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33rd ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE 

TUESDAY, 29 DECEMBER 2015, 6:00PM 

LEVEL 3 VIP LOUNGE, JALAN BESAR STADIUM 

ADDRESS BY MR ZAINUDIN NORDIN, 

PRESIDENT, FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

 

Introduction 

1. A very good evening, Council Members, Club Representatives, Affiliates, Sponsors, Friends of Singapore football, Ladies & Gentlemen. 

2. Welcome to the 33 rd Annual General Meeting of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). 

3. First, I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude to all of you for the support and commitment which played a key role in the growth and progress of Singapore football during the past few years. Without the support and hard work of our stakeholders and partners, including the fans, volunteers, ExCo and Council members, clubs and officials, sponsors, government agencies, media and everyone in this room, we would not have been able to achieve most of our targets set out in our 2010-2015 Strategic Plan. 

4. Time flies. It was 5½ years ago when we launched the Strategic Plan 2010- 2015. The Plan, which was endorsed by FIFA, AFC, Sport Singapore (then known as Singapore Sports Council) and several other organisations, spelt out nine Key Strategic Areas and the respective programmes aimed at enhancing the standards of Singapore football at all levels. The Key Strategic Areas include Football Development, Football Excellence, Football Competition and Football Leadership and Management.

5. Please allow me to quote Mr Bob Gambardella, Chief of Sport Development & Singapore Sports Institute, Sport Singapore, who commented in 2010: “FAS had, in my opinion, produced a well thought out, very integrated plan that clearly articulates the direction that the sport is headed for the future. FAS has clearly outlined the 9 strategic areas to move the sport forward in meeting the demands of 21st century sports. (It is) clearly a very comprehensive document which will serve as a road map from the present date to 2015.”

6. Over the past few years, we invited leading football officials and personnel to assess the ongoing implementation of the Strategic Plan, including FIFA’s then-Technical Director Jean-Michel Bénézet, Austrian Football Association Technical Director Willi Ruttensteiner, FIFA's Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca and former England Under-21 coach Brian Eastick. While we are encouraged by the positive assessments of our programmes, we also considered and implemented, whenever possible, their recommendations in phases. 

7. It has been a long and fruitful journey and we have achieved good progress in key areas of the Strategic Plan – as noted by international officials including Japan Football Association vice-president and FIFA Executive Committee member Kohzo Tashima, French Football Federation Vice President Bernard Desumer and the media, including The New Paper.

8. As the media pointed out, our annual budget is a fraction of our neighbouring Member Associations’ budgets. Hence, I am deeply heartened and encouraged to note the comments of former national coach and current AFC Elite coaching instructor Vincent Subramaniam who said in 2014: “FAS has achieved so much with so little.”

9. Notwithstanding the positive progress we have achieved in general, there are areas for improvements. We have conducted a review of our work during the past five years and have identified the key learning points. We are now finalising the details of the new Strategic Plan and will share the key details within the next quarter.

10. I will now recap the Key Strategic Areas and Programmes we have worked on during the past few years.


Highlights of FAS Strategic Plan 2010-2015

Football Leadership and Management

11. Strong leadership is key to the success of any organisation, and I am very pleased to note that FAS has achieved much in Leadership and Management over the past few years. In addition to having a strong voice at governing bodies including FIFA – where FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong serves as the deputy chairman of its Disciplinary Committee – and the AFC, we have also scored well in reviews and audits conducted by external parties, including Sport Singapore’s Organisational Excellence (OE) Review.

12. In a move which reiterates its confidence and trust in our management, football’s world governing body FIFA selected Singapore as the first country in the world to introduce the FIFA Connect system. It was not a simple task, but the project was successfully launched and stakeholders in Singapore such as the clubs are already using it to manage their records online. You could say that in terms of digital information management in world football, we are the Pioneer Generation.

13. Our administrators and personnel, including referees, are held in high regard by the international community and they flag the Singapore flag high whenever they represent us at international events and meetings. This is why we will always place a strong emphasis on bringing on-board qualified, committed and honest personnel, both in administration and technical fields, who can add value to Singapore football.

14. During the past 12 months, we have recruited key personnel including Technical Director Michel Sablon, who is widely credited for revamping the youth development system in Belgium which is today FIFA’s top-ranked international team, Richard Tardy and Guy Martens – both of whom have strong experience and credentials in European football. Apart from these technical personnel, we have also brought on-board Benjamin Tan and Julie Teo – both of whom were previously the Heads of Department at the AFC and would play specific key roles in raising the standards of Singapore football.

15. We also welcomed FIFA referee Muhammad Taqi to the FAS Referees Department. Taqi, who has been shortlisted by FIFA as one of the potential match officials for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, will help to mentor and train our young referees.

