Leonard Thomas: FAS should reward fans
New leadership led by Lim Kia Tong should do something special for the faithful in Asian Cup qualifier
The good work of the national football team in their 0-0 draw with Bahrain in Manama on March 28 was pretty much forgotten as the build-up to the historic Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election hit a fractious note and then turned ugly.
Much was done by the two parties contesting the election to woo the various affiliates, especially the clubs in the National Football League (NFL).
It is a mystery how 23 NFL clubs who do so little for Singapore football were given such sway in an FAS election.
The most important affiliate in any football-worthy nation is the local fans.
It must always be, because the local following makes or breaks the sport.
V Sundramoorthy's men started their Asian Cup qualifying campaign with a point away to the group favourites and, on June 10, the Lions can consolidate their position when they face Taiwan at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
I was hoping the new FAS Council led by president Lim Kia Tong would start their tenure with a significant gesture by declaring the Asian Cup encounter free for fans.
But, after the disappointing news that another competitive fixture of the Lions had been pencilled in for the drab 6,000-seater arena at Jalan Besar, came the announcement last Saturday that tickets for the Taiwan clash would cost $15 and $9 each for a grandstand and gallery seat, with concessions for students and senior citizens.
What a wonderful opportunity missed by the new FAS Council to tell Singapore fans they get it, that fans matter, and are even cherished.
Lim and his high-powered team can still think up a move to issue that message, maybe by declaring that the next home Asian Cup qualifier against Turkmenistan in September will be free for all ticket-holders of the June 10 clash.
They can bus in the respective winning teams from the National Schools' championships to cheer on midfield star Hariss Harun and his teammates for what has been deemed a must-win game as the Lions continue their bid to become the first Singapore team to qualify for the Asian Cup Finals in 2019.
The FAS could even announce that all those who buy tickets for the Taiwan encounter will have free entry for the glamour friendly with Lionel Messi's Argentina three days later at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium.
There has been no major news out of the FAS since the new team took control on April 29.
Lim and his team have much to address, with many expecting developments surrounding the much-awaited National Football Academy and a blueprint to recharge the S.League.
The FAS should also tell us why the NFL is so important in the local ecosystem.
For years, it has been an amateur league where men let off steam after work, the standard of football is poor and I know there are always some matches which descend into fights and others where referees are even abused.
It has been years since a potential national star has come out of the NFL, yet ahead of this year's FAS election, the clubs were courted as if they made a serious contribution to the game.
I understand election rules meant the NFL clubs became voters who could swing the contest but, if they offer so little to help Singapore football, then they cannot have such influence.
I would also urge the new FAS Council to hammer out a long-term understanding with the next chief executive of the Singapore Sports Hub and ensure the Lions' internationals are held on a stage like the National Stadium.
Grey, small and missing any of the history of the fabled Jalan Besar Stadium of old, the current arena lacks any sort of character and atmosphere for the Lions to be on the hunt.
The new FAS leadership needs to win over fans who would have taken notice of the ugly run-in to the election and become disillusioned by the state of the game.
They got the vote, and now need to blow wind in the sails and drive the sport forward.
Singapore football must start to think big.