Tuesday, 6 October 2015 @ Meet Adam Swandi, Singapore Football's Next Big Thing
Meet Adam Swandi, Singapore Football’s Next Big Thing
(An exclusive email interview with one of Singapore football’s brightest talents, Adam Swandi)
6 October 2015
A silky playmaker by trade, Adam Swandi (in red) represents the future of Singapore football
Photo credit: www.goal.com
With a couple of step-overs and dummies, Adam Swandi leaves his opponent red-faced on the ground as he dribbles skilfully towards goal. Adam Swandi first burst onto the Singapore football scene in the 2011 Lion City Cup where he shone against his counterparts from more illustrious clubs like Newcastle and Juventus. Armed with a silky touch and a vision like no others, he impressed enough to be rewarded with a two-year contract with French Ligue 2 club, FC Metz back in 2013. Today, Adam is 19 and already has four international caps to his name. Although he is now back in Singapore plying his trade with Courts Young Lions in the S-League, do not count against him returning to Europe in the near future.
1) You have had the experience of playing in Europe with Metz Football Club. Now that you are back in Singapore with Courts Young Lions, is there a big difference in the standard of football between the S-League and football in Europe even at youth level?
There is a big difference in terms of the quality and physicality of the game. Also, European football is highly competitive even at a young age. As such, players have to work extra hard in order to earn and keep his place in the starting 11 even for a youth squad.
2) Life in Europe must have been tough with the language barrier and all, what are some of the obstacles (both football and non-football related) you faced while in Europe?
Language was probably the toughest challenge I faced. Being unable to communicate effectively disrupts the gameplay and as such, I made learning French my top priority upon my arrival in FC Metz. Fortunately, I was able to pick the language up quickly with the aid of friendly staffs and fellow players. The lack of Singaporean food and the presence of my family were also some of the other challenges that I faced. I was in fact, homesick.
3) You were one of the stars of the Lion City Cup tournament a few years back. One of the opponents you played against, Adam Armstrong is now currently on loan at League One side Coventry City but has already made his English Premier League bow for Newcastle. At this moment, are you satisfied with your football development or do you feel you could push yourself more by perhaps securing another stint abroad and fulfil your true potential.
Although I am satisfied with my current development with the Courts Young Lions, I hope to ultimately mirror Adam Armstrong’s achievements as it is my goal to play in a professional European league. My aim would be to secure a professional contract in Europe after serving my National Service.
4) You have gone to Europe and come back. What do you think are our Singapore footballers’ chances of being successful in Europe? Do you think our boys are able to cope with the much higher standard of football over there?
I strongly believe that we have the calibre to do so. However, we have to improve on the physical aspect as the Europeans are generally bigger in size.
5) You are 19 this year, so you will probably be enlisting soon. Do you think National Service would be a major obstacle towards your football development or do you think you would be able to overcome it?
Initially, I felt sad about it but eventually I acknowledge the need for every Singaporean son to contribute to NS. During my NS stint, I have to ensure that my fitness does not lack behind. In terms of maintaining my touches and ball sense, I hope to find ways to do so. But in general, I am very excited to enlist soon and I feel proud to serve the country in something whether it is football or NS.
6) Lastly, to conclude the interview, where do you see yourself in 5-6 years’ time? What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to be a regular for the national team and secure a place in a professional football club. I hope to be able to improve my technical ability, mental prowess and physicality in order to perform my best.
Monday, 10 August 2015 @ WHERE ARE ALL OUR CHINESE PLAYERS?
Where Are All Our Chinese Players?
(Part 1 of a 2 part series about the lack of Chinese in Singapore Football)
10 August 2015
Stanley Ng (in red) was one of only two Chinese players in the squad chosen to represent Singapore in the recent SEA Games.
Photo credit: FourFourTwo
Singapore has a Chinese population of more than 70% and yet according to figures from the S-League, only a paltry 16 out of 151 registered first-team players are Singaporean Chinese. This is a worrying sign, showing that Singapore is not fully utilising its resources. When a nation of 5 million people only draws its football talent from one third of its population, there’s only so far a country can go. Singapore, currently ranked 155th in the latest FIFA world rankings, has been struggling to make a significant impact on the Asian stage for years.
The year 2010 has come and gone. Goal 2010 which had the aim of reaching Singapore’s first ever world cup finals is now nothing more than a mere pipe dream. It’s currently the year 2015 and not only has the Republic not qualified for the world cup (as expected), they also seem to be losing their dominance of the Asean region. Being embarrassingly knocked out of two of South-East Asia’s most prestigious tournaments, the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Sea Games, at the group stages as hosts are all that Singapore has got to show for in recent years. Something needs to be done to stop the rot and tackling the problem of a dearth of Chinese talent coming through the ranks has got to be on the priority list.
A Lack Of Quality
In order to find a notable Singaporean-born Chinese player playing for the national team, one would have to go about 10 years back when Goh Tat Chuan was still plying his trade in the middle of the park as a holding midfielder for Singapore. These days, Chinese footballers in the national team are few and far between, with only Lionsxii winger Gabriel Quak being called up for recent national squads. There are still Chinese players in Singapore. According to the recent report about Chinese footballers in The New Paper, there are just about enough Chinese players in the S-League to form a starting 11 complemented with some substitutes. However, the quality is just not there. Only two of these local born Chinese players have made a senior appearance for the Lions. This is a serious case of a lack of both quantity and quality.
