2016: A YEAR OF DISRUPTION

Local football takes a tumble

Above: Since Mr Zainudin Nordin's departure, the FAS has been without a permanent president. Left: The Lions had their worst-ever display of zero wins at last month's AFF Suzuki Cup.
The Lions had their worst-ever display of zero wins at last month's AFF Suzuki Cup.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ST FILE
Above: Since Mr Zainudin Nordin's departure, the FAS has been without a permanent president. Left: The Lions had their worst-ever display of zero wins at last month's AFF Suzuki Cup.
Since Mr Zainudin Nordin's departure, the FAS has been without a permanent president. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ST FILE

For the country's No. 1 sport - football - 2016 was a rock-bottom year.

As the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) wobbles into the new year, the governing body has yet to find a new permanent president and a permanent national head coach.

Funding from the Tote Board for the association's expenditure and the S-League season, to the tune of roughly $36 million, has yet to be secured, while the Lions and its age-group teams continue to take a battering on the pitch at a time when swimming, bowling, para-sports and a host of other sports scaled new summits.

The sheer extent of the damage done by the FAS' recent policies was apparent during last month's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup campaign as caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy's team returned from Manila with its worst-ever display of zero wins, a goalless draw and two losses in the group stage.

Previous setbacks such as the 4-0 mauling by Malaysia in 2002 saw Singapore bounce back to win the 2004 tournament, but the year of horror experienced by local football looks set for a prolonged slump.

The decision in 2011 to form the LionsXII, essentially the country's Under-23 team boosted by senior national players, robbed the S-League of its elite.

  • YOUTH TEAMS SUFFER BATTERING

    Singapore's youth teams from U-14s to U-23s have fared badly over the past two years. 

    62

    Matches played in total

    39

    Matches lost

    10

    Matches won

Add to that the Young Lions, a team of the best Under-21s, playing in the domestic scene, it is no wonder the clubs have found little incentive to continue grooming youngsters because they are cherry- picked for these developmental squads. The result: A staggering record of 39 defeats and 10 wins in 62 games over the past two years for Singapore's youth teams from U-14s to U-23s.

Off the pitch, there is also uncertainty at the FAS' Jalan Besar office. Although the FAS managed to amend its Constitution to align with Fifa's statutes of having an elected president, the year will end without the fraternity going to the polls.

Out went Mr Zainudin Nordin, whose term expired on Nov 15, as lawyer Lim Kia Tong took on an interim role with the mission to conduct an election by next May. While Mr Lim has announced his intention to contest the polls, the identities of the other candidates are still shrouded in mystery amid calls for change bubbling on the ground.

Another puzzling episode took place outside the country when Mr Zainudin attended September's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) extraordinary congress in Goa, India.

Forty-two of the 44 members who had voting rights at the meeting raised a "no" card when AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa called for the agenda of the meeting to be passed.

The "no" vote was a gesture of Asian solidarity against Fifa, which had banned Qatari Saoud Al-Mohannadi from standing for election.

While one AFC member abstained, another voted "yes". This lone voice that was out of sync with the rest of its AFC colleagues was... the FAS.

Football fans in Singapore live on a staple diet of the English Premier League, while connoisseurs critique the Spanish and German leagues as works of fine art. The local game, sadly, is still an acquired taste.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Local football takes a tumble'. Print Edition | Subscribe