Monday, October 5, 2009

Asian History - New Start

From the period after 1993 onwards when Singapore no longer had any representatives in any of the Asian club competitions, the Asian Club Championship and Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, Asia underwent changes with the Asian region divided into West and East and clubs in each region only meeting from the semi-final stage onwards.

More importantly though were the waves of changes sweeping Asia especially after the birth of the professional J-League in Japan in 1993; which saw the rise of Japan as an Asian powerhouse and the rest of East Asia quickly caught the ‘professional league’ bug with almost every Asian nations deciding that this was the only way forwards. Professional leagues were formed in the hope they could create a whole new football future. In West Asia, it was the ‘Saudi’ bug as boasted by Saudi Arabia impressive performances in World Cup USA 94, other countries in the Gulf region quick followed its example in pumping huge amounts of money into developing their domestic league.

At the same time, it also had the negative effect of downgrading the Asian club competitions with each nation seemly more interested now in developing their own domestic league first.

In Singapore, it did not really matter, as the story was totally different in the island republic.

Singapore clubs football was much like in the Dark Ages when all development elsewhere had no effects. Clubs were instead more affected by the fact that the Singapore National Team was in the Malaysian League and draining away all the funds and players thus stalling any development of local football at the grassroots level.

Therefore it was with much relief for the local clubs when in 1995 FAM finally came to a decision with FAS to pull Singapore National Team out of the Malaysian League again for the second time in Malaysian football history.

The birth of a new professional league in Singapore was now unavoidable. It was not just to nurture the future of Singapore football but also to ensure its own survival as well.

With the rest of Asia catching the J-league and Saudi bugs, anymore delay would cause Singapore football more harm than already done by years of underdevelopment in the local football scene (A fact FAS should be ashamed as before 1995 FAS totally neglect their duties to develop local football as their track record will show).

In 1996, the S-league was born and the first ever champion was Geylang United (New name of Geylang International).

While that was the step in the right direction, that was a big difference between why Singapore set up the S-league and why the rest of Asia set up their own professional league. In Singapore, it was a case of no other alternative and right from the start, the aims and objectives were wrong as the S-league was not set up to replace Malaysia Cup history but create its own Singapore history.

It should not have been a case of no other alternative but rather like J-league it should have been for the long haul; which is to develop Singapore football to the next level.

Therefore, it is no surprise that S-league suffered as in the rush to give birth to the S-league, old ideas were not wept away with the worst of them ingrained in certain clubs, they were more than content with local fare, having no wish to venture beyond the shore of the S-league viewing it as a complete waste of time.

This negative thinking meant Singapore football remained in a tight corner despite having our own professional league.

Fortunately, by the end of New Start era, the emergence of far thinking clubs like Home United brought new hope into the New Era stage where it will be needed with AFC wanting to bring a new emphasis back into Asian Club competition.

Taken into context the way NFL and SPL had totally ignored Asian Club competitions, the New Start era can be viewed as a positive time for this time it looked as though S-league clubs will be in it for the long haul and the efforts taken this time will not be wasted like in the past.

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