LVG: My players 
have freedom

Louis van Gaal says there has been no change of approach or philosophy at Manchester United and insists he always gives his men "freedom" to play.

Speaking after a 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win at Derby yesterday morning (Singapore time), van Gaal said: "They didn't have more freedom, they have always freedom from me.

"You want to write that but then don't ask (a) rhetorical question. For you (it is) obvious (there is) more freedom?

"No. Same philosophy, same training session the past three days. I give my players always freedom, building up attack is more freedom than defending.

"Defending I have a game plan. I am not pleased with how you are twisting my words."

Van Gaal said earlier in the week that defeat at Derby could cost him his job, but a routine win over the Rams means the under-fire United boss will spend the weekend opening up a celebratory bottle of wine instead of packing away his desk.

Goals from Wayne Rooney, Daley Blind and Juan Mata earned the Red Devils a fully deserved 3-1 win over Derby, who had equalised in the first half through George Thorne.

And van Gaal will now celebrate by opening an expensive bottle of wine - a gift from chief executive Ed Woodward after van Gaal led United to a 1-0 win over Liverpool earlier in the month.

"I come back and my wife is at home, and the wine is already open," he said.

"We drink a nice bottle of wine, probably the most expensive wine, because I have received that from Ed Woodward.

"Because I get always expensive wine when we beat an opponent of the top six. I don't want to mention the name (of the wine) because it is a little bit extravagant."

Despite the toasting of his side's success, van Gaal stopped short of heaping praise on his players, who had dominated the encounter.

Anthony Martial enjoyed one of his best performances in recent weeks, but even the France international was not immune to van Gaal's post-match analysis.

"The first 20 minutes he was very bad," he said of his summer signing from Monaco.

"Maybe you have noticed that because everyone is saying how fantastic he played, (he should be) man of the match.


"But you have to play 90 minutes good. I have said that already to him, otherwise I could not say it to you. But after that first 20 minutes, he was fantastic."

Meanwhile, Paul Clement admitted Derby were beaten by the better side on the night, but was pleased with how they offered a test to United.

"I don't think we were unlucky," the Rams boss said.

"United deserved to win the game and played well for a team that are supposed to be in disarray and lacking confidence.

"They controlled the game in terms of possession and were clinical with their movement and finishing and overall deserved it.

"But I felt our team gave them a good game. It wasn't all one-way traffic and we scored a good goal in the first half.

"I would have just liked it to have stayed at that scoreline for longer and let the belief grow and take it into the final 15 minutes and then you never know." 
- PA Sport.

Tags: van Gaal and man united

The home of China's red lanterns

The village of Tuntou, the Lantern Capital of China, produces 80 to 90 per cent of the pumpkin-shaped lamps used in the country

ON THE JOB: A worker assembling lanterns in the village of Tuntou, in Hebei province southwest of Beijing, for the upcoming Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday of the year in the world’s most populous country.
JOB COMPLETED: Lanterns, for sale within China or for export, hanging outside a factory in Tuntou.

Carefully steadying the gleaming red lantern between her knees, a worker applied the Chinese character for "wealth" in gold glitter - one of the millions that will illuminate the forthcoming Chinese New Year.

A high wooden arch at the entrance to the snowy village of Tuntou, in Hebei province southwest of Beijing, proclaims it the "Lantern Capital" of the People's Republic.

Mr Bai Liwei, the village's Communist Party leader, told AFP proudly: "Eighty to 90 per cent of the lanterns used in China come from here."

For the past two months, the town has been churning out the pumpkin-shaped lamps in preparation for the biggest holiday of the year in the world's most populous country.

Known as the Spring Festival in China, the holiday, which falls on Feb 8 this year, compares in importance to Christmas in the West, and marks a time when far-flung family members return home for merriment and meals - according to tradition, they must be back by midnight on the eve of the new year.


Tuntou village has specialised in artisanal lantern-making for nearly 40 years.

It is not the site of enormous factories, instead the industry is driven by a number of private workshops in which families concentrate on the production of a single lantern element - the spindly metal frames, the exterior "skin" of fabric or silk or the decorative inscriptions.

At the back of one assembly unit, high piles of nearly completed lanterns awaited processing, while workers wielded wooden canes to lift others high off the ground to dangle delicately from the ceiling.

