S-League: Much ado about the Golden Boot

Aleksandar Duric.

SINGAPORE - It has never been done in any league competition before.

But Tampines Rovers striker Aleksandar Duric feels that it is only right for the S-League to name this season's top scorer as soon as the first round of matches conclude.

For the first time in its 18-year history, the SLeague has been split into two phases.

After the first round of home and away matches over 22 games - the league will split into two groups.

A half round of matches will follow, with the top six playing each other - five matches each - and the clubs in the bottom half battling each other - also five matches each.

Speaking to The New Paper, former Singapore star Duric feels that the system is unfair in the race for the Golden Boot award.

The 43-year-old leads the scorers' chart with 13 goals, two ahead of Tanjong Pagar's Monsef Zerka, followed by six other players on 10 goals.

Said Duric: "Some players will play against weaker opposition while others play against better teams. So where is the fairness when you decide on the top scorer," he pointed out.

"Zerka will be playing against Home United and Albirex. But (Warriors striker) Mislav Karoglan (10 goals) can score two or three goals against teams like the Courts Young Lions.

"I think the league should decide on the top scorer after 22 games. Maybe even the Player of the Year award, as well."

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Duric, winner of the top scorers' award from 2007 to 2009, is not alone in his opinion.

Geylang player-assistant coach Mohd Noor Ali also said the S-League's new format complicates the awards system.

He said: "In the NBA, the MVP (most valuable player) and top scorers are announced and awarded before the playoffs.

"That's because not all the teams reach the playoff round. They have to select the best performers based on a level-playing field.

"The play-offs have their own awards at the end of the championship. Maybe the S-League can do that as well."

The Scottish Premier League has been using the same format as the S-League since 2007.

Golden Boot and Player of the Year winners are announced only after the second phase ends.

The system has not come without criticism, however.

Former Rangers manager Walter Smith branded the format as "unfair", while ex-Scotland boss Craig Levein labelled it as "rubbish" and "nonsense". In response, director of operations for the S-League Kok Wai Leong defended the split format.

He said: "The current S-League season is one of the most competitive in recent years, as evident from the fact that only 10 points separate the second and eighth-placed teams after 21 matches.

"Teams are grouped based on their performance at the end of the (first phase) and we can expect keen competition from teams in their respective groupings.

"Hence, there is no reason to speculate that the new format will adversely affect any player's chance of clinching the Top Scorer or Player of the Year Award."

Tanjong Pagar midfielder John Wilkinson said he had not given the issue much thought but, when told of Duric's views, said that his former SAFFC teammate had a point.

"The new format will take some of the gloss off the award. Then again, so does Duric winning it every year," he quipped.

"No league in the world awards a top scorer when there are still a few games left to play." Karoglan declined to comment on how the SLeague should determine the award winner.

"But I must agree with Aleks," he said.

"However, you must tell him that I have not scored against the Young Lions this year."

aakasim@sph.com.sg


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