|PHOTO by LATW Crew|
by Philip Goh Haw Hann
SINGAPORE - They drew curious stares from the sparse Orchard Road crowd. Dressed in their football jerseys, carrying scarves and flags, members of local fan group Lions All The Way (LATW) broke the quiet of a benign afternoon with their lusty singing, and catchy chants.
With workmen around them dismantling tentage for the New Year's Eve celebrations, around 35 LATW members assembled outside Ngee Ann City to proclaim the first day of 2012 as "Don't Forget Your S-League Day" (picture).
They fanned out to distribute a flyer that carried a Singapore map marking out the location and basic details of the S-League clubs.
Their message is simple: This is Singapore's own league and Singaporeans ought to step forward to support it.
With the S-League due to kick off in six weeks, diehard fans of local football are worried that the blanket coverage given to the LionsXII - due to begin their campaign in the Malaysia Super League in eight days - will have an adverse effect on the S-League that has struggled in recent seasons to attract spectators.
Never mind that Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin has said that the S-League remains a priority, and that the Harimau Muda, Malaysia's exciting under-22 side, will be one of the new teams for 2012.
The fans remain fearful that not enough is being done to ensure that the S-League will not be overshadowed by one Singapore flag bearer taking part in competitions across the border.
Ian Su, a 30-year-old graphic designer, helped to distribute the flyer and he thinks the S-League is the foundation of the national team.
"Without a good local league we cannot build strong national team," said Su who supports Hougang United. "We shouldn't be depending on participation in a foreign league to build up our football standards."
"Moreover, local football is so accessible for our fans here. And we should take inspiration from a country like Slovenia, which has a smaller population than Singapore but are able to qualify for the World Cup. If they can do it, so can we."
SAFFC supporter Shahrul Matin Rahmat found out about "Don't Forget the S-League Day" just days ago through the event's Facebook page and made it a point to turn up.
"I've always made an effort to tell my schoolmates to support local games because we get to see local football heroes playing in real life," said Shahrul. "I also have high hopes for the LionsXII team because I think they will be able to bring the fans back to supporting Singapore football."
Another attendee Kuris Seah wanted to help spread the word about local football, having witnessed how clubs from around the region are able to garner support from their fans.
Sporting a jersey autographed by all the players from the 2011 Albirex team, Seah thinks the media could do more to help promote the S-League.
"Instead of carrying so much news on the European leagues, we should have more local coverage to build up the awareness of the S-League," said Seah. "It would've been great to see players and officials from the clubs supporting our effort today but we're proud nonetheless to launch this initiative as supporters of the S-League."
Former manager of S-League side Woodlands Wellington R Vengadasalam made it a point to show his support for the initiative. The man better known as Venga echoes Seah's thoughts while praising the LATW's efforts.
"These are the very same kind of fans we used to attract many years ago who are passionate about local football and genuinely want to see the S-League succeed," said Venga.
"So much more can be done to generate interest for the S-League such as signing better quality foreign players, and by now the 2012 fixtures should be out and posted on the notice boards of every HDB estate.
"I've been to some M-League games in the past season and the football's not exactly great but it was a real carnival atmosphere and a superb match experience for the fans.
"This is what is lacking for our games at the moment and I hope with the LionsXII going to Malaysian competitions, there will be some spillover effect on the S-League and fans will start coming back to our own league." - (SOURCE)