The colour red symbolises luck and happiness in Chinese culture, and the lanterns are omnipresent throughout towns and countryside, trotted out at most important occasions: marriages, business openings and most of all Chinese New Year, which generally falls in late January or early to mid-February.

"Outside of the peak holiday season, we also receive special requests: giant models, for example, or orders to decorate the Forbidden City in Beijing," explained Mr Bai.

"Tens of millions of lanterns are produced each year and all or almost all of them are sold. A portion is exported to South-east Asia, the US or Japan. It has become an economic pillar for the village," he added.

Traditionally, positive Chinese characters such as "happiness", "peace" and "family" are painted on their sides.

But in recent years their inscriptions have become increasingly political.

"The majority of these lanterns are decorated with one of the 12 socialist core values promoted by President Xi Jinping," said Mr Bai.

In Chinese homes across the country, this new year will be ushered in by concepts including "democracy", "freedom", "equality", "rule of law", and "patriotism". - AFP.

Singapore retailers riding strong on Muslim fashion trend set to be worth US$327b by 2020

Fashion label owner: Turnover hit $1m in three years

ENTREPRENEUR: Ms Azrina Tahar, owner of fashion label Sufyaa.
Clothing items from Sufyaa.
Clothing items from Sufyaa.

Her business, Sufyaa - a clothing label for Muslim women - hit $1 million in turnover in 2014, just three years after its launch.

Label owner Azrina Tahar, 38, says of her runaway success: "I never expected in my wildest dreams to reach such a milestone so quickly."

Today, her designs cross borders to buyers from the UK, Malaysia, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Dubai.

She is part of a global market that is rapidly growing: Muslims reportedly spent US$230 billion (S$327 billion) on clothing in 2014 - a figure that is expected to balloon to US$327 billion by 2020, a recent Thomson Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy Report says.

The untapped arena of the fashion industry recently made headlines around the world as high fashion house Dolce & Gabbana launched its line of abayas and hijabs in the Middle East.


Last year, Japanese retailer Uniqlo collaborated with UK-born designer Hana Tajima to release an inaugural modest wear collection while Sweden's H&M featured its first hijab-wearing model, Mariah Idrissi.

Ms Azrina tells The New Paper on Sunday that she travelled to London for the Muslim Lifestyle Expo in August last year, where Sufyaa was the Singaporean representative.

She says: "Our designs were flying off the rack. I sold 90 per cent of my line when I was there. Some of them ordered designs to be delivered because we didn't have enough (stock) with us."

Ms Azrina says demand for modest wear is the highest it has ever been.

When she started out, she sold a mere 500 items - ranging from shawls, slip dresses, tops and bottoms - every month.

Now, she does not go a month without seeing "at least 3,000 items" fly off the rack.

On good months, she can sell up to 4,000 items. The online traffic to her label's website sees her shipping about five orders abroad weekly, which, on average, makes up 30 per cent of her monthly total sales.

But it is getting "more competitive in our own backyard", says Ms Azrina.

"When I started, there weren't many modest wear retailers.

"Now, there are always new modest wear stores sprouting up online, so while it is becoming popular, it is also becoming more competitive."

She adds: "I am just constantly setting myself apart from the rest of the stores with personalised services."

Islamic Fashion and Design Council founder, Ms Alia Khan, says Asia's fashion designers can expect more to be demanded of them as international awareness continues to grow.

"With the surge that Muslim fashion has experienced over the last five years, you can probably expect Singapore to be exporting to more destinations in the near future," says the Dubai-based chairman.

"The awareness and the exposure that modest fashion has been getting in recent times - with the likes of DKNY, Mango, Zara and Tommy Hilfiger jumping on the bandwagon - prove that mainstream labels are starting to pay more attention to opportunities in the arena of Muslim fashion."

Ms Alia says the market for modest fashion is ever growing as Indonesia, Turkey and even Australia constantly appear on the radar when it comes to modest clothing demands.

"Some of the online stores I've worked with around the world have told me that their market is starting to go beyond Muslim women."

Religion aside, more women are opting for designs that are more conservative and modest, Ms Alia explained.

"It is definitely exciting times."

"When I started, there weren't many modest wear retailers. Now, there are always new modest wear stores sprouting up online, so while it is becoming popular, it is also becoming more competitive."

- Ms Azrina Tahar, who started Sufyaa in 2011

Booming sales in booming industry

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Confessions of a TCM practitioner: She's had a patient drop his pants

Ms Zhang Ruifen, 30, a registered traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician with Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic, sees patients, prescribes Chinese medicine and does acupuncture, among other treatments.

