Thursday, January 21, 2016


Ex Gooner Pennant To Tampines Rovers

Jermaine Pennant at Tampines Rovers? Ex Arsenal, ex Liverpool, once England’s most expensive teenager when Arsene Wenger signed him for 2 million quid while he was 15 years old, now aged 32, just what the hell is he doing in Singapore and is it a good deal for the Stags, now with a new chairman and desperate to regain the SLeague they have seen go elsewhere in the last two seasons.

Obviously Pennant is not at the end of the career and obviously his career has not panned out as perhaps many had anticipated way back when Wenger had signed him from Notts County for that hefty sum. A hat trick for the Arsenal ahead of an FA Cup Final appearance portended well for a bright future but it was not to be.

Now older and wiser and, perhaps significantly, spurned by English clubs since being released by Wigan Athletic has Pennant’s career really reached such an impasse Singapore is all that was left?

And could that be good news for the SLeague? Let’s be honest. The Football Association of Singapore have all but given up on the city state’s premier competition. For three years their attention was on LionsXII and the Malaysia adventure. Now that has been ended they have their eyes set upon the glory and prestige that is the ASEAN Super League and whatever that may entail. The SLeague is of little interest to them and you get the impression if just quietly exited stage left few tears would be shed at Jalan Besar.

Luckily the clubs seem to have different ideas and following a season where the major trophies were won by foreign teams and they have grasped the nettle with some ambitious moves in the transfer market. They could hardly do anything else what with the windfall of the best players in the country suddenly appearing on the market with the demise of LionsXII and the apparent lack of interest in many of the players going overseas.

Clubs have been busy strengthening with Tampines leading the way with a number of high profile recruits. But it is Pennant who raises the bar. Not because of any issues he may have faced over the years but because of the clubs he has played for over that career. Arsenal. Liverpool. A generation of Singaporeans have grown up knowing who he is and have seen him play in coffee shops across the island.

Jermaine Pennant is box office in a way no other signing in recent years has been and has the pedigree to raise a spark of interest in the local game among a populace in love with a football of names and personalities and not history and tradition. Pennant played for Liverpool...that alone is surely enough to rouse the public from their slumbers?

The signing for the winger is a massive statement from the Stags, a vote of confidence in the future of the SLeague that is neither shared by the FAS nor many in the country. Could it be a game changer? Could Pennant open the door to other ‘name’ players coming to Singapore to leave their footprint on a game that us seen as dying if not already receiving the last rites.

Handled correctly Pennant has the star dust quality that could raise the masses from their EPL induced myopia and focus some attention on what really matters...the local league. Pennant may think he has come to play football and as a footballer his signing is a spectacular coup for Tampines Rovers. But there is more. If his signing is matched by one or two other clubs who may have the vision to think out of the box who knows, perhaps we may, just may, see the buds of a local football revival.

Friday, January 08, 2016


Singapore - 2015 Report Card

When incompetence is the norm there is little the rest of us can do but shrug our shoulders and cling blindly to the fantasy that one day, perhaps we won't see that day, things will get better. A dream yes and one we must cling to but we have little else, not with the malaise that envelopes so much of South East Asian football. Yes, there are some bright spots on the field with the likes of Johor Darul Tazim, Izwan Mahbud providing some cheer but the incompetence is inbuilt on high, it is a culture, it is a cancer and it attracts only those who seek to stick their beaks in the trough.

Singapore lurches from one PR disaster to another. In 2014 there were 12 SLeague teams. This year there will be nine as the league hemorrhages sides. We lost Woodlands Wellington, supposedly merging with Hougang United but yet to happen, and Tanjong Pagar United before a ball was kicked in anger and with the promise of a stronger league for having fewer clubs we have seen foreign sides dominate the SLeague, winning all three trophies. How can this happen and people not feel embarrassed? It is like Swansea winning the Premier League, Cardiff City lifting the FA Cup and Newport County winning the League Cup. It is akin to Berwick Rangers winning however many trophies there are on offer in Scotland.

It should be clear by now of course no-one at the FAS gives a toss about the SLeague. The talk of strategic plans is just that, talk, and the reality is nothing is done to promote the league among the population. It is a shame because I enjoy the SLeague but the organisers have become such a laughing stock all the hard work being done by players and coaches is soon undone by the antics of the men in suits who make the real decisions.

Outside of Singapore no one gives a toss about the ASEAN Super League. Yet the good people at Jalan Besar are pinning their hopes on this pie in the sky to the detriment of their own league. When LionsXII were kicked out of Malaysia, was that part of the strategic plan I wonder (of course not, the FAS found out online) talk returned yet again to the great ASL myth and how the SLeague can be a feeder league for the same way the SLeague acted as a feeder league for the LionsXII I guess.

With such uncertainty over the make up of the league each season, with no guarantee any club will be playing it is little wonder players are looking outside the game for job security and that should be seen as a further massive humiliation to the FAS, explicit proof they are failing in their duty to develop football.

