Football fraternity wants LionsXII disbanded, more emphasis on S.League
Local football fraternity calls for LionsXII to be disbanded and more emphasis put on domestic league
Divided in opinion, united in analysis.
The local football fraternity has mixed reactions to the Football Association of Malaysia's (FAM) decision not to extend the partnership that saw Singapore's LionsXII and Malaysia's Harimau Muda play in each other's domestic league over the last four years.
But they are united in their views on how Singapore football must move forward - jettison all thoughts about Malaysian football and the LionsXII - and devote all the attention on the S.League.
"Let's be realistic, with all that's happened over the last few years, it doesn't take a genius to see that local football has been going down," said former Singapore international Rafi Ali.
"We need to do something drastic with the S.League, pay players more, demand more professionalism from them, bring in better foreign players and do a lot more for youth development," added the former midfielder, who was in the Singapore team that left Malaysian football in 1994 after winning the League and Malaysia Cup Double.
Sources reveal that there is a move to place the LionsXII in the S.League next year, before moving on to play in the proposed Asean Super League (ASL) in 2017, but Rafi is completely against the idea.
"Based on my experience, it's not a good idea. We went from playing in front of packed crowds to playing in an empty National Stadium," said Rafi of the Premier League, the predecessor of the S.League launched in 1996.
"There was no mood, and we just went through the motions, and essentially playing training games in preparation for the South-east Asia Games (in Thailand)."
The team of national players cruised to the top of the table, staying undefeated the entire season.
Former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director, P N Sivaj agrees.
"LionsXII players should be spread out in the six local clubs, like it was in the first year of the S.League," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"They are household names and, if I may take it a step further, they should play for clubs near where they live, to garner support from the community."
Sivaji strongly asserts that the league should proceed with nine teams - after the exclusion of Harimau Muda - instead of trying to hastily assemble clubs like Tanjong Pagar United or Gombak United, who are currently sitting out.
Gombak chairman John Yap revealed that his club have cleared all their debts and will explore the possibility of returning next year, should the S.League ask them, but he was adamant that the local league must be the FAS' main priority from now on.
"We don't know enough about the ASL to comment about it at this point, but the emphasis must be on the S.League, and its Centres of Excellence," he said.
"We are not in debt and will explore returning to the league, but it is clear, local football must head in the right direction."
Sivaji asserts that Singapore now have nothing more to lose, after what has been a misadventure in Malaysian football despite being crowned MSL champions in 2013, and winning the Malaysian FA Cup this year.
"This (the end of the partnership) is a blessing in disguise that will force us to focus on our own league, which was the main idea of starting the S.League in the first place," said the former national coach, who remained confident of the Republic's ability to bounce back.
"I'm sure we can recover. There is a lot of love for local football, be it in the national team, or clubs. And we have already proven in the past that we can."