In her five years in the profession, she has seen a gamut of patients.

Among them are macho guys who exude an air of nonchalance and calm, but the facade quickly fades when acupuncture needles appear.

Says Ms Zhang: "Sometimes, they are so scared, they kick."

Her reflexes are quick enough so she has not gotten hurt so far.

When asked about the weirdest experience, she talks about the time a male patient had to have treatment on his lower back.

She told him to pull down his pants a little.

He could have misunderstood because the next thing she knew, he'd dropped his pants entirely and yes, he was sans underwear.

Ms Zhang was shocked, but maintained her cool.

"It would have been quite embarrassing if I had reacted and made him put on his pants again. So I just laid a towel over him and continued with the treatment.

"His back was facing me. I was okay - it wasn't embarrassing," says the married mother of one.

Ms Zhang graduated with a double degree - a Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and a Bachelor of Medicine (Chinese Medicine) from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. It is a joint programme - she spent three years at NTU, then two years in Beijing.

Her job is not easy. She works 12-hour days from 10am to 10pm, and one day of the weekend every week.

She says: "At the end of the day, you get quite tired as you have to do acupuncture, cupping and see patients."


But there are perks. She can take care of her family's health.

She says with a smile: "My husband has not seen a Western doctor for a long time."

Similarly for herself, she takes precautions to avoid falling sick, such as not eating spicy and fried foods.

"You know how to avoid certain foods and what to take if you are not feeling so good."

But she confesses that when prevention fails, she does visit a regular general practitioner.

She says: "Usually, if I know I am going to fall sick, I will treat myself first.

"If it is a very fast onset, such as a sudden high fever, and I have to work the next day, I will see a Western doctor to bring down the immediate symptoms first."

She is not allowed to prescribe medical certificates for herself.

She finds that people gravitate towards her for more information about their health.

Says Ms Zhang: "You always get enquiries from relatives or mum's friends. I'll share what they can do."

Whenever she meets someone new, they are surprised when she tells them she is a TCM physician.

Their immediate reaction?

"They would shove their wrists over and ask, 'Am I healthy?'"

TCM physicians use the pulse points in the wrists to make a diagnosis about a person's health.

In her work, she has seen patients ask oblique questions about terminating pregnancies with herbs: "They would be seeing me for other ailments, but they would slip the questions in and want to know more.

"We decline because it is against our code of ethics."

On the flip side, she's delivered good news to women who didn't know they were pregnant. She has seen three such cases in the last five years.

She says: "They seek treatment for indigestion and a bloated stomach. They didn't think they could be pregnant."

It turned out that all three were definitely pregnant - a good catch as certain herbs can be dangerous to them.

Her biggest satisfaction: when her patients recover. She says: "You get to see different sorts of people and it is nice to see them get well."


  1. Warm your hands up. Your patients will not appreciate the shock of cold hands on their body.
  2. When patients are afraid, distract them by talking to them.
  3. During a cupping treatment, have a timer handy so you don’t leave the cups on the patient for too long.

Bak kwa brands go online, newer brands say it helps sales

Younger customers receptive; brands say it helps sales

DOING WELL: Bak kwa seller Peng Guan Food Manufacturing has a customer base of more than 1,000 and the average order is 5kg.

More bak kwa brands are going online as newer players use the Internet sales channels to boost their brand and popularity.

Take for instance, Peng Guan Food Manufacturing, which manufactures the Peng Guan brand of the barbecued pork jerky.

Its co-founder, Mr Zhang Ziyue, 29, a hobby chef turned entrepreneur, said its online presence has given the brand much exposure.

He says: "When we first started two years ago, the publicity was bad. After we worked with Qoo10 and got featured in newspapers, (it) soared."

His company's customer base tripled after listing with local e-commerce site Qoo10 last July, he said.

Peng Guan now has a customer base of more than 1,000 and the average order is 5kg. They are now selling at $42 per kg in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Another brand, Xishi Bakkwa by Cecilia Minced & Dried Pork Food Trading, ventured online about five years ago.

Besides its own webstore, its products are also listed on e-commerce sites like Qoo10, and mobile marketplace Shopee.

About 40 per cent of their sales comes from Internet sales channels, including those placed on its own online platform.