Players like Irfan Fandi, Hassan Sunny, Izwan and Safuwan Bahrudin have done their country proud throughout 2015. It is a shame their efforts aren't rewarded by them suits who are actually responsible for the development of the local game.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


FAS Cling On To ASEAN Super League Wish

Just when it seemed Singapore's obsession with the proposed ASEAN Super League could get no more manic comes news the SLeague could become a feeder league for the ASL!

The FAS it seems continue to cling to this ridiculous notion that the ASL is a knight in shining armour astride a majestic fire breathing steed riding to the rescue of Singapore football but this obsession is offering little in the way of rescue and much in the way of ridicule.

Apparently after a 12 month review the FAS have discovered all 'stakeholders' agree a strong national team is a must and the ASL is an important part of that ambition. Therefore, so goes the twisted logic out of Jalan Besar, the SLeague needs to find its place in the eco-system to support a strong ASL side.

Which is different from the recent LionsXII experiment in Malaysia how exactly?

To compound their lack of football knowledge they then cite the example of Belgium and its little known league. It may be little known to those people but those who know about football know about clubs like Anderlecht and Club Brugges.

If these people don't give a toss about the SLeague, and it's obvious they don't, then perhaps they are the ones who should step down and bring in people with experience, expertise and ability. They insist all members nations are behind the ASL but a league featuring the likes of development sides and age groups teams is no league at all.

What are they smoking?


Tampines Offer Pennant Trial

Arsenal signed him as a 16 year old and paid 2 million quid. He later played for Liverpool and made a number of appearances for England Under 23. Now, just days shy of his 33rd birthday Jermain Pennant's career has hit a new low. He must prove himself over a week long trial to secure a deal with SLeague side Tampines Rovers.

Previously Pennant had an unsuccessful trial with Muang Thong United.

Although I don't have my handbooks with me, Pennant is just the latest in a long list of Arsenal players from the end of the 1990s, early 2000s to have tried his luck in South East Asia.

Others include Oliver Nicholas, Rhema Obed, Jay Simpson, Jay Bothroyd, Rhys Weston...I am sure there are others and they will come to me later!

Anyway, back to Pennant. He is at a pretty good age still and does have plenty of experience. Would he have the angel dust to attract the EPL junkies to the odd game though?

In more Tampines news, they have signed ex LionsXII keeper Izwan Mahbud ahead of the new season. He had previously trialed in Japan and there was talk Chonburi were interested but instead has gone local, signing for Sundram who worked with him at LionsXII back in 2013.


Indonesia's Revolving Door

With serious Indonesian football still in lock down a number of players continue to look enviously abroad for a way out while one player has seemingly turned his back on an overseas league.

Achmad Jufriyanto recently had an unsuccessful trial with Terengganu in Malaysia and while he is now back in Indonesia has not yet shut the door on a move overseas should the opportunity arise.

One player who has upped sticks and gone abroad is Titus Bonai. The former Sriwijaya striker has signed for Kanbawza in the Myanmar National League where he may well bump into some familiar faces. Aly Camara for example had a stint with PSIM more than a decade ago while fellow Indonesian Dedi Gusmawan plays for the wonderfully named Zeyashwemye.

Okta Maniani on the other hand has impressed during his trial with PKNS in Malaysia. Despite his good performances the club sound pessimistic about signing the one time international. 'Octo is a good player, but we are worried about the technical issues if we sign him. The Indonesian FA are having problems with FIFA right now, and we are worried he would not get a quick clearance to play for PKNS.

'If we can get the assurance that there will not be any problems or delays for his transfer certificate, then we will definitely consider signing him on,' said coach Elavarasan.

While some of the cannier players look abroad for options at least one player is keen to return home. Victor Igbonefo, a naturalised defender, spent part of last year on loan at Osotspa in Thailand and looked to be staying in the land of smiles with Siam Navy. Now it seems he has decided to return to Indonesia and has returned to Arema despite the uncertainty.


A 2nd President Cup On The Cards?

It may seem an odd thing to say but the proposed second edition of the President Cup is not a good idea. Yes I know, the last one, won by Persib in the final against Sriwijaya in Jakarta in front of 60,000 fans, seemed to be such a success but remember why it was even held at all. Because Indonesian football is banned by FIFA and cannot engage in any meaningful competition.

A President Cup in 2016 suggests little is being done to return Indonesia to the football family.

The draws for the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League have already been held and Indonesian clubs are noticeable by their absence. Players and coaches are finally coming to terms with the negative impact the suspension is having on their career and looking overseas to further their careers with destinations from the predictable, Malaysia, to the less predictable like Myanmar and Bahrain.

A recent meeting between the organisers of the competition and the president was apparently focussed on the President Cup but little if anything was discussed about the PSSI and that is surely where action needs to be taken if football is to escape its latest malaise.

As an interesting aside the owner of Inter Milan just happens to be behind the organisers of the President Cup. With this involvement is he breaking FIFA sanctions by being involved in football in a suspended country? Does it matter anyway? FIFA is little more than a paper tiger at times and has taken no action in the past when foreigners played in Indonesia's rebel league for example.

Anyway, that aside. It looks like football fans can look forward to a year filled with more of these daft competitions and sod all else.

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