When the Lions dominated Singapore's domestic league in 1995

The Singapore team celebrating after clinching the Malaysia Cup in 1994 at Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor.
The Singapore team celebrating after clinching the Malaysia Cup in 1994 at Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is expected to announce whether the LionsXII will be kept together as a team to compete in the 2016 S-League season.

This comes a week after the shock announcement from the Football Association of Malaysia that Fandi Ahmad's men will not be participating in Malaysia's domestic league and cup competitions next season.

It is believed that the FAS is keen on keeping the LionsXII together next year. S-League clubs were also told to seek the body's permission first before approaching any LionsXII player for contract talks. The FAS hopes that the continuity will help the team prepare for the 2017 launch of the Asean Super League, a proposed elite competition for the South-east Asia region.

But this has echoes of the past and it does not always produce the desired results.

The boot

 
 

After the euphoria of winning the Malaysia Cup in 1994, Singapore were unceremoniously booted out of the competition by the Football Association of Malaysia.

Then, the FAS kept the team, which included Fandi Ahmad, Lim Tong Hai and Nazri Nasir, intact with the aim of preparing for the 1995 SEA Games in Chiangmai as well as the pre-Olympic qualifiers. The Lions, coached by Douglas Moore, were to compete in the semi-professional Premier League, albeit with a few tweaks:

- The Lions would not be entitled to the $70,000 prize money if they win the league

- The team would not field their two foreign signings of Australian forward Abbas Saad (who was also assisting in a match-fixing investigation then) and South Korean defender Jang Jung

Boost to the local league?

Then, Moore believed that with the Lions playing in the Premier League, it would give the local players from various clubs a chance to prove that they warrant selection for the national team

The eight other Premier League clubs then were - Geylang International, Balestier United, Tampines Rovers, Tiong Bahru FC, Police Sports Association, Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (Safsa), Gilbraltar Crescent and Australian invitational side Darwin Cubs.

Lions maul all comers

But it was clear that it was a lop-sided competition as Moore's men chalked up a string of crushing wins, thrashing Tampines Rovers (8-1), Gibraltar (6-0) and Safsa (10-1), a match where striker V. Selvaraj scored six goals, including from a bicycle kick.

In an unbeaten campaign, the Lions drew just once (2-2 against Geylang) and won the other 13 games, finishing top with 40 points and 15 ahead of runners-up Geylang.

Fruitless effort

The Lions ultimately failed in their two main international missions. They crashed out of the pre-Olympic qualifiers after finishing second in a three-team group behind China. At the SEA Games, Singapore had to contend with a bronze medal after losing 1-0 in the semi-finals to hosts Thailand.