Football: Some clubs on an incline even though league is on the decline

The Home United Youth Academy at Mattar Road is one of the best among local clubs with professional facilities, equipment and coaching.
The Home United Youth Academy at Mattar Road is one of the best among local clubs with professional facilities, equipment and coaching.TNP FILE PHOTO

As uncertainty continues to swirl around the future of the S-League, including the prospect of a cut in funding in 2018, some clubs are pressing ahead with moves to raise the bar in the local football scene.

Hougang United, for one, have rolled out a few initiatives over the past year as they continue to be a pacesetter in the domestic scene.

Club general manager Matthew Tay said: "It's about showing professionalism and we are trying to change what we can about the image of Singapore football slowly."

Last year, Hougang became the first local club to own the Globus Eurogoal 1500, a state-of-the-art ball-shooting machine, which fires shots of up to 140kmh at goal. The machine is used at top European teams like Arsenal and AC Milan for training goalkeepers.

Renovation work on the club's dressing room at Hougang Stadium is almost done, which will see new individual lockers and a bathtub for post-match recovery.

 

The club also added a new twist at their season launch, held at the posh Lantern Rooftop Bar at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, where officials and players turned up in sharp suits.

There, it was announced that players would wear suits to overseas games and for matches that will be telecast live from Jalan Besar.

"We will keep doing what we think is good for the club, the players and league. If everyone thinks the league is dead and does nothing new, then nothing will change," added Tay.

Home United are another club who are pressing ahead. They boast one of the best academies among local clubs and even have their own home, the Home United Youth Academy, at Mattar Road.

Club chief executive Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi said: "Engaging the community and developing youth have always been a big part of our DNA and we will continue to move forward with these two concepts in mind.

"Young players who join us know they have access to professional facilities, equipment and coaching. They can also see a clear pathway to professional football."

Last season, Tampines Rovers made waves by signing former Arsenal and Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant, which led to a brief spike in attendances at games.

They have been comparatively quiet this off-season, although the Stags are gearing up to return to Tampines in July after Our Tampines Hub sports complex fully opens.

Chairman Krishna Ramachandra said the club have already started re-connecting with Tampines residents by attending the Hub's soft launches. Their corporate social responsibility (CSR) project, headed by former United States international Tom Silvas, will also aim to reach out to at-risk youth in Tampines GRC.

Krishna added: "We cannot have the myopic view that bums on seats are the only measure of fan engagement. We've started a digital marketing strategy and hired someone to front that, while our hands are full with our CSR initiatives and our academy.

"Instead of lamenting the situation and blaming the S-League or the FAS (Football Association of Singapore), we need to also step up, discern what is important and help ourselves."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Some clubs on an incline even though league is on the decline'. Print Edition | Subscribe