16. I am pleased to announce today that we will soon be appointing a Head of JCOE/Club Academies/Singapore Football Academies (SFA), who will work closely with Michel to implement a single playing philosophy for Singapore football.

17. Apart from this Head of JCOE/Club Academies/NFA, we are also finalising a Coach, National Youth Teams, who will take charge of the Under-17 team. More details of these two appointments and other developments in youth football will be announced by Michel sometime in the next quarter.

18. Going forward, the support and resources made available through the partnership with MP & Silva will better enable us to attract more men and women of quality and good character.

Football Participation: Grassroots and Women’s/Girls Football

19. One of our key strategies to widen the talent pool is through an increase in football participation at the junior and youth levels. Under the first phase of our grassroots strategy, we actively worked with the Ministry of Education to increase the number of schools teams in recent years. The recent launch of the FAS Cubs Grassroots Football programme, which allows children aged 6-12 to play football even if they have not been selected for their school teams, or if their schools do not offer football as a CCA, marks the second phase of our strategy aimed at expanding the base of primary school players. Spearheaded by Vice-President Bernard Tan and Technical Director Michel Sablon, the programme currently involves more than 200 children across six Cubs Centres.

20. The children are being trained by coaches who have undergone a Grassroots Coaching Course, guided by the Grassroots Coaching Manual introduced by Michel. We have since conducted three Grassroots Coaching courses and have now certified 100 Grassroots Coaches to help with this programme. We will be looking to grow this number as we increase the number of participants. The response from the children and their parents has been very positive, and we are well on track to meeting our target of reaching 15,600 children at 130 FAS-run and FAS-led Cubs Centres and schools by 2020.

21. Another area we have been focusing on has been Women’s/ Girls’ football. We are pleased to note that we had 350 women participating in the Women’s Premier League, Women’s Challenge Cup and the Women’s Youth League, which is newly launched this year. The FAS Cubs Programme also has a special focus on girls, with three of the Centres being all-girls centres. We believe that with more girls having the opportunity to play football, our talent pool will increase and the number of women footballers will also grow over time. We are also happy to note that the parents of our boys and girls are actively involved in their children’s participation in football. This is one of our key objectives: to use football to bond families.

Football Development: Youth Development and Coach Education

22. Of course, we do not expect children – whether they are boys or girls – to develop themselves into top players. We have done a lot of work in the past few years on this aspect, beginning with the implementation of the National Football Syllabus in 2011 under former Technical Director Slobodan Pavkovic. At last year’s AGM, I announced that Slobodan had resigned, and that we would be hiring a world-class Technical Director.

23. We believe we have delivered on this promise by welcoming Michel Sablon on board in April this year. Michel is renowned for revolutionising the youth development structure in Belgium that led to the current golden generation of Belgian players playing in the world’s top leagues, and bringing Belgium to first in the FIFA World Rankings.

24. Since he came on board, Michel has further refined and strengthened our youth development structure and programmes, including the National Football Syllabus. Michel will present the improved National Football Syllabus (NFS) next year along with other changes to improve the youth development structure in Singapore. This will include having a total of 10 Junior Centres of Excellence in 2016, which will translate to an even wider pool of players who are exposed to higher quality coaching and a better standard of play.

25. The JCOE was first launched in 2009 and a few years later, we are seeing the results of the programme. Our current Under-13 players, who had graduated from the JCOE programme, have been assessed by Michel as being comparable to European standards at the same age. He has said that with the right training and resources, they will be able to compete with their Japanese peers in five years.

26. Like any forward-looking organisation, we are always looking at ways to further raise our standards – whether in terms of our programmes or structures. As mentioned a moment ago, we will soon appoint a Head of JCOE/Club Academies/Singapore Football Academies to support Michel in implementing the newly enhanced NFS to all teams at youth level. This will ensure a single playing philosophy at a young age, which will benefit the national teams in the long term.

27. Over the past few years, we have been sending our youth footballers on overseas training stints to expose them to international standards. In March, we sent Benjamin Davies, Hami Syahin and Muhelmy Suhaimi to French club FC Metz, which boasts a much-vaunted youth system that has produced players such as Robert Pirès, Louis Saha, Emmanuel Adebayor and Papiss Cissé, among others. Three months later, we sent another three young footballers – Muhammad Nur Adam, Mohamad Hamizan and Elijah Lim – to J.League team Matsumoto Yamaga FC, thanks to our sponsorship agreement with Epson.

28. Moving forward, we will work with our partners, including the schools, to secure longer-term attachments, for periods of 6 months to more than a year – to better aid the development of not just our players, but also our coaches.

29. The enhancement of coach education is another important aspect of Michel’s responsibilities. We are proud to be the first Member Association in South East Asia to host the AFC Pro-Diploma course.

