The good, the bad and the FAS Elections (Part Two)

The year is coming to an end and it’s a time for forgiving, which is rather handy considering the year Singapore football has suffered, which will end with the low of Singapore’s Suzuki Cup debacle. Neil Humphreys reflects on a haphazard 12 months for the struggling national game… 

Jermaine Pennant’s departure

His final words came across as a little curt, perhaps even ungrateful. Even Lionel Messi wouldn’t save the S.League.

Pennant’s departing assessment of a competition that had paid him a small fortune, in relative terms, seemed unnecessary.

But the truth hurt nonetheless. Pennant was right. By the end of the season, his exit was met with cynical indifference, his star already waning.

Pennant left Singapore without accomplishing much

His employer, Tampines Rovers, had started the season by establishing links with Gerard Houllier and Ronaldinho’s football academy. As the campaign petered out, the cash-strapped Stags were reportedly releasing anyone not willing to accept a monthly salary of up to $2,500.

Tampines’ PR rise and financial fall mirrored that of the league itself, a wobbly house of cards initially held up by Pennant’s contract. Despite his best efforts, one ageing superstar was never going to be enough as long as the grassroots remained parched.

A country for old men

Daniel Bennett remains the textbook definition of a dependable pro. At the age of 38 – and he’s 39 next month – he donned the national jersey once more to mind the gaps in the Lions’ back four.

Always professional, reliably unflappable, he delivered as best he could at the Suzuki Cup. In an ideal world, he might have watched the game from a sofa or a TV commentary box, but national coach V.Sundramoorthy was starved of fresh resources.

A year of interminable performances and dispiriting defeats against Cambodia and a Japanese university, among others, forced Sundram to return to the old guard.

If ever further evidence was needed that the Lions XII project was a failed experiment that steered attention, money and coaching support away from the S.League, it was the unmistakable decline of the Lions.

The Lions are still having to rely on the old guards

Bennett, like a number of other familiar faces, established their careers long before the Lions XII headed to Malaysia.

Bennett was a ‘baby’ of the S.League, along with Baihakki Khaizan (33 next month), Hassan Sunny (32), Mustafic Fahrudin (35) and even Khairul Amri (31).

It’s hardly the fault of the veterans for being among the most reliable performers in their respective positions, despite their losing battle with the clock. They were the unwitting beneficiaries of a stalled production line.

Rather than replenish dwindling S.League stocks, a quick-fix obsession with the Lions XII took hold.

And the knock-on effects were keenly felt at the Suzuki Cup. From the Lions XII to the proposed Asean Super League, that myopia may yet repeat itself.