‘Strengthen football culture in Singapore’

The safe management measures in Singapore were relaxed on April 23, allowing team sports to resume as it was, pre-Covid-19.

As expected, there was a lot of excitement and vigour shown by the football-playing public who had been starved of playing in its various formats for two years.

Before Covid-19 hit the world, my company, D2D Sports, organised a 5-aside league that ran from Monday to Saturday.

There were leagues that served the international communities and corporate teams, among others, in Singapore – teams that played for passion and as a means of socialising.

At present, I only have one league running – the International Futsal League. That too, at half the capacity it used to be.

The other league, known as the Tuesday International Futsal, is struggling to get the minimum number of teams to get started. This is mainly due to the fact that many players from the international communities based in Singapore have either returned to their homeland or have relocated as a result of the pandemic.

There is another 5-aside league that is being run by another company, Phantom Futsal League. They have 13 local teams participating.

The problem with local teams is that some of the players don’t play the game in the right spirit and enjoy the sporting spirit. There’s just too much aggression and intensity.

Most participants go crazy at the mention of cash prizes and will sign up in numbers. This is indeed a good strategy, business-wise, but can quickly turn into an absolute nightmare if you are banking on a safe and friendly environment.

Only selected local teams are invited to play in the leagues that we run. And we do not offer cash prizes. However, by being selective, the pool of teams dwindles, and therein, lies the struggle.

There certainly needs to be better regulation at the amateur level to weed out errant teams and individuals who are troublemakers.

SportSG and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) must get involved to ensure that the footballing culture in the country doesn’t suffer from a bad reputation.

The amateur level of the game is given the least attention, as the focus is always on the top tier of the sport. But if the country wants to get better at football and futsal, the guardians must start looking at the base.

The pool of women’s teams in Singapore is too small, and that too, has to grow.

Most of the players are involved in the FAS Women’s Premier League or the Women’s National League. There are foreigners who want to play. For example, there’s a French team based in the republic, but they can’t participate in the earlier-mentioned leagues due to the nationality criteria.

Women footballers should be encouraged to pursue the sport, even after they leave tertiary education, enter the workforce, or become mothers.

Not all players might want to play in serious competitive leagues like those organised by the FAS. There should be other outlets for them to take part in a semi-competitive environment.

However, Singapore needs to build a solid football culture to build up its men’s and women’s teams. The powers-that-be need to step up and tackle this matter seriously.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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