"We see more people buying online but there are also more competitors," says Ms Sandra Koh, 30, who runs the family business. She estimates she is seeing 10 per cent growth online yearly.

New Peng Hiang, which has been around since 1984, ventured online three years ago, starting with Groupon and Qoo10, before building its own website.

It is also listed on SMRT Corp's e-commerce site iMOB and online grocery concierge service honestbee.

Its online sales contributes about 10 to 15 per cent of its total sales.

Business development manager Thomas Khoo says: "Online shopping is able to give us the reach that we couldn't achieve.


"Even though the company has more than 30 years of history, we were considered late boomers compared to the bigger and more established bak kwa brands in Singapore.

"We could not achieve the same number of retail outlets when compared to them."

There are also higher risk and costs, such as the rental and labour crunch associated with physical retail outlets, says Mr Khoo.

And the online market targets a different audience - mostly young executives - as compared to retail outlets which attract older consumers, he notes.

Traditional brand Bee Cheng Hiang, however, has not seen a significant increase in demand from its website, which makes up less than 3 per cent of its total local sales.

Its managing director Richard Wong, 58, says: "People still prefer to buy from our retail outlets. If you buy online, you don't get to see the meat barbecued fresh and wrapped up.

"There are certain experiences that e-commerce cannot give to you."

But he acknowledges the importance of the e-commerce trend and says the company started its online ordering platform about 10 years ago.

He says: "We have received orders from the US and Canada. We deliver the orders there but we tell them that during the delivery process, there may be some restrictions."

Its manufacturing arm, Hup Chong, which distributes to supermarkets and other corporate clients, lists some of its products on online grocery service RedMart and Qoo10.

But these are vacuum-packed products that can last for nine months, unlike the fresh bak kwa which can last only about a week.

Mr Wong says: "Nowadays, supermarkets are also going on e-commerce, so we take part to give more choices to our customers."

At the same time, it has taken steps to minimise queue time, such as opening more outlets and hiring more workers during Chinese New Year peak season.

"Online shopping is able to give us the reach that we couldn’t achieve."

— New Peng Hiang business development manager Thomas Khoo

Queuing, not clicking

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Banks prepping for Feb 4 deposits

Li Chun is expected to bring snaking queues as many will be making deposits in hopes of bringing in more wealth in the new year.

FOR WEALTH: The practice of depositing money into bank accounts on Li Chun has become so popular here that banks have special measures in place to cope with the crowd.

Banks here are gearing up for the big day: Feb 4.

Known as Li Chun on the solar calendar, it marks the beginning of spring and the new year.

Long queues are expected to form at banks and cash deposit machines on this auspicious date. Many believe that depositing money into their bank accounts can help their wealth grow.

The practice has become so popular here that banks such as OCBC Bank, DBS Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB) have special measures in place to cope with the expected crowd.

These include increasing manpower, offering mobile banking options and providing seats for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled in the queues.

OCBC Bank's head of group customer analytics and decisioning, Mr Donald MacDonald, observes that the transaction volumes increased significantly on Feb 4 last year.

He says: "Based on the analysis of 2015 ATM and branch deposits, we noticed that there was clear alignment with recommendations made by the astrological calendar.

"The busiest day of the month was Feb 4, with deposit transaction volume increasing 40 per cent."

Preparations have already started for OCBC Bank.

Mr Sunny Quek, OCBC Bank's head of branch and premier banking, says: "During the busy Chinese New Year period - from the time banks start exchanging new notes till the 15th day of Chinese New Year - we deploy an additional 30 per cent of service ambassadors to our branches to ensure smoother operations."

A UOB spokesman says: "As this is deemed to be a significant date for our customers, we are expecting an increase of deposits on Li Chun.

"To ensure that our customers have a good experience, we have catered for extra manpower at our branches and have ensured that cash deposit machines are serviced and emptied to accommodate the extra volume of deposits.

"There will also be special seated queues for pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled."

But instead of spending time and effort queueing up, DBS Bank offers another way to deposit money on Li Chun.


A DBS Bank spokesman says: "On Feb 4 this year, Singaporeans will be able to make electronic money deposits to their bank accounts for greater convenience.

"Instead of having to bank in cash physically on that day, DBS/POSB customers can simply make deposits to their bank accounts from their DBS PayLah! mobile wallets."

And there is an added advantage.

