5 things about S-League, Singapore's professional football competition

Over 700 S-League players, coaches, youth players and fans formed the words "Our S-League" to show their unity on the pitch during the S-League fanfare event held at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Feb 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
Over 700 S-League players, coaches, youth players and fans formed the words "Our S-League" to show their unity on the pitch during the S-League fanfare event held at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Feb 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The 2014 S-League season will come to a close this Friday but the title race is still open with Warriors FC and Brunei DPMM left in contention.

Here are five things to know about Singapore's professional football league, now into its 19th season.

1. English Premier League (EPL) personalities on Singapore's shores

This year, former Blackburn Rovers boss (2010-2012) Steve Kean became the first EPL manager to take charge of an S-League club. The Scotsman has also signed former Sunderland striker Roy O'Donovan, who has banged in 15 league goals so far.


There is more English football connection at Warriors in coach Alex Weaver, who worked at Stoke City's youth academy from 2002-2004.

But there is also a shining example of an S-League player who played here before establishing himself as a true EPL star.

Grant Holt arrived at Sengkang Marine from England for a short four-month spell in 2002. Nine years later, he was scoring goals in the EPL for Norwich City and was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame a year later.

2. World Cup in the S-League

Apart from EPL personalities, there have been players and coaches with World Cup experience that ply their trade here.

Current Home United tactician Lee Lim Saeng, a former South Korea international defender, played at the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

In the S-League's inaugural season in 1996, defender Mohammad Khakpour and striker Hamid Reza Estili were extremely impressive for Geylang International. Both represented Iran at the 1998 World Cup and Estili famously scored against the United States in a 2-1 win during the tournament.


Other ex-World Cup stars who played in Singapore include former Warriors midfielder Kazuyuki Toda, who represented Japan in the 2002 competition, and Cameroonian midfielder Emile M'bouh M'bouh (1990 and 1994 World Cups), who played for Tanjong Pagar United in 1998.

3. Aleksandar the Great

After 15 years in the S-League, former Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric will finally hang up his boots for good at the grand old age of 44 after playing against DPMM at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday.


Escaping the war in his native Bosnia, he ran across the border to Hungary. He hitchhiked across Europe to represent the country of his birth in kayaking at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Turning to football, he played left-back and left midfield in a journeyman career that took him to China and Australia before landing in Singapore in 1999.

Converted into a striker at Tanjong Pagar, he scored goals for fun everywhere he went, from Home to Geylang, Warriors and now Tampines. He is the S-League's record scorer with 383 strikes and counting.

Duric was granted Singapore citizenship in 2007 and went on to represent his new country 54 times, scoring 27 goals and won the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup in 2012.

4. Fabian's fabulous strike

Over the years, there have been spectacular goals in the S-League but Geylang midfielder Fabian Kwok became the first to see his wonder strike in May at Jurong East Stadium gain worldwide attention.

With one powerful punt from his right boot, the 25-year-old pounced on a clearance from Albirex Niigata goalkeeper Kazuki Kishigami and returned it instantly with a shot and lobbed the custodian from 45m.

Even though the Eagles lost 4-2, videos of the glorious goal sprung up on YouTube, with one of them garnering more than 135,000 views. News of the Kwok's screamer also made it to British tabloid Mirror and a host of football websites.

5. A second foreign S-League champion?

If Brunei's DPMM were to win this season's S-League, they will become the second foreign club to lift the title. French outfit Etoile FC were the first team to do it in 2010.

Led by striker Frederic Mendy, who was the league's top scorer with 21 goals that year, Etoile's brand of slick passing football saw them shrug off the challenge of Tampines and Home.


But the good times did not last. After finishing fifth in their second campaign, the club was disbanded in 2012 owing to financial difficulties.

As for Mendy, the 1.91m-tall marksman went on to play for Home for two seasons before signing for Portugese top-flight side Estoril on a three-year contract last year. He is now on loan at second tier club Uniao Madeira.

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