Leonard Thomas: Time for Ng and Lim to show bold plans for Singapore football
Opposing camps in FAS election must reveal how they can make Singapore football buzz again
There has been so much chatter after the official announcement of the date for the first contested election at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), with the two rival camps touting their vision and strengths.
Selected members of Lim Kia Tong's team and Bill Ng's challengers have talked about how they can contribute, former players, officials and many fans have also made their feelings known.
After the unfortunate video where FAS presidential hopeful Lim and his teammate Teo Hock Seng cast Ng in negative light, the duo have, correctly, come out to say they have a high regard for the Hougang United chairman and his team.
Ng has duly taken the high road, which is impressive.
Over the last couple of weeks, there has been drama, anger and frustration as various parties have given their views and the passion for the game in Singapore is, happily, still robust.
But it has all been a sideshow, now the country must know how the two teams actually intend to improve Singapore football, and how they plan to pull it off.
The clock is ticking down to the April 29 election and, while there are individuals who have stated their intentions to contest on their own, when the deadline for the submission of names ends at 6pm today, the battle to lead and shape Singapore's football future will almost certainly come down to a contest between Lim's team and Ng's outfit.
And sometime next week, both camps need to unveil their blueprint to the public, and tell this football-mad country why they can meet their targets.
They will then have to work and convince the 44 affiliates who will decide who forms the next FAS council.
I have consistently backed FAS technical director Michel Sablon, who has come up with his battleplan to transform the youth development programme in Singapore and build a pipeline that will regularly produce footballers who are fit, are experts with the basics and play the game the right way.
The Belgian owns a world-class football mind, he has a proven track record at the highest levels and I was delighted both Lim's team and Ng's camp came out early promising to support Sablon and his masterplan because it has to be the cornerstone of any grand plot to turn Singapore into a respected football force in Asia.
Lim and Ng must reveal how they plan to make a limp S.League a genuine professional product, and turn it into a hit with the locals again, luring talented foreign players of the calibre of Velimir Crljen, Ivica Raguz, Zsolt Bucs, Mohamed Khakpour and Hamidreza Estili to mix it up with local professionals and perhaps boost average fan attendance to 2,000 per game.
The players I named graced arenas all over the country and helped make the S.League an exciting competition in its first few years, which means it is possible for clubs here to sign foreigners that can cause a buzz and thrill crowds.
With fan interest steadily dwindling since the halcyon days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, sponsors lost interest and inevitably, the football standard in the S.League dropped.
Into its 22nd season this year, the S.League is at a crossroads, desperate for a major boost to find the spring in its step again.
It has to play a fundamental role in the Singapore football ecosystem and the new FAS leadership must make it a priority.
Once, the Asean Super League (ASL) was touted as a possible game-changer for football in the region by its backers, but it also came in for fierce criticism from supporters of the domestic leagues in the respective countries.
I understand the ASL has not been consigned to the dustbin just yet, done correctly, it can be an exciting product and Lim and Ng should say whether they back it, or not.
It's time for bold plans and tough and hard work to make Singapore football buzz again.
To lend glamour and spark excitement, I suggest inviting Diego Maradona to launch a new-look S.League next season.
I know many Singaporeans rate him as the greatest exponent of the game and he can move thousands here.
Controversial and colourful, he always backs the little guy with bold ambition and I'm convinced the Argentinian will count Singapore's football push a worthy cause and will support it.
The new-look FAS leadership should fly Maradona down as their guest, make him the S.League's biggest ambassador, and even ask him to back a sponsorship drive with a gala charity dinner.
It may be tough, many will even deem it far-fetched, but boy, it would be a great start to a new era.