The spokesman adds: "DBS/POSB customers simply have to send money from their DBS PayLah! mobile wallets to their own accounts and stand a chance to win $88 in cash credit in a special lucky draw open to 100 winners."

This is good news for Miss Joanna Teo, 20, as she banks in money on Li Chun every year.

The final-year polytechnic student says: "I've been depositing money on Li Chun for at least three years now because my mother used to tell me that doing so would bring in more wealth for the entire year.

"I once queued for more than 30 minutes and was still quite far from the deposit machine. I was afraid that I'd miss my zodiac's auspicious hour, so I rushed over to another nearby ATM, hoping for a shorter queue."

While people like Miss Teo remain hopeful for the growth in wealth, depositing money on Li Chun for wealth may well be just a myth, say fengshui masters. 

There are also a few variations of the favourable times to deposit money.

Not that it matters to Miss Teo, who still wants to deposit money on Feb 4 as it gives her more "security".

She says: "I'll still deposit money anyway because it makes me feel more at ease and confident about my wealth in the upcoming year."

"I once queued for more than 30 minutes and was still quite far from the deposit machine. I was afraid that I’d miss my zodiac’s auspicious hour, so I rushed over to another nearby ATM, hoping for a shorter queue."

— Miss Joanna Teo

Li Chun lucky deposits 
a myth: Fengshui masters

It is only a myth, two fengshui practitioners tell The New Paper on Sunday.

They say the trend started a few years ago when a chart was made, stating the auspicious hours to deposit money for good wealth throughout the year.

It soon caught on and now, it has become a tradition to deposit money on Li Chun.

Fengshui master Adelina Pang, 49, who has been in the industry for more than 18 years, says: "Someone invented this belief of depositing money on Li Chun for good wealth and now, it has become the talk of the town.

"Coincidentally, this year's Li Chun has good stars, so it is a good day. But we cannot have the mindset that every year's Li Chun will be good." 

Ms Adelina Pang.

Fengshui master David Tong, 41, who has been in the industry for 11 years, explains: "Li Chun just marks the beginning of spring and a year of transition.

"In pure fengshui, there is no such thing as depositing money on that day for good wealth."

Both Ms Pang and Mr Tong concede that this year's Li Chun is a good day to start new things such as businesses, accounts and jobs.

Mr David Tong.

But 46-year-olds born in the Year of the Dog may not be in luck this Feb 4.

Ms Pang says: "Li Chun happens to have a good star, but it clashes with those who are 46 and born in the Year of the Dog.

"Just don't do anything major, like get married or set up a new business, because of the clash of stars."

Mr Tong sums it up: "You don't have to do anything to change your luck. If it is a good year for you, everything will go smoothly automatically."

What will your luck be like in the year of the monkey? Find out at

Boon Lay drama: Relatives call cops over safety of children

FOR SAFETY: Two safety life air packs were set up under the block in Boon Lay as a precautionary measure.

Last night, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) launched a dramatic operation after fears that a man would harm his children.

Officers were seen at the top of Block 186, Boon Lay Avenue, all ready to rappel down to a unit on the 22nd storey shortly after 9.35pm.

Two safety life air packs were also set up under the block as a precautionary measure, said an SCDF spokesman.

Rescuers were on standby too. Two fire engines, three support vehicles and an ambulance were despatched to the scene.

The stand-off started earlier in the day, said Mr Nashir Haji Yusop who is the man's uncle by marriage.

Mr Nashir, 56, told The New Paper on Sunday in Malay: "My sister had gone over at 9am to try and persuade the man to take his eldest son to the doctor.

"She was concerned because the father had hit the boy (on Friday) and there were marks on the boy's shoulder and neck."

The man was upset with his son, who had ignored repeated warnings not to play with the family's pet rabbit, which cost $3,000, added Mr Nashir.

The man has five children, aged between five and 10. It is not clear where the children's mother was.

Mr Nashir recounted how his sister stood outside the three-room flat, trying to convince the man to let her in.

"I went down later at around 9pm to help my sister talk to the man, but he told us, 'The police has come to my home six times already, you better just leave.'"

Mr Nashir said the man refused to let either of them in. The children were locked inside, along with a woman relative.

He said: "The children's father is a hot-tempered man. He had previously threatened to throw his children down (from the flat) when he was angry.

"We were so worried over the safety of the young ones and decided to call the police."

A police spokesman said the man was arrested for alleged child abuse last night.

Investigations are ongoing.