EPL fans in a league of their own

EPL fans in a league of their own

Under the sweltering mid-afternoon heat, the Manchester derby was played out in front of a noisy crowd.

As the fans belted out time-honoured football chants and hurled abuse from the sidelines, crunching tackles flew in from players decked top-to-toe in club colours.

But the likes of Wayne Rooney or Sergio Aguero - and their jaw-dropping football skills - were nowhere to be seen. And even though the supporters were vociferous, there were only 50 of them around the barren secondary school field in Singapore.

For this was no English Premier League (EPL) match, but the season opener of the Singapore EPL Fan Club League last month.

The players are all registered members of the respective supporters' clubs here and, in the name of fun and friendship, eight teams square off every fortnight in the round-robin 11-a-side competition.

From just four sides in its first season in 2010, the league has grown into a seven-month campaign, with some teams even organising pre-season trials and regular training sessions to gain a competitive edge.

"The tournament was meant to bring Singapore EPL fans together outside of their usual fan club screenings - but it's grown into something more meaningful and exciting than that," said league founder John Hirst, a British expat who has lived in Singapore for more than a decade.

A central committee of volunteers manage fixtures and administrative matters, while teams split the costs of booking pitches and referees.

Bragging rights aside, every club gets a trophy at the end of the season.

The champions, of course, receive the biggest one. And Manchester United's fan club, United for United, have claimed that honour for the past two years, and are again leading the table, winning all three of their matches so far this season.

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