30. We currently have 20 local AFC Pro-Diploma holders, which is the highest number in Southeast Asia despite our small size. We are proud of this, and will keep working to improve coaches’ capabilities and capacities. Our coaching course will also be upgraded and improved in accordance with the ambition of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to raise the standards of all coaching course a higher level in Southeast Asia. To this end, the team is looking to introduce a Coaching Academy, the first of its kind in the region, to provide regular training and to groom more local elite coaches and instructors in the various fields, including goalkeeping, fitness and conditioning. Details of this academy will be released at a later time.

31. In addition to overseas study visits and mentorship programmes, we will continue to explore ways to enhance the knowledge of our existing coaches, as well as attract new coaches and expose them to a quality education in football training.

32. Despite the positive progress in youth development, we cannot, and will not, rest on our laurels. Michel and his team have identified some gaps in the existing youth leagues, and we will be introducing a new format to enable more players from schools to participate in the leagues together with NFA and club youth teams. This will further widen the number of players and increase game time.

33. We are pleased to note that there are more school teams participating in football competitions, from 256 in 2014 to 350 in 2015. We aim to further increase this number by engaging the schools, and to have their competition calendar suit the newly enhanced Youth Leagues, so schools may also participate in the newly formatted leagues. Details will be announced by Michel in early 2016.

34. We continue to maintain a high level of interest in hosting the FIFA Under-17 Youth World Cup – ideally in 2019 or 2021; if not – 2023. As shared previously, the hosting of the youth elite competition will be a game-changer which will enhance the level of interest in, and standards of, Singapore football at both elite and grassroots levels. Apart from the sporting and footballing-related benefits, the hosting of the elite youth competition will enable us to demonstrate the appeal of sports in bringing people from all walks of life together – similar to the experience of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2015 ASEAN Para Games.

35. We understand that FIFA will be issuing a new set of bidding documents sometime in the first half of 2016, and Vice-President Edwin Tong and his committee will thereafter study the necessary details and consult our key partners including Sport Singapore before submitting a formal bid to host the event.

Football Competitions

36. On the topic of competitions, our NFA Under-15 and Under-16 teams took on their counterparts from English Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the 2015 Lion City Cup. The Under-16s did well to fight back from three goals down to draw 3-3 with Liverpool, but lost on penalties. They then beat the Under-15s 3-2 to finish third. While the Lion City Cup had previously featured teams from the region, we are pleased to have brought to Singapore top European and South American teams since 2011 – and I would like to thank our partners, including Red Card and Sport Singapore, for their support in making this possible. In addition to fans’ entertainment, the quality of these top international teams will also facilitate the development of our Under-16 and Under-15 players, which is especially critical in view of our limited budget which means our players are not able to gain as much international exposure as compared to other top Asian countries.

37. We are currently also working with our strategic partners MP & Silva on creating a tournament for players between the ages of 16 and 21. This will help to bridge the gap in terms of international exposure for players who would have played in the Lion City Cup and the Merlion Cup, which is an international competition for the National ‘A’ Team.

S.League

38. Moving on to our S.League, in FY 2014 Warriors secured their ninth S.League title, while Balestier Khalsa clinched their first Singapore Cup and Brunei DPMM FC won the League Cup for the third time in the competition’s history.

39. We then had a good start to the year 2015 when long-time sponsor and partner Great Eastern Life renewed their co-title sponsorship of the S.League for another two years and Polar Mineral water, who has been a strategic partner of the S.League since 2003, also renewed their sponsorship for another five years.

40. The 2015 season was a memorable one, with the title decided only on the final match day of the season, as Brunei DPMM FC won the Championship for the very first time. This is the third time in the past four seasons that the S.League title race has gone down to the wire. This reflects on the competitiveness of the Great Eastern-Yeo’s S.League.

41. As we celebrate the successful conclusion of the 20th season of the S.League, I want to state that the League has always been, and will continue to be, a vital component of the Singapore football ecosystem. We all look forward to another exciting season ahead in 2016.

Football Business

42. One of the challenges we face is a lack of resources which meant that we had to either scale down our spending in key footballing programmes which are essential to the development of football and/or remove other programmes completely. As you may have read, a media article recently reported that our neighbouring FAs operate on much larger budgets than us. While we are encouraged by the recognition of our record in generating strong returns on investments, we have had to prioritise the programmes and goals spelt out in the Strategic Plan 2010-2015 due to budgetary constraints.

43. We are therefore very pleased to have signed a strategic partnership with MP & Silva earlier this year. Valued at $25 million over six years, this is our biggest commercial partnership. Aside from the additional resources which would now enable us to implement more programmes and bring on-board key personnel, we are also leveraging on MP & Silva’s global connections to organise top-level matches, quadrangulars and other competitions for the continued development of our players across all age groups.

