Standing United in Hougang
Some of you might had read the following article from TODAY.
Talk about drastic measures to close another chapter in the long-line of name-change to the existence of the S League club based in Hougang Stadium.
Chairman Bill Ng had been the limelight of late with the issues of his deputy Winson Song taking over the reins at Woodlands Wellington yet under his tutelage as well as signaling the fact that the account books at Sengkang Punggol slowly but gradually turning black.
With the name change, moreso the identity of the club to be associated with the fans residing around the area, Mr Ng might had justified himself to set a new legacy as the perennial cellar-dwellers tried to improve in the standings in the years to come.
This also indicates that in time of financial crisis in the S League club scene with FAS already stating a cut in the budget for subsidy, the club looks to keep itself afloat, at least for the next season.
The New Identity
There was one particular forum dweller in Kallangroar.com who had been advocating for the establishment of Hougang United who at times sound very dubious.
Perhaps this particular gentleman will have his last laugh now that the club and ultimately S League committee had granted his wish; therefore he has no excuse not to support his hometown team in 2011. (After claiming to boycott the S League after Super Reds had been rejected entry in the 2010 season for Beijing Guoan talents before pledging his allegiance to Etoile FC)
Jakarta Casual had pointed out how clubs in Southeast Asia had indiscriminately tagging “United” in the club name so as to carve themselves as a footballing body, alike their counterparts in Europe, especially the British Isles.
Hougang United would make it a quarter of clubs in the 12 teams strong S League to enforce that notion and now with the dilemma of having the same acronyms as Home United FC which might be a headache of live telecast of matches on TV between both teams.
Nevertheless it still sounds better than Sengkang Punggol or Paya Lebar Kovan or whatever.
The club also decided to cast themselves off the marine mascot thing by adopting cheetahs as the new club mascot.
Dolphins proved to be too docile over the years while the incredulous season as Seahorses showed that you can’t just name yourselves from any creature you seen at Underwater World, unless you adopt more fearsome persona like mantra rays or great white sharks.
Feral mascot had also proved to be toothless in S League albeit their rank on the natural ecosystem food chain.
The Jaguars of Tanjong Pagar/Tiong Bahru had been a force to be reckon with early on but eventually subdued by financial problem while we all know how the Tigers of Balestier had only seen a resuscitation of fortunes on the pitch in the past season.
Cheetahs are fast and cerebral predators, let’s hope the new team lived up to the new persona and hope the almost similar pronunciation to “cheaters” would not bite back to them (luckily no Frederic Mendy in the books).
Changing of Personnel
There had been no news transpiring of any major changes in the backroom.
An aspiring young head coach like Aide Iskandar had displayed his ability over the course of the past one and half season in charge.
When his original plan to bank on a youthful squad turned awry, he managed to curb the rot by an astute recruitment program by bringing in a couple of experienced defenders.
With the fickle-minded nature of the local game, I hope the former national team skipper could be at least another season to allow him the good work from the backend of the previous season.
However he would be doing it without the likes of Kenji Arai and skipper Nor Azli Yusof, both of which had left for Home United.
It’s a pity that the Protectors were denied entry to next year’s AFC Cup tournament as the squad certainly bolstered including the 2 Sengkang Punggol alumni.
The only other notable departure heard so far would be long-serving goalkeeper Amos Boon who will joining Winson Song at Woodlands Wellington.
The whereabouts of the remainder of the 1st team squad remained unknown though I would assume at least 2 or 3 foreigners would be seeking greener pastures.
New recruits include former Tampines utility man Fathi Yunus, Gombak’s midfielder Fazli Jaffar, Home United’s second choice keeper Ridzuan Fatah and a player who was capped for Singapore not too long back, Syaqir Sulaiman from Balestier Khalsa.
The quartet might not be household names but can at least try to prove their worth in a rather thin squad.
2010 Season: A look back
I know I had mentioned a comprehensive write-out summary of the team’s performance for 2010 but I guess this will do.
An explosive start for the Dolphins with 2 wins and a draw in the opening 5 matches of the S League saw the team sitting pretty in mid table before the League Cup break.
A thrilling run including an awe-inspiring display over host SAFFC at Choa Chu Kang which easily was the highlight of the year saw the team swimmingly making into the final four of the league cup, against Etoile whom they nearly beaten in the S League tie 2 weeks before.
The French pulled their antics and the youthful looking Sengkang Punggol was knocked out by a slim 1-0 scoreline but managed to redeem themselves on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, beating Gombak United 2-1 with the Diallo brothers scoring.
Mamadou was the top scorer in the tournament with 4 goals in 5 matches.
Another league win against Woodlands away really got the local football fraternity sitting and paid attention but it was free fall from that point on.
By middle of the season, the team could only clinch another win (away at Young Lions) and results at home ground was appalling.
After Guinean striker Moussa Keita was “mysteriously” released due to work permit reason, three more foreign talents followed his footsteps.
Abdoulaye Diallo and Moussa’s replacement, Canadian striker Ryan Fante were made the scapegoats of the team’s poor run but their absence certainly would not be missed.
The biggest shock of all and the player I think was sorely missed was Murphy Wiredu who was leading the scoring chart in 2009 and had notched 3 goals prior to his release despite playing as a defensive midfielder the entire season.
In replacement came Kenji Arai who returned from his escapade from the beach resorts of Goa in India as well as NFL-quality players like Iranian Moshee and Korean Ahn Jae-Chul.
Kenji built a sound defense alongside another recent recruit Ratna Suffian to lift the team with a decent run of 3 wins and 3 draws in the final stretch including a morale-boosting 2-2 draw away at title-chasing Home United.
