Singapore will be welcoming some of the world's finest footballers at the International Champions Cup (ICC) later this month, but ordinary Singaporeans will get their own football party too.
Yesterday, national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG), together with 22 partners including the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), announced the launch of Singapore Football Week (SFW).
Riding on the momentum set by the ICC, which will be contested by English Premier League champions Chelsea, German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Italian Serie A giants Inter Milan, the July 22-29 SFW will encompass 26 different activities that cater to football enthusiasts of all stripes.
This includes a five-a-side tournament by amateur football league organisers ESPZEN for the regular footballer, a football fiesta by Premier Skills for kids under 12, as well as the FAS-organised Walking Football, which caters to passionate footballers aged 50 and older.
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The week-long festivities will even cater to those who do not actually kick a ball - e-gamers, foosball and sports table football (also known as subbuteo) players.
Avid e-gamer Nigel Loy, who plays popular video game Fifa an hour a day on average, was elated at the prospect of challenging other Singaporeans.
The 20-year-old said: "It's something new. I don't think there are such events like this in Singapore and I would probably take part in this to see who are the other Singaporean Fifa players."
According to statistics presented by SportSG, there are more than 2.8 million gamers (PC, console, mobile) in the Republic and the sports fraternity believes that activities catering to them will enhance interest, and eventually participation, in football.
While SportSG has taken the lead role in this project, its chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin denied that the SFW clashes with the FAS' initiatives.
He said on the sidelines of a media briefing yesterday: "We are collaborating with the FAS and I don't think it conflicts with any plans of their own.
"We are a key partner for the FAS, we are a key partner to the sport industry and we are a key partner to the footballing public in general.
"What we would like to bring to the table are the facilities. So when there is an event like this, we combine the different efforts of ActiveSG and our ActiveSG footballing academy, and also work with the private operators that are using the fields that we release for their private leagues."
The Straits Times understands that the aim of the SFW is to build an "eco-system" of sorts around the ICC, much like how the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix encompasses many facets of the sports and entertainment industries when Lewis Hamilton and Co roll into the Marina Bay street circuit every year.
SportSG is also planning a similar effort for tennis when the prestigious WTA Finals takes place in October.
Lim also denied media reports that SportSG is withholding part of the funding the FAS used to receive from the Tote Board annually.
He said that "withholding" is a "wrong label to use".
"We extend funding on the basis of plans and requests that are submitted," he explained. "So once the FAS' plans and requests are submitted, we will examine and discuss and fund it accordingly.
"So it's not a situation where they have requested for funding and we have then said no."
The Tote Board used to disseminate $25 million in grants directly to the FAS every year. Starting this year, the grants will be administered by SportSG.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong revealed that funding for the ongoing S-League had been released but the funding for operations, management, and administration, is "still there in their (SportSG) hands".
He stressed that he and his council, who were elected on April 29, are working to secure the necessary financial support from SportSG.
He said: "Currently we are using our reserves… we will work as soon as possible to ensure that the requirements for the release of funding are fulfilled."