Get set for a football fever

Get set for a football fever
FAS president Zainudin Nordin.

Never mind Singapore's mission to go to the Fifa World Cup. The World Cup could be coming here instead.

At their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) revealed its plan to host the 2019 Fifa Under-17 World Cup. FAS president Zainudin Nordin said the association is in discussions with key partners, including Fifa and Sport Singapore, as it works to prepare a detailed proposal to host the biennial event. That was one of two big announcements at the meeting; the other being the prospective launch of the ASEAN Super League (ASL) at the start of 2016.

Zainudin revealed that Singapore will send one team to compete in the ASL and, in due course, withdraw the LionsXII from the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

In the initial agreement signed with the Football Association of Malaysia in 2011, the LionsXII's stint in club competitions across the Causeway will end with the 2015 season.

"We need to realise that it is unimaginable for us not to be part of the ASL, especially when all the other FAs in the region are competing," he told The New Paper, on the sidelines of the AGM last night.

BALANCE

"So, we must find a balance. It's fair to say that if we are in the ASL in 2016, it would just be that and the S.League.

"We will have to review our participation in the MSL and we'll decide on that when the time comes."

On Singapore's bid to host the U-17 World Cup, Zainudin, whose term as president runs out next year, said that FAS vice-presidents Bernard Tan and Edwin Tong have been tasked to lead the effort.

Tan (right), who is widely tipped to succeed Zainudin as president next year, said the emphasis of the bid is not just to host the event - but also to develop a proper pipeline of footballers for the future.

Said Tan: "We want to use the tournament to lead Singapore football to the next level. The key is to prepare our kids, starting from now, all through the primary school level. "We must prepare and train them at a very young age, so that when they reach 12 years old and begin competitive football, we have a wide talent pool of skilled youngsters."

Tan drew on the example of Japan, who hosted the U-17 tournament in 1993. That class of players later went on to become the first Japanese side to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.

"It shows that if we train our youth properly, success will come (at senior level)," added Tan.

Tong identified the three key objectives of hosting the World Cup: building proper facilities which could be used long after the five-week tournament, promoting interest in football from the grassroots level and building a team which will eventually be competitive at senior level.

The tournament would require around six football-specific stadia, with the new 55,000-seater National Stadium as the main venue.

"We need to ensure that hosting the event will leave a lasting legacy and position us for more successes, including qualification for subsequent editions of the competition on merit," Tong said.

"If we don't win the bid for 2019, we will plan for the next tournament in 2021." Bidding will begin only after Fifa elections in May 2015.

Since its inception in 1985, three Asian countries - China, South Korea and United Arab Emirates - have hosted the tournament. If successful in its bid, the Singapore team poised to compete in 2019 will comprise many youth players currently in FAS' Junior Centres of Excellence (COEs), from the Under-8s to -12s.

SHOT IN THE ARM

The ASL project received a shot in the arm recently, after all the FAs in the region agreed to get on board, according to Zainudin.

The league - it will be an international ASEAN club competition - will span around 10 months, and could comprise up to a maximum of 18 teams, with the bigger countries sending in two entrants.

Zainudin, who heads the committee that is working on the ASL blueprint, will head off to Fifa in a couple of weeks to see if the world body approves the plan.

As it will be imperative for both the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and the ASL to co-exist, he has asked S.League CEO Lim Chin to work out new initiatives designed to that end.

"We have one year of planning ahead of us, but I've already asked Lim Chin to see how the S.League and the ASL can work together," he said.

"We have to come up with an ecosystem to make this happen. It might not be smooth sailing in the first year, but eventually it will get there. "The S.League chairmen are supportive about the ASL - they understand the benefits on a macro level.

"Of course, there are concerns, but let's work together to come up with an ideal solution."

We will continue to actively utilise the football development fund to identify and send potential and talented players, coaches, referees and staff for overseas attachments to enhance their capabilities and capacities. - FAS president Zainudin Nordin (left), on shortlisting youth players who may be placed on overseas attachments with European clubs next year.


This article was first published on September 13, 2014.
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