FAS chief promises to build on Pennant hype
FAS president Zainudin gives assurance more will be done to build on Pennant hype
The 2016 season is yet to kick off, but the early signs are already looking positive for the upcoming Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League campaign.
With ex-Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant signing for Tampines Rovers, and former LionsXII stars snapped up by local clubs, there has already been a considerable buzz around the league that has been strikingly absent in recent times.
Pennant's first appearance - a 2-0 friendly win over Hougang United - drew over 1,200 fans to Jalan Besar Stadium earlier this month, while the likes of Khairul Amri, Izwan Mahbud and Faris Ramli will ensure there is no shortage of big names being paraded around the S.League grounds this season.
But, rather than relying solely on the pulling power of these players, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin reveals there will be plenty more done to ensure the competition receives as much exposure as possible.
While he requested for the details not to be shared until the FAS makes an official announcement, he revealed: "We are coming in a big way this time around.
"We'll be pulling out all the (stops) and we're going to do everything in a big way and, hopefully, things will change."
He also stressed that last year's poor attendances should not necessarily be a reflection of the true volume of interest in the S.League.
"We need to change the way we measure (success in) football," Zainudin added.
"You make look at the stadiums and there are only 500 people watching (an S.League game) but, on average last season, we had 80,000 to 120,000 people watching on television.
"Some of the big games could even go up to 150,000 viewers, so that's actually not bad… nowadays it's how you make it available to people."
Zainudin was speaking at a dialogue session at the Japan Creative Centre yesterday evening regarding the relationship between Singapore and Japanese football, as part of the organisation's celebrations for 50 years of diplomatic relations between the countries.
Also present was Daisuke Korenaga, chairman of Albirex Niigata (Singapore), who has been involved in the Singapore football scene since 2008.
While the Japanese admits the arrival of Pennant has already hyped up the attention on the S.League, he remains unsure if the White Swans will follow in Tampines' footsteps by bringing in a big-name Japanese player.
"Pennant is someone who has this kind of draw because he's played in the English Premier League before," Korenaga told The New Paper.
"It's different because a top-level Japanese player may not exactly have the same effect on Singapore fans...
"For example, our goalkeeper (Yosuke) Nozawa is actually very famous in Japan after playing many years in the J.League, but he's not well known here.
"And, if you're talking about Japanese players who are famous for playing in Europe, (Shinji) Kagawa, (Keisuke) Honda… There aren't many we could sign."
"Maybe (ex-Arsenal midfielder) Junichi Inamoto!" he jokingly added.
While Albirex may not be bringing Kagawa or Honda to the S.League any time soon, there is no undermining how much of an impact they have made in Singapore.
About to embark on their 13th season, the White Swans not only won the RHB Singapore Cup and The New Paper League Cup last year, but also have been extremely active in their community outreach programmes.
When asked if the club could include Singaporean players in their ranks in the future, Korenaga replied: "We are always looking at what could be next for the club.
"I hope in our future perhaps we will have many Singaporean players and then just three players from Japan.
"In that situation, if we win the title, we are then eligible to represent Singapore in the AFC Champions League... That is our dream."