FAS election 2017

Football: FAS must get house in order after polls, say members of football fraternity

Tampines Rovers' captain Madhu Mohana being sent off by Refree Sukhbir Singh, on Feb 26, 2017.
Tampines Rovers' captain Madhu Mohana being sent off by Refree Sukhbir Singh, on Feb 26, 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

There are plenty of issues facing the incoming council, from fixing the S-League to boosting grassroots football

A new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council will be elected today but that is simply the first hurdle. The incoming administrators of the country's most popular sport face a host of issues to address given the ailing state of Singapore football.

Among that lengthy list the local fraternity has highlighted include preserving the livelihoods of professional footballers, strengthening the S-League, refocusing on grassroots and community football, and tweaking the youth development pipeline.

The Straits Times reached out to more than 20 former and current national players, coaches and officials for feedback.

For Tampines Rovers striker Fazrul Nawaz, players needed better protection - and not from over-zealous defenders. The 32-year-old national forward said: "In the past, like before 2012, clubs were well-funded, so salaries and contracts back then were better.

"I myself have encountered times when I was injured, then my contracts got shortened. So if the FAS wants more kids to take football as a career, they need to boost players' welfare."

The beleaguered S-League is into its 22nd season and with attendances and interest falling over the years, the onus is on the new council to revitalise the domestic league.

MORE THROUGH THE RANKS

Youth development needs to be put right. We only have 30-40 footballers at every age group, but we should have thousands.

SEAK POH LEONG , former national captain, feels there's a lack of local talent coming through the pipeline.

 
 

Wooing sponsors and convincing them to back the S-League is vital, said former national midfielder Goh Tat Chuan, 43. He added: "There should be more involvement with corporations. Teams should be endorsed and have sponsorships. That gives the team an identity, which would let people have a close affiliation to them."

There is also a sizeable but largely untapped passionate audience out there, noted women's national midfielder Angeline Chua.

The 28-year-old said: "Girls have fewer developmental programmes than boys. I think the first step should be to develop coaches who can focus on female players."

FLAGGING S-LEAGUE NEEDS A LIFT

There should be more involvement with corporations. Teams should be endorsed and have sponsorships. That gives the team an identity.

GOH TAT CHUAN , ex-national midfielder, believes the new FAS council must do more to source sponsorships for the S-League.

The lack of structure at age-group levels was another common grouse. In 2008, all eight S-League clubs each had a centre of excellence (COE), which focused on grooming budding talent. Only three clubs operate COEs now.

Former Geylang International chairman Patrick Ang said that the new team must move away from their predecessors' "elitist" mentality which prioritises the national teams over the wider football community.

From 2015-16, the FAS spent about $8 million on the various national teams' training costs. During the same period, it spent about $250,000 on grassroots football.

Former Singapore captain and coach Seak Poh Leong said: "I think the new council needs minimum three to five years to clean up the current mess. Youth development needs to be put right. We only have 30-40 footballers at every age group, but we should have thousands."

Ex-Lions defender Kadir Yahaya, who now coaches at St Joseph's Institution, believed it was imperative that the new leaders try and repair a fractured fraternity. He said: "Whatever the result, there shouldn't be animosity between the two camps after the election. Both parties should shake hands and move forward.

"If a member of the losing team has a good proposal to help Singapore football, the idea should not be ignored."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline ''FAS must get house in order after polls''. Print Edition | Subscribe