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The Lions, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Posted on January 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Local football fans woke up to the shocking news on January 6 when the Singapore Football Association made an unprecedented move by sacking the entire National Football Team. Recent bad performance and ill-discipline and a need to revamp the team were some of the reasons mentioned.


Well, as everyone is trying to make sense of the drama being played, I cannot help but have my own go at it.


The Lions


Honestly I have not followed the National team since the days of the Malaysia Cup when the raw emotion of the whole Nation was gripped but a team that was simply amazing, not to mention successful. Not that I am a pro Malaysia Cup-ist but there was something about that team that caused entire neighbourhoods to be tuned in to their tellys during match days and the now razed National Stadium to be filled to the brim.


You could hear the heartlands erupt whenever the Lions scored a goal. I remember those days when my whole family would be watching football with me, even our domestic helper, who in fact used to scream the loudest! I even recorded the game on VHS which I still have. Such was the appeal of the National Team. On the street, the national jersey was more common than that of the English Big-wigs.


The players were household names. David Lee, Terry Patmanathan, the late Borhan Abu Samah, Abbas Saad, Alistair Edwards, Malek Awab, Lim Tong Hai, V. Selvaraj, Fandi Ahmad, Sundram, Lee Man Hon, Steven Tan, Jang Jung, Nazir Nasir just to name some. They represented the country though they played under the banner of the FAS. They wanted to win for the people, for the Nation and for each other.


Fast forward to 2011, I hardly know the names of the National Team. All I know is that it is made up of a big group of foreign born imports with local players, of which most of them happened to be of a certain ethnicity, which does not represent a Multi-Racial Country like ours. (Writer’s Note: This sentence is made in a comparative manner and not to undermine any ethnic group).


I also read about an exodus of the National players who left their current clubs at the tail end of the S-League season for higher pay cheques from the South. To me, such action only shows the lack of commitment to their clubs and fans for a pursuit of self-interest and self-gains. It is one thing leaving a club for higher pay after a season has ended and other to leave your club in a fix before a season ends. For these reasons, I would support the decision taken by the FAS to boot the entire squad.


I shall not go into other non-essentials like the hype about unveiling of new playing kits, players modeling, posters and other stuff. I am very sure that such manufactured marketing ploys did not win us the 1994 League and Malaysia Cup double or the earlier Tiger Cup wins. I would really like to ask the FAS about something that has bugged me for some time now though.


Why do the players have their hands across their chest when they sing the National anthem before international games? Where in schools, government offices or even during the National Day parades do we do that? The National Pledge, yes, but during the National anthem? Perhaps it is a wishful thinking that if we copied the Europeans in doing so, we would play like them. Obviously not.


The Witch


With any unsuccessful campaign, there will always be a witch hunt. This time around is no difference. The designed ‘Witch’ is of course the coach, Mr. Radojko Avramovic, aka Raddy. Before coming to our shores in 2003, he was the coach of the Kuwaiti national team. He did lead us to the 2004 and 2007 Asian Cup (formerly Tiger Cup) but since then, he has failed to conjure up any magic spells for further success. 2010 was a debacle and the masses have started the witch hunt calling for the head of Raddy.


It is somewhat puzzling to note that the FAS had decided to sack the players but not the coach. Anywhere else, it would be the reveres. By leaving the coach alone while getting rid of the entire team, the FAS is taking a huge gamble. How confident is the Coach that he can turn things around with a new team? What if a new team fails as well? Sack the Coach then? That would only happen after the normal excuses such as, “It is a new team, it needs time to gel” so no and so forth.


That would likely take Singapore Football into another three to five years. By then, other nations will overtake us just like what Vietnam has done already. What are the chances of us failing to beat the likes of Lagos and the Philippines? Of which the latter has already happened.


For every story to have a fairytale ending, the witch has been be slain. Unfortunately it has not been the case in terms of the Singapore National Team. Unless something drastic happens, let us get set for more bad spells because this ‘Witch’ has certainly lost his magic.


The Wardrobe


Which players do the FAS have in their wardrobe who can replace the sacked lot? What drastic measure will they be willing to take in terms of playing personnel? How much difference is there in offer in the current inefficient S-League to have players drafted in to the national squad? Are they going to import more foreign born players to assume a Singaporean identity to play for the National Team?


I do not have a crystal ball, an octopus or card picking parrot to see what is going to happen but somehow my feeling is that, the FAS is going to bring a good number of the so called sacked players back into the squad.


Does anyone honestly think the FAS are going to leave the expensive foreign born players out of the team after all the trouble of getting them to be Singaporeans? I hope I am proved wrong but when the next time the FAS announces the National Team; at least 65 – 70 percent of the players will be from the sacked lot.


Earlier I had mentioned that I have not followed the National Team since the 90s, well I actually did. I did follow the Cubs during the Youth Olympics. Not since the Malaysia Cup was there a following like what we saw with the Cubs.


There was somewhat a feeling of déjà vu when the Cubs played. The make-up of the team was also similar to that of the 90s Dream Team. They were of an excellent mix of boys from the different races which really caused many to take them into their hearts as their own because they could identify them as a team playing for a multi-racial Singapore.


If the FAS were to be serious about doing something about the state of the National Team, they ought to use the Cubs as a model. That is the only way to get the fans back. That is the only way to bring Singapore’s National football team back to its glory days. The 1990s are over, but the Cubs are the future, do not leave them in the wardrobe.

An article by Ian Morris published on Footballopod

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