Election fever hit the football fraternity yesterday after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) finally announced April 29 as the date of its first-ever contested election.
The contest is already being billed as a clash between an experienced administrator, 64-year-old Lim Kia Tong, an FAS council member since 1999, and the outspoken Bill Ng, a businessman who turned S-League club Hougang United around.
Although both have yet to unveil their full team, each has unveiled a candidate with considerable clout.
Mr Teo Hock Seng, the straight-talking former chairman of Tampines Rovers, well respected for his long-time contributions to the sport, confirmed that he will contest alongside Mr Lim.
Hours later, Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Annabel Pennefather said that she will be on Mr Ng's slate.
The winning team will have a host of issues to tackle, including reviving youth development, rejuvenating the struggling S-League and improving the results of the national team at major events such as the SEA Games and AFF Suzuki Cup.
The national team, currently ranked 163rd in the world, slumped to an all-time low of 171st last October, while the S-League has failed to gain traction among Singaporeans. Affiliates say these are just some of the many problems with the nation's most popular and best funded sport.
Said Mr Darwin Jalil, team manager of National Football League (NFL) side Eunos Crescent: "There's a lot of work to be done, starting with issues faced by the S-League and the NFL. The new council also has to tackle and improve the public perception of FAS as a whole".
This is FAS' first open election, after a provision that let the Government appoint its leaders was reviewed at the request of football world governing body Fifa.
Mr Lim, who also has Marine Parade GRC MP and lawyer Edwin Tong, along with FAS council member Bernard Tan, who is chief marketing officer at ST Engineering, on his team, is the current president of the FAS' provisional council.
Yesterday, he rejected the "incumbents" tag which had been slapped on his team. He said: "People have been saying the incumbents are not doing certain things, so it would seem they are referring to people who have been at the FAS for a certain period of time.
"But Edwin and Bernard, they are new boys and have been in FAS for only about three years. I don't think the tag of incumbents should be attached to them. Similarly, Hock Seng is not an incumbent of the FAS."
Mr Ng has largely kept his line-up under wraps but believes the time is ripe for new faces to be in charge.
He said: "Now is the time for people with hearts in the right place to take the mantle, and offer fresh alternative measures... This is our chance to start again with a blank canvas, rather than continue with what has already been proven to not work."
He has scored a major coup in persuading lawyer Pennefather, a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations' ethics commission and a former Singapore Hockey Federation president, to join him.
She said: "With my local and international experience as well as background in sport law, I believe I can bring something to the table."
Who wins will be decided by FAS' 44 affiliates, which consist of S-League and NFL clubs, as well as other related organisations. They will cast their vote at the Black Box Auditorium at the Sports Hub. The party which garners at least two-thirds majority of the votes (30 votes) will be declared the winner.
•Additional reporting by Wang Meng Meng