S.League out to attract spectators
The football fraternity can look forward to a number of activities linked with the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League in the competition's 20th season this year, which coincides with Singapore's 50th year celebrations.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin officially launched the 2015 season yesterday with a fanfare and football fiesta at the Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) at Mattar Road.
The event also saw the renewal of Polar Natural Mineral Water sponsorship deal with the S.League for another five years and the unveiling of the new jerseys for the upcoming season.
The season will kick off with the Great Eastern SG50 Charity Shield clash between champions Warriors FC and RHB Singapore Cup winners Balestier Khalsa at the Jalan Besar Stadium on March 1.
The match will double up as a league clash, with three points going to the winners in regulation time.
Speaking at yesterday's launch, Zainudin said: "If (clubs) continue to fight hard for Singapore in competitions, with spirit and commitment, the fans will see the effort and they will be there for them.
"We've had a longer pre-season than usual this year, teams have been travelling and playing pre-season friendlies, and preparing themselves hard for the upcoming season.
"They can (also use this extra time to) engage the fans and the community."
He pointed out that clubs like Tampines Rovers, Warriors and Home United have had to work their ground harder because they've moved to new stadiums due to preparation work for this June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
The Stags moved from Clementi to Jurong West, while the Warriors shifted from Choa Chua Kang to Woodlands.
Long-time Bishan-based Protectors have set up shop at Yishun.
Home chief executive Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi said they have been pounding the ground in Bishan, Yishun, and the Circuit Road area - where their youth academy is - to build up their fan base.
He added: "We are also looking at organising a nationwide futsal tournament later this season here at the HYFA and we will release details later on."
Similarly, Hougang United are looking to bring back their Challenge Trophy tournament for the community, which was last held in 2012.
Cheetahs chairman Bill Ng is also looking at establishing a scholarship for players and coaches, details of which will be released after the Lunar New Year holidays.
He said: "We are looking to help groom our next generation of players and coaches who want to develop themselves overseas."
Earlier this month, Singapore Cup champions Balestier held their Harmony Games at Guangyang Secondary School to reach out to their community.
Tigers general manager Cheng Tim Nee said: "We have partnerships with several local organisations, like the ITE, and will be working with them in the coming months on activities."
As for the S.League's CEO, he preferred to keep 20th anniversary events as a surprise.
"We are going to have a few celebrations this year. Work is in progress and we will make the announcement in due course," said Lim Chin.
An enduring partnership
Singapore football chief Zainudin Nordin (above, second from left). - PHOTOS COURTESY OF FAS/S.LEAGUE
When the action heats up on the pitch during the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season next month, players and officials can count on Polar Natural Mineral Water to cool them down.
Field Catering & Supplies Pte Ltd, which distributes the brand, signed a five-year extension to their sponsorship at the S.League Fanfare at the Home United Youth Football Academy yesterday.
The company has been partners with the S.League since 2003 and the new deal is worth more than $2 million, in cash and kind.
Field Catering's managing director Chew Thye Chuan said: "As a local company, we want to do our part for local football and sports, and I am happy and proud to support a professional league that provides career opportunities for talented local footballers.
"The S.League has also helped to generate awareness of our brand through its various platforms.
"So when our current deal was coming to an end... we had no hesitation in renewing our support."
Yesterday's sponsorship deal follows hot on the heels of Great Eastern's renewal of its co-title sponsorship of the league last Wednesday.
S.League CEO Lim Chin said: "(Today's deal) means a lot to the S.League. We are very fortunate to have our sponsors continuing to be behind us for so many years and Field Catering is one good example.
"They have been with us for 12 good years and now for another five more years; that is a good reflection and testimony of their belief in the league, and promoting Singapore football.
"This augurs well for the 20th anniversary of our league, that big local companies are coming in again to support our league."
- LIM SAY HENG
“The S.League has come a long way since its inception in 1996 and it has become an essential part of our football eco-system. It has constantly produced players for the national team and, over the years, it has also become a valuable training platform for our best young talent in the Courts Young Lions.”
- Singapore football chief Zainudin Nordin
Of goals and attacking football
She is a Balestier Khalsa fan, and pretty much enjoyed the club's RHB Singapore Cup winning run last year.
Royce Yap felt last season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League was exciting, especially after the tense finish in the title fight, with the championship going to the Warriors only on the final day.
Yap's two nephews, aged eight and nine, are part of the Tigers' fan club and she hopes the league can be even better this season, and has issued a challenge to the clubs - surpass last season's goal count of 409 and score 500 in 2015.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday at the S.League Fanfare celebrations - part of the pre-season build-up to the season - she said: "Since it's SG50, I hope this year's S.League will have 500 goals, or maybe even 550."
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin believes fans can expect to see the same kind of "attacking football" at this year's S.League, which kicks off on March 1.
He revealed how the longer pre-season break has given clubs more time to embark on training trips and participate in friendly matches to get them into prime shape, while also doing their bit to engage communities in a bid to grow stadium attendance.
LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
While Warriors FC fan Zulkiflee Zainal praised the efforts to engage fans, he insisted yesterday that only "entertainment on the field" will draw fans out.
"I hope there will be better competition and a higher standard of football this year," said Zulkiflee, who has been following the S.League since its inception in 1996.
"I hope national players can be distributed evenly among clubs.
"When there are too many star players in the same few clubs, those at the lower levels cannot compete with them because the disparity in skills will be too big."
Norman Sek, 15, will watch games between Warriors and Tampines, because they are strong teams with good players and the match-up almost always offers something.
Yap, 44, wants more Singaporeans to give the S.League a chance.
"Football fans here feel that the standard of play is not high," she said.
"That's discouraging for the players.
"The fans should take the first step and give the S.League a chance."
- NICOLE CHIA