Pragmatism rules over passion for many Chinese footballers and their families. Playing for leisure is strongly encouraged but when it comes to down to the crunch decision of whether to go pro, the answer is mostly no. A football career in Singapore does not pay financially. Stories of millionaire footballers are unheard of on our shores since Fandi Ahmad. Only Singapore’s finest players can claim to command salaries significantly better than what jobs in other industries provide. Also, footballers have a short career and what will await life after football is a period of uncertainty and instability. As such, conservative and pragmatic Chinese parents are often not willing to give their blessings to their child for a career in football.
However, all is not lost. The onus to pursue a professional career without jeopardizing one’s future will be on the individual and it depends on how much he wants it. It is possible to balance studies and football or even work and football. Goh Tat Chuan was a degree holder from the Nanyang Technological University and had a career as a commercial engineer after his retirement.
Another example is that of former S-League player Jeremy Chiang who ventured into business. His latest venture is a shop selling churros, a sweet Spanish snack consisting of a strip of fried dough dusted with sugar or cinnamon. He is doing pretty well and has shown that there is indeed life after football for Chinese players as long as a certain level of commitment is shown. S-League clubs can also do their part by showing flexibility and allowing their players to pursue whatever they want in their free time outside of football. With such increased flexibility, players will have more time pursuing their “backup plans” for football and this will give reason for more to join the football bandwagon as a professional.
Chinese players are known for their hard work and grit in football. These are qualities that could serve Singapore very well and it would be a waste if this vast amount of talent is not tapped on. A small talent pool hinders progress. For Singapore, it is not a problem of a lack of talent but rather a lack of the ability to retain talent in the system. Solve that and we could well be on our way to our first World Cup, Goal 2030 anyone?
Saturday, 1 August 2015 @ A SEMI-PRO S-LEAGUE? WHY NOT?
A Semi-Pro S-League? Why Not?
1 August 2015
Playing in half-empty stadiums in the professional
S-League is bread and butter for one of Singapore’s brightest talents,
Photo credit: Great Eastern Yeo’s S League Facebook Page
The struggles of Singapore’s only professional football league have long been well-illustrated in the media. Poor attendances, all-out brawls between players and sub-par refereeing are just some of the problems plaguing Singapore’s domestic league. Despite the FAS’s yearly reviews, the same problems persist or even worsen. Attendances have fallen steadily over the last few seasons, ultimately resulting in quieter stadiums and less motivated professionals.
The S-League is no longer a product that actually appeals to the public unlike the heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s. The S-League today is a much ridiculed and criticised league, a joke among Singaporeans. This is despite the fact that the S-League has served as the main conveyor belt of national talent over the years producing the likes of Indra Shahdan Daud and Noh Alam Shah. With all the problems facing the league, there have been calls from the local football fraternity to relegate the S-League to a Semi-Pro one. While it might seem like a backward step for Singapore football, here are three reasons why this option might not be so bad after all.
1) A lack of rivalry among clubs due to the geographical size of Singapore
Singapore is simply too small, no one actually cares about a eastern derby between Tampines Rovers (formerly based in Tampines) and Geylang International (Based in Bedok) when the distance between these two areas is a mere 5km. There is absolutely no rivalry to speak of. People do not feel connected to their clubs and there is no sense of belonging. This is unlike the Malaysia cup days when Singapore travelled around Malaysia to compete against Malaysian state teams. People felt a sense of belonging to their home country and the support naturally came. This brings up the question, is Singapore actually only big enough to have only one sustainable club rather than a league of its own? Well, the answer is no. We could convert the S-league to a semi-pro one and form a few teams similar to that of the current Singaporean outfit based in Malaysia, LionsXii. These teams will then be sent to compete in suitable foreign leagues like the Thai Premier League or the upcoming Asean Super League.
While some may argue that having so few clubs could potentially be damaging the pipeline for national players but when you take a look at our local S-league, there are actually only 6 local clubs not inclusive of the U23-outfit Courts Young Lions. Instead of trying so hard to create our own sustainable professional league, why not channel these resources towards another 6 new professional clubs who will represent Singapore in overseas leagues? Through this, rivalry between local clubs and foreign clubs would be intensified and fans would be drawn back to the stadium. There will also be a greater sense of belonging and national pride as these clubs are somewhat representing Singapore when they compete in foreign leagues.
2) Better lives for footballers
Footballers in Singapore have a tough life. Their struggles are often well-documented in the media. Unlike fellow professionals from the more glamourous leagues, most S-League footballers often have to find another job to make ends meet once they call time on their playing careers. They are often left lost and unsure about their next step in life. Given that they have spent almost their entire lives playing football, most of them are not equipped with the relevant experience or qualifications to enter the working world. This is why unlike most countries, being a semi-pro player might actually be more beneficial.
Armed with more time, players will be able to take on day jobs to supplement their allowances from football and subsequently lead better lives even when their playing days are over. Also, given the state of our S-League today, it is probably surprising for those uninformed to know that this is actually a professional league. Since standards on and off the pitch have plummeted to a level no longer befitting of a professional league, securing the players’ future and going semi-pro might be for the best.
3) Finances could be channelled towards youth development
Under the current youth system format, there are only 3 S-League clubs who have youth developmental teams. Each of the clubs will field 6 age-group teams ranging from the under-13 to the under-18 teams. These teams together with the National Football Academy teams form the backbone of youth football in Singapore. When you realise that almost every future national player will come through this system, it is indeed quite worrying to see such a small talent pool.
More can be done; resources can be used more wisely. Instead of focusing on a half-dead S-League which probably isn’t going to see an improvement in standards anytime soon, why not channel the resources towards setting up more youth teams and even improving the quality of the school sports scene. Just like any system, armed with a solid foundation, it is bound to flourish. The quality of football will go up and when that happens, it will still not be too late to revert back to the option of a professional S-League.
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