Football: Give local football a chance: former FAS president Ho Peng Kee

Remembering the Rams' glory days are former Woodlands manager R. Vengadasalam (far left), FAS president Lim Kia Tong (front row, fourth from left), former FAS chief Ho Peng Kee (next to Lim) and former players.
Remembering the Rams' glory days are former Woodlands manager R. Vengadasalam (far left), FAS president Lim Kia Tong (front row, fourth from left), former FAS chief Ho Peng Kee (next to Lim) and former players.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Former Football Association of Singapore president Ho Peng Kee has urged local fans to give S-League clubs a chance to prove their worth.

He said: "They (S-League clubs) may not be EPL (English Premier League) standard, but if we put everything together - the real-life action, a sense of belonging, most games are watchable.

"I really hope that Singaporeans will give the league and local clubs a chance, especially with a new (FAS) president at the helm. This is a great opportunity (for local football), we must turn the leaf now."

He also said engaging local fans should be the starting point for the new FAS leadership, especially where reviving the ailing S-League is concerned.

He said: "I was very happy to see Tampines (Rovers) back at their own stadium, with their first game drawing almost 5,000 fans.

"That is what we need to do. If we can excite fans to support a local club, then that is the start point."

On Friday, the Stags played their first game in their traditional home after five years away, following the redevelopment of the old Tampines Stadium into Our Tampines Hub.

Ho's thoughts were echoed by current FAS president Lim Kia Tong, who called on stakeholders to work together with his newly elected council in "reigniting" the passion in local football.

Recalling the large support for the Lions back in the Malaysia Cup days, he said: "That sort of vibrancy and support must be reignited. It takes a lot of stakeholders - FAS, S-League clubs and the community, to reignite that passion and the community spirit that football brings."

The duo were speaking at Woodlands Stadium, on the sidelines of a Woodlands Wellington exhibition match between players of the former S-League club last night.

Woodlands were a pioneer member of the S-League during its inception in 1996, although the Rams have not fielded a team in the league since 2014.

Before kick-off, a minute's silence was observed in memory of former Rams Amin Nasir and S. Anthonysamy, both of whom died in the last 10 months.

One former star present was Englishman Stuart Young. Now 44 and working in the mining industry in Australia, he still follows developments in the S-League, mainly through social media. Like many others, he was eager to see the league return to its former glory.

Said Young: "I heard about the (FAS) election. It sounds like they have some big plans for the league.

"Hopefully, they bring the league back up to a place where it should have been building from since day one so they can get back to baseline and then grow."

Some fans also yearned for the Rams to feature again.

"My favourite memory was watching the games live with my son. It is important to have a local club nearby; it brings the fans together, families together. Hopefully next year, we will see Woodlands back in the S-League," said Ben Teh, 45.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Give local football a chance: former FAS pres Ho'. Print Edition | Subscribe