Football: Yishun Sentek win NFL Div 1 title without kicking a ball

Players and staff from Yishun Sentek Mariners celebrating their NFL Division 1 title win. The walkover was an anti-climactic end to a tight two-way race.
Players and staff from Yishun Sentek Mariners celebrating their NFL Division 1 title win. The walkover was an anti-climactic end to a tight two-way race.PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

The ambulance was on standby outside the Jalan Besar Stadium, video cameras were set up to broadcast the match live on the Internet and a sumptuous buffet spread awaited VIPs.

It was the finale of the National Football League (NFL) Division 1 season, but no one could have expected the farcical ending.

Even before the kick-off at 7.30pm yesterday, Yishun Sentek Mariners players were already dancing and queuing up to pose for pictures with the NFL trophy.

Going into the match, Yishun held a narrow one-point lead over second-placed Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (Safsa) and needed a win to make sure of the title.

But it turned out that their opponents Katong FC did not have enough players to field a team, resulting in a walkover win for Yishun.

As the players and officials celebrated their title win, Safsa were taking on Eunos Crescent at the Jurong East Stadium in what was a dead rubber. The match ended 2-2.

"We would have preferred to play, of course. We made sure that all our players were here today, even the injured boys," said Yishun team manager Ronald Lafeber.

"But these are the problems of an amateur competition," he added of his opponents' no-show.

"We faced these problems too, with players having work and family commitments - that's why we have a big squad of 25 players."

Yishun were presented with the NFL trophy and $15,000 in prize money, while runners-up Safsa, who could not be contacted for comments, took home $9,000.

Katong official Andy Tan insisted that the club had given the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) advance notice that they might not be able to assemble a team for last night's match.

"We've told (the authorities) earlier that if fixtures spill over into December, we will have trouble getting players down. Most of my players are in university, some are having exams while others are already on holiday," he said.

The fixtures had to be pushed back as a result of a brawl between Yishun and Safsa in a league fixture on Nov 12.

The FAS suspended the fixtures of both teams, but allowed them to resume playing from the week of Nov 25, even before disciplinary proceedings took place.

The clubs have been served their charge letters, with a hearing scheduled for next week.

"Katong have actually been exemplary in their conduct all season," said FAS vice-president S. Thavaneson.

"It is unfortunate that they weren't able to get enough players.

"Amateur players have issues with their schedules, having to balance work and school, and we understand that.

"That's why next year, we are planning to conduct the season between February and July, with games to be played only on weekends.

"We will of course first discuss this with the clubs before implementing any changes."

Shamir Osman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'Yishun Sentek win NFL Div 1 title without kicking a ball'. Print Edition | Subscribe