Scrap the S-League and challenge the world

WE CANNOT deny that the football fraternity in Singapore, comprising both the national teams and governing bodies such as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), has been mired in controversy in recent times.

The improbable goal-less draw against Japan in the 2018 World Cup Asian qualifiers hopefully signifies a turning point in the recent acrimony within the community ("Lions repel samurai charge"; Wednesday).

The plucky play of all the players against overwhelming adversity exemplified quintessentially Singaporean virtues: fortitude, intelligence and efficiency. We took on superior guile and strength with fearlessness and resolution. Life ought to mirror this microcosm.

Online outpourings of support and effusive praise in the wake of the away match in Saitama - especially for the heroics of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud - suggest that Singaporeans are not as apathetic to our local football scene as it seems at first blush.

When the Lions deliver performances befitting this football-mad nation, Singaporeans will naturally stand behind their team. This is the only way to spark a re-emergence of sustained fervour in local football that peaked in the uproarious times of the Malaysia Cup.

It naturally follows that institutions and support systems must be strengthened to enable consistent excellence.

My admittedly radical proposal is to scrap the S-League. A gradual transition is necessary to reduce disruption to the livelihoods of professional players. Nevertheless, the S-League has long outlived its early hype. The chief reason against the continued existence of the S-League is the geographical proximity of teams.

Top leagues worldwide are so exciting partly because of deep-seated partisanism brought forth by local support for teams. It is no accident that these leagues exist in much larger states. Demographics differ vastly between regions. Each team is emblematic of their own distinct locale; the culture and mythology of each team are, hence, unique. Their philosophy and team culture are informed by their disparate surroundings. Diversity is abundant.

The homogeneity of urban development, culture and demographics in Singapore, due to our small size, prevents the formation of such intense local support.

Teams are much more homogeneous locally. It is, hence, far more reasonable for a denizen of Liverpool to support Liverpool Football Club than for a resident of Yew Tee to support, with any seriousness, the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club.

The significant resource savings generated can be put to better use - maximising the training resources of the national team to equip them with the necessary skills to shine internationally.

Largely futile S-League sponsorships can also be directed towards the international stage. It would increase exposure for these sponsors and fund what is a less quixotic pursuit.

Tay Hong Yi

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.