Where there's a will, there has to be a way. John Duerden believes Singaporeans shouldn't give up on the S.League just yet, drawing inspiration from a magical night in Istanbul...
These are trying times for Liverpool fans. A tough season ended and the team's biggest stars started to leave. They've had it worse though. Just think about the UEFA Champions League final of 2005 and how, 10 years ago, the Reds came back from 3-0 down at half-time to defeat the mighty AC Milan.
Having to sell big stars such as Raheem Sterling and saying goodbye to legends like Steven Gerrard are problems that Singapore football would love to have. The S.League and the game in general is at something of a low point. In fact you could say that Singapore football is 3-0 down at half-time and is in need of some Liverpool-esque magic.
Singapore football could learn a few things from that night – five things in fact.
1. When the going gets tough, the tough get going
'Stevie G' used his heart and then his head to put the Reds back in the game. The captain drove the team on and received plenty of support. Can something similar be found in Singapore? Is there a suit-wearing equivalent of Steven Gerrard at the Football Association of Singapore or any other body with a stake in the game? There are plenty of people who have studied the business side of things. There are those who know marketing, public relations and can talk of KPIs with all the fluency of a Coutinho dribble. But are there any who instinctively know what is wrong and have the vision to see the solution and the will and determination to do something about it? Easier said than done, but it is time for the tough to step forward.
2. If the fans can't inspire, they must be inspired
At half-time in Turkey, the Liverpool fans could have left – a few famously did – but the vast majority stayed and sang like never before. While the Istanbul air may not have been filled with melody, nobody could deny the emotion. Maybe that was what inspired the Reds to come back, it certainly couldn't have done any harm, and the team responded and the rest is... well, you know. A little bit of faith against the odds is often necessary in any endeavour. In 2005, it was the fans that lifted the team but that is unlikely to happen in the Lion City. The supporters need some inspiration from somewhere, something to respond to, a moment of magic, controversy or anger to get them going. Rarely have fans needed a spark like Singapore fans need a spark now. Authorities need to find it.
3. You never know when a hero will emerge
Vladamir Smicer, Jerzy Dudek – unlikely names that will live forever in the history books at Anfield. The fact that AC Milan were packed full of greater talent loomed as large and imposing as the Liverpool skyline on a murky Merseyside afternoon. Kaka, Maldini, Pirlo, Crespo, Shevchenko, Stam and all the rest. It was a team packed with glamour, big names and star power. Yet new stars can be made at any time. It can take just one goal, or one game, and then a reputation starts to be forged and interest received. Look at the 0-0 draw with Japan. Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud was sensational and made headlines around Asia, attracting inquiries from Tokyo-based agents.
4. Learn from the past, but don't dwell on it
Liverpool were preparing for a potentially fantastic evening, but found themselves enduring a global humiliation. At the end of the first half, the English giants were shellshocked. 'What the hell happened' was the question as the Reds returned to the dressing room. Sure, there may have been a few initial digits pointed in the direction of a couple of players, but you have to learn the lessons pretty quickly before looking forward. There was no time for a post-mortem. It was time to think about how to fix the situation. You make the changes you think necessary and move forward. Singapore football has serious problems. There needs to be a quick appraisal, and those who have failed need to be substituted, and then the game can quickly move on.
5. There is always hope
There is a famous (football) song which talks of not being afraid of the dark. There has to be hope. There's always hope. Liverpool came out for the second half, not just because they had to, but because there were things that needed to be done. There was a determination that at the very least, it would not get worse. There was a determination to show that the first half was not the real Liverpool, that after 20 years away from the biggest game in club football the Reds were worth much more than this. It may have ended in victory, but nobody knew that at the time. There was nothing inevitable about it. This is an obvious point but oft-forgotten. Liverpool did not know what would happen. They could just as easily have lost 6-0. Nothing is set in stone, the future can still be written.