44. In addition to MP & Silva, we are also thankful to our sponsors and partners who have been supporting us through these years, including:

  • AirAsia 
  • Courts 
  • Epson 
  • Field Catering & Supplies Pte Ltd 
  • Great Eastern Life 
  • Kingsmen 
  • Nike 
  • RHB Bank Berhad 
  • StarHub 
  • Stamford Tyres 
  • SilkAir 
  • SilkPro 
  • Tiger Beer 
  • YHS Singapore Pte Ltd


45. Going forward, we will continue to work closely with our sponsors and partners and further promote and develop football while at the same time use this beautiful sport to enhance their brand equity.

Football Excellence

46. One key area which we are disappointed with is the performance of our National Teams in recent years. While our National ‘A’ Team and the Under-23 team clinched the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup and a bronze medal at the 2013 SEA Games, we failed to progress past the group stage in the subsequent editions of both competitions. In following our Standard Operating Procedures, thorough post-competition reviews were conducted and key learning points have been identified and would be applied in the preparations for future tournaments.

47. At the macro level, we have put in place an action plan to improve on-field results. This includes further enhancing and improving the youth development structure, some of which I have shared a bit on earlier. We will announce all the details in the first quarter of 2016, with Michel presenting his technical team and plans.

48. Despite less-than-ideal on-field results, our National Team players who progressed through our youth development system, including the NFA, have done well in their individual careers. Safuwan Baharudin secured a loan move to Melbourne City FC where he earned rave reviews and quickly became a fan favourite, and Hassan Sunny secured a move to Thailand’s Army United, where he did well enough to be named in the Thai Premier League’s Team of the Year by a media outlet there. In addition, Hariss Harun recently won the AFC Cup, being the first Singaporean player to do so.

49. Thanks to the efforts and support of our sponsor Epson and the J.League, Izwan Mahbud underwent a week-long training stint with J.League side Matsumoto Yamaga FC after two inspired performances against Japan in the recent World Cup qualifiers. This has coincided with a run of good results for the National Team in the past year, with the Lions on course to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup’s final round of qualifiers. Much hard work remains ahead, as we look to secure even more resources to further the development of our players.

Football Science and Medicine

50. While development on-the-field is important, injury prevention is equally vital. Therefore the Football Science and Medicine team introduced a GPS system to track players’ fitness levels which aided injury prevention.

51. Moving forward, we are also exploring the possibility of launching the FIFA Medical and Assessment Research Centre, known as F-MARC, in Singapore. The objective of the F-MARC is to protect the health of all players through the reduction of injuries to players. The F-MARC is best known for introducing “the 11” and “the 11+” warm-up programmes that has been scientifically proven to prevent the occurrence of injuries. Having the F-MARC in Singapore would also mean we have access to the latest medical findings that can help our players. More details will be shared at an opportune time.

Football Facilities

52. A very important element of football is having quality facilities. This is a challenge in land-scarce Singapore, but we have been making the best of what we have available to us.

53. We are especially grateful to Sport Singapore, who has been very supportive of our cause. Since early 2015, our National ‘A’ and Under-23 players have been able to train at the newly-refurbished Geylang Training Centre – which includes a top-class pitch that is arguably the best in Singapore, and excellent supporting facilities like a fully-equipped gymnasium, meeting rooms and comfortable changing rooms. All these will aid in injury prevention and translate to a higher level of performance during matches.

54. To truly challenge in Asia, however, we would require a full-fledged and dedicated training centre – just like those in the neighbouring countries including Cambodia and Timor Leste. We are still in close discussions with key stakeholders including Sport Singapore to secure a plot of land to build a National Training Centre, which will fulfil the training and preparatory requirements of our national age-group teams and also strengthen Singapore’s position as an international training hub – especially in view of our strategic geographical location and climate.

Remembering the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Mr N. Ganesan, Mr Kwek Leng Joo, Mr Quah Kim Swee and Mr Zainol Abidin Omar

55. The Singapore football fraternity mourned the passing of several key figures this year. Our nation’s founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on in March. He has enabled our country to grow, progress and prosper under his leadership. This, in turn, has led to Singaporeans being able to pursue many different career options, including that of being professional athletes and footballers.

56. Mr N. Ganesan, affectionately known as ‘Gani’ by everyone in the Singapore football family, passed away in July. He was deeply passionate about Singapore football, and poured his heart and soul into our sport when he led the FAS as chairman from 1974 to 1981.

57. In the same month, former National Team player Quah Kim Swee passed away. He was part of the famous Quah footballing family, and is best known for leading Singapore as captain to the semi-finals of the Asian Games - its best ever finish at the Games.

58. The former chairman of the S.