Leonard Thomas: Courage and honesty a must for new FAS Council
After the ugly build-up to this election, the new FAS Council has even more work to do
Tension and excitement have built up steadily over the last few weeks.
Drama, controversy, anger and even sadness have been a part of the local football community, but not over stunning goals, near misses, defensive mistakes, referee boo-boos, red cards or player heroics at the death.
Singapore fans almost always only expect such an atmosphere to be raised by action on the pitch, not off it.
Dramatic police raids only ever occurred for match-fixing reasons, and then came the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) first democratic election.
I'd say it is also critical that courage and honesty become the cornerstones of the new FAS Council, when it assumes power after the historic vote today.
Team LKT, led by presidential candidate Lim Kia Tong, and Bill Ng and his Game Changers, enter an election which is very much under a dark cloud because of events that have transpired over the last few weeks.
I expected the teams vying to lead Singapore football for the next four years to offer bold ideas in a bid to stir the imagination of the affiliates and fans countrywide.
Instead, there was mudslinging between some individuals who were once friends, and even dirty tricks and thinly-veiled hints at financial skulduggery.
Both teams share almost similar manifestos, calling for the revitalisation of the S.League, the construction of a National Training Centre, promises to revamp the amateur National Football League (NFL) and vows to ensure transparency.
Both teams will count on votes from 44 affiliates and, if Ng wins, then the new FAS Council will have the spectre of an ongoing police investigation shadowing the new president and obviously, no one knows how this will pan out.
The call to avoid such an ugly scenario by postponing the election until investigations have been completed has been rejected.
While some have said the affiliates have the power to ask for a delay today, I don't believe there is enough chutzpah in the ranks to pull off the move.
Difficult as it is, each affiliate must try to compartmentalise today and not base their vote on the ongoing police investigation.
Whoever gets the nod, they will have the considerable task of fixing the game while also restoring the reputation of Singapore's biggest national sports association.
While she has not said much about the state of the game here, I believe Minister Grace Fu and her team at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth are willing to listen and help the new FAS leadership as long as the blueprint to improve Singapore football makes sense.
The new FAS Council needs to have the courage to think big and present an honest, detailed and convincing argument, talking funding, facilities and the possible entry of young footballers into the elite Spex Scholarship programme, for instance.
Fortunately, they already have a world-class technical director in position in Michel Sablon who is already hard at it and, as I've said before, they must pull out all the stops to support the Belgian as he continues the work to assemble a permanent pipeline that will produce talent regularly for the national team.
Only then will we once again see gifted players like Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy.
Only then will the Lions and the various youth teams be able to even push the very best on the continent.
Whether it is Lim's group or Ng's outfit, they must have the courage to institute a major facelift of the S.League, using unique tactics to attract sponsors and woo a regular turnout for matches, perhaps averaging between 1,500 to 2,000 fans.
Once and for all, the FAS must trash out a win-win formula with the leadership at the Singapore Sports Hub and turn the National Stadium back into a home for the Lions.
There is women's football to stir up, and an NFL to improve, but the ultimate benchmark of a healthy football environment in Singapore is when the Lions play regularly at the stadium backed by a considerable Kallang Roar.
It is not all doom and gloom right now, after Sundram's Lions started their Asian Cup qualifying campaign on a positive note.
More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the Sultan of Selangor's Cup clash next Saturday at the National Stadium.
Football remains the country's No. 1 sport.
After the ugliness of the election, it's time to get to work, no matter what today's election throws up.
Let's unite and turn Singapore football into a respected force on the continent.