Football

AFC ranks S'pore sixth among Asean members

Singapore may be four-time champions of Asean, a region-best record they share with Thailand.

However, in the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) newest ranking system, the Republic's football is lower down the South-east Asian ladder than the likes of Myanmar and even Indonesia, whose football association has been suspended by Fifa. 

Released at the end of last month, Singapore are ranked sixth among Asean nations in AFC's new ranking of all member associations under its purview. 

Thailand are the best-ranked, followed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, then Singapore, in that order. Asian giants South Korea top the AFC list. 

In the Fifa world standings, Singapore are fourth in Asean, behind Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. 

The difference lies in the fact that besides considering the performances of national teams on the international stage, the AFC also awards points to a country based on its clubs' averaged performances in AFC competitions over the last four years. 

Warriors FC (known then as SAFFC) finished third in their AFC Champions League group in 2010, chalking up four points, and that remains the best performance of any Singapore club in regional competitions.

Home United's qualification for the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2004, when Geylang International (known as Geylang United then) also made the last four, is Singapore's best showing in the second-tier tourney.

In the last four years, four clubs - Home, Warriors, Tampines Rovers and Balestier Khalsa - have flown the flag, but none made it past the AFC Cup group stages. 

DECLINE

In 2009, the S.League was named one of the top 10 leagues in Asia, but the only professional sports league in Singapore has struggled in recent times, with dwindling attendances, declining sponsor interest and flux in its competition format. 

The AFC also released a club ranking and Singapore makes its first entry at 98th spot, with Home. 

Tampines are next, ranked 102nd, with Warriors at 123 and Balestier holding 137th spot in the 154-club list. 

Moving into its 21st season next year, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is revamping the S.League once again, and next year's competition will apparently start with nine teams, down from last year's 12 and this year's 10. 

Details of the league format, the confirmed list of teams, and the kickoff date have yet to be released, even as Tampines prepare for their first fixture - an AFC Champions League play-off against Indian side Mohun Bagan - just over a month away on Jan 27.

- SHAMIR OSMAN 

Football