapore’s domestic league is back in the limelight. From the signing of a former Premier League player, to the return of the nation’s best, there is something quite different about this season.

The players

Watch out. Former Singapore international midfielder Goh Tat Chuan intends to make a comeback this season - as a spectator.

Since hanging up his boots after 2006, the 42-year-old has turned his focus on building his engineering career and starting a family.

Now the father of three bubbly children aged eight, five and two, the former part-time S-League player is excited about the recent enthusiastic buzz that has breathed life into the otherwise sluggish league.

"It's encouraging that there's a lot of hype now and it's what I love to see," the former Woodlands Wellington and Jurong FC midfielder said.

However, watching a game will be a tight squeeze for Goh, a regional sales director (Asia Pacific) at US-based natural gas fuel and storage tank manufacturing firm Hexagon Lincoln. He says he is out of town "80 per cent of the time".

Yet, he is compelled to circle dates on his calendar to watch his first S-League game in almost 10 years.

Taking a slow look around Bishan Stadium while his kids Caitlin, Gareth and Alexa explored the stands on their own before the family went for a day outing to Sungei Buloh, the amiable Goh said: "I'd definitely love to catch a match at this stadium - with the kids."

Both his former clubs no longer feature in the league, so the Serangoon resident is inclined towards supporting Bishan-based Home United. After all, the Protectors' home ground holds a significant memory for Goh, who forged a reputation as a tough-tackling ball winner in his 11-year career.

It was where the late bloomer made his national team debut at 27, in a 3-0 victory over New Zealand in the Tiger Beer International Series in May 2001.

Said the former Lion, whose biggest achievement on the pitch is the 2004 Tiger Cup triumph: "I love this pitch and I always had a good feeling when I was playing here. I would love to come here to absorb the atmosphere again.

"We have good quality players in the league but people don't see it. As Singaporeans, we tend to be more image conscious and those who support the local league would be seen as losers.

"Maybe I'm out of Singapore very often, that's why I appreciate things about Singapore more."

While he is keen to find time to watch the S-League matches again, current players - especially those long since resigned to playing in front of meagre crowds - are also eagerly anticipating more fans filing through the gates.

Veteran goalkeeper Yazid Yasin feels that he is energised by the heightened attention this year.

Said the 36-year-old, who has featured in every season since the league's inception in 1996, and will be playing for his sixth club, Warriors FC, this term: "It's the most competitive season ever. It's been a long time since this has happened - a lot of excitement going all around the league. All in all, it is more enjoyable for both fans and players."

However, Geylang striker Indra Sahdan Daud, 36, added: "It'll never be the same as what it used to be - especially in the first few years, people collected memorabilia like stickers, glasses and mugs. We even had the police band come down to perform for entertainment.

"But at least now we hear more people talking about it. This is one of the seasons I'm really looking forward to."

•Additional reporting by Nicholas Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-Lion keen to watch games again'. Print Edition | Subscribe