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Why the ongoing FAS election row is shaming Singapore football

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In a cash-strapped industry, it seems inconceivable that such a vast sum could be poured into parched coffers without the full FAS Council noticing. 

And the most popular question doing the rounds on social media is perhaps the most valid – Should a national league on its knees really be donating funds to a regional programme, taking money out of the local game to finance an unknown project with unfamiliar objectives?

Who stands to benefit from a donation to the AFF?

Even Sport Singapore has rightly demanded a thorough explanation from the FAS, in a desperate bid to draw a line under the unsavoury affair

How does $500,000 of football money leaving Singapore help facilitate the S.League return of dormant, historical powerhouses such as Woodlands Wellington or Tanjong Pagar United?

And, it’s equally fair to ask, why were these legitimate concerns not raised at the point of transaction, rather than at a hastily assembled press conference less than two weeks from the FAS elections?

Even Sport Singapore, the governing body for all sports, has rightly demanded a full and thorough explanation from the FAS, in a desperate bid to draw a line under the unsavoury affair.

But the only question that needs to be asked – the only question that should be asked but seldom is in such situations – is what does any of this have to do with 11 men, women or children kicking a ball around?

The obvious answer is nothing. It never does. 

The unseemly episode confirms, yet again, that Singapore football is about administrators, not footballers, an upside-down interpretation of what constitutes a sports culture.

Surely the sport here needs those funds? Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

Thanks to the on-going farce, the names of Bill Ng and Winston Lee are now familiar to a general public that would struggle to name two S.League players at their neighbourhood club. 

It’s a mindset indicative of a white-collar emphasis that gives far too much face, credibility and attention to the man behind the desk in a neatly-pressed blazer than the scrawny kid shredding his hamstrings on a pockmarked pitch.

It’s an archaic, elitist prejudice that confuses the ability to put on a decent buffet spread at a corporate sports conference at Marina Bay Sands for a sports culture. 

It isn’t.

Singapore has always heavily publicised and championed those who climb the ladder in sports administration, whether it’s the FAS, the AFF, the Asian Football Confederation, FIFA or even the International Olympic Committee, as if that somehow compensates for a lack of success in the only place that really matters – the sporting arena itself.

Never has that warped view of sporting power been more apparent than in recent days, when the FAS election campaigning is focused entirely on the financial transactions of businessmen and corporate climbers.

They appear to be the only men who matter.

Once again, Singapore football spent a week not discussing Singapore football. 

The game itself, just like those who play, manage and watch it, remains utterly irrelevant.

Photos: FAS unless stated