Warriors see fit to keep training

Warriors players training at the Jurong Stadium despite the uncertainties surrounding the team's Singapore Premier League participation next season.
Warriors players training at the Jurong Stadium despite the uncertainties surrounding the team's Singapore Premier League participation next season.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Unsure of what lies ahead, players focus on preparations in the hope of SPL reprieve

Poh Yi Feng hopes to lace his boots up for a 13th season of professional football, but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over his club Warriors FC's participation in the new Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.

After last season ended, the 33-year-old chose to remain at Warriors, where he has been since 2016, and is among 15 players who have signed deals with the nine-time S-League champions.

Despite the instruction handed down by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) last week for Warriors to sit out the new campaign, the midfielder and his teammates have been training hard over the past few weeks while keeping faith that things will all work out.

Poh, who has a seven-year-old son, told The Straits Times yesterday: "As players, there's not much we can do except to keep training until something is confirmed.

"Of course, (players) do talk about the situation, wondering how it will turn out.

"But, in case the club do get to play, we have to be prepared and fit for the season ahead. It's a matter of professionalism for us."

While the fixtures have not been released, the league typically starts late next month or in early March.

HOPING FOR THE BEST

In case the club do get to play, we have to be prepared and fit for the season ahead. It's a matter of professionalism for us.

POH YI FENG, Warriors FC midfielder, on unresolved issues concerning their Singapore Premier League participation.

Warriors defender Delwinder Singh, 27, said: "We can only let the club management handle this.

"As a player, it would not be healthy for me to think about it all the time and let it affect my training. When a decision is made, I will react accordingly."

In a bid to earn a reprieve, Warriors chairman Philip Lam met FAS president Lim Kia Tong for over an hour on Thursday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

When the pair emerged from their meeting, they cordially shook hands before parting ways. When approached, Lam declined to comment.

Lim also played his cards close to his chest, and would only say: "It was a private meeting where Philip said his piece, and in a very professional manner.

"There was no anger. He was upfront, and it was amicable."

Last week, Lam issued a sharp response to FAS' sit-out instruction delivered in a letter, saying: "We have rejected the FAS' decision, and have asked for an urgent meeting, while we also seek legal counsel on the matter."

Besides the jobs of the club's players and full-time staff, he highlighted the $1.36 million loan he and other members of the club's leadership have pumped into the club, as reasons for the rejection.

In response, an FAS spokesman said Warriors' "dire" financial situation - they are understood to be almost $850,000 in debt - meant the club are unable to comply with the licensing requirements, and said the sit-out order was made in their best interests.

This is the latest blow for Warriors, originally known as Singapore Armed Forces Football Club, which came under the purview of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Their domestic titles since the S-League's inception in 1996 make them the most successful football club of the professional era, and the only one to have competed in the Asian Champions League.

The name change to Warriors in 2013 preceded Mindef ceding control of the club in January 2017, reportedly to allow an unnamed private sponsor more influence in the running of the club.

Trouble began to surface the following year.

ST reported in October 2018 that the club had struggled to pay their staff on time, leading the Ministry of Manpower to bar the club from foreign hires.

Last July, with the late salary payouts continuing, the FAS revealed it had been making payments of Warriors employees' monthly Central Provident Fund contributions directly to the CPF Board since March.

In November, Warriors were charged with owing arrears of over $350,000 in salaries to their employees from as far back as July.

Last month, the club announced they had paid $150,000 of that amount, through loans from their management committee members.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'Warriors see fit to keep training'. Print Edition | Subscribe