With the fracas between Beijing & Young Lions saw them deducting 5 points each, there was a chance to overtake the Chinese team into an unprecedented 10th placing in the final game of the season.
Somehow things came short as it had been was expectations were laid on the team for the past few seasons.
Nevertheless still a record number of points attained in the Sengkang Punggol era though it could be so much better at times.
There had been intermittently good personal performances from the likes of Mamadou Diallo, Jordan Webb and even cards-collecting Shahir Hamzah but accolades had to be given to a couple of players whom to me really impressed the whole season long.
Fadhil Salim, a former Singapore international was genuinely a good goalkeeper in between the caliber of Hassan Sunny/ Sharil Jantan and those of Fajar Sarib/ Joey Sim et al.
His service was deemed surplus at Gombak United but his recruitment was warmly welcomed and he slipped in comfortably to fix a problem plaguing the team since the beginning of time: the goalkeeping.
Fadhil had singlehandedly bailed out the team the entire season and he alone accounted for at least half the points earned.
Another luminary to be mentioned is leftback Duncan Elias David.
Duncan came through the Prime League squad back in 2008 and played his fair share of S League games in attack with other contemporaries like Sobrie Mazelan and Fairoz Hasan.
While the other two at least showed an eye for attack, Duncan looked bewildered despite assuming an attacking midfielder role.
Therefore one could not fault us to raise our eyebrows to see him promoted proper into the first team in the stellar line-up including Indra Sahdan and Noh Rahman.
However Duncan sat out the entire season of 2009 without even making his mark in the Prime League squad; we all felt time was up for the 25 year-old.
Somehow coach Aide saw something in Duncan which we do not and when he started playing in the first eleven in the pre-season in an unfamiliar leftback position, little would one imagine that Duncan would become a key player for the entire 2010.
His cultured left foot and exemplary delivery from the left flank always caused oppositions’ defense problem and from his set-pieces, the team went on to clinched a few important goals. He nearly got one from the spot as well if not for the ball to hit the upright.
If only he had a bit more pace and learn to defend better, he would be a rare breed of good left back in local game sorely misses.
The changing of the club persona perhaps is subliminal for this blog to come to its due.
There are 3 objectives of this blog:
1. Provide the latest and most accurate information concerning the club and its players.
2. Provide our point of view in terms of the performance of the team in the matches played.
3. Serve as a forum for fellow supporters of the club to drop by and share their views.
Somehow as time passes, we failed to meet the first 2 objectives.
Information passing through the club and S League on the whole is a hush-hush affair, concealed behind a veil somehow.
If there is something unsavory that the authorities do not want you to know, you will never know.
Even things like players movement or signings will only be made known until the full list was submitted for registration, by then it is nothing exclusive to be address here.
Of course we had never want to be aligning ourselves with the club nor the organization, maintaining our stance to keep ourselves out of the loop to retain our freedom to post what we truly want to address without the regular censures, therefore we definitely cannot give up the most up to date information.
At the same time, personally I am getting less and less compelled to attend live matches which could be due to a myriad of reasons which you might had known along the course of the past 2 seasons.
Therefore whatever information I posted are based on official reports from Sleague.com which certainly defeats any purpose of maintaining a fan blog.
It would be prevalent to be tagged “fair-weather” or ditching the game at its lowest ebb but one have to agree the doldrums local football is suffering now is running its course with the seed of this problem growing for years now.
It is always a vicious cycle in which without public appeal to support the local game, the sponsors would steer clear their path.
Without sponsors, there would be less money for the game thus less money could be spend to attract better caliber of players and thus the game became stagnated with always the same faces which the supporters grew weary of over time.
There is definitely a need for star appeal in the league.
The likes of Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy are icons who do not have any parallels in this generation.
We definitely need icons in the football scene for people to clamor about and for aspiring young footballers to look up to; I wonder if it is down to packaging or raw talent, but somehow the Football Association definitely has a part to play.
Reducing the foreign teams and keeping fixtures to a more consistent schedule (i.e. Friday-Saturday-Sunday) would certainly be welcomed though one would argue it incurs more cost as well.
Perhaps staying away the choppy production of Mediacorp and give Starhub the full rights since they did a real fantastic job covering 2009 League Cup competition which really is of a better quality.
If the authorities are resisting to alter their mindsets and people just stay away, then perhaps we could be heading towards semi-professionalism in football as it was back in the 1980s again.
Anyway enough rambling about Singapore football, I would say over the course of 2 years we had met some really nice people in the scene I want to give a shout out to.
Mr Ben Lim, Sengkang Punggol’s former chairman, had always been supportive of us back in 2009 before relinquishing his role.
Mr Ko Po Hui, a luminary in the small world of Singapore football blogging, definitely has an undying passion for the game and is affable and always willing to share information.
Mr Bryan Lim, now the Sporting Director of Trebol Sports International, who gave us an insight of the local game when we first started the blog; I hope he could really bring in some decent foreign talents to our local game in the future.
There are many other supportive and friendly fellow supporters of Sengkang Punggol and Singapore football we had met along the way but of course as of other blogs of such nature, we seems to draw criticisms and even threats for claiming that we had insinuated baseless accusations and whatnot.
There are also “spammers” who undermined the information we just want to share in our point of view.
At the end of the day, I am glad our conscience remains clear and we managed to stick to our we had set out to do from the beginning.
If our words had been too strong over the past 2 years, we do not mean to offend anyone personally.
I will still keep an eye of the progress of Hougang United in 2011 and the seasons that follow as well as trying my best to stand behind Singapore football on the whole, even though in my own passive manner.
All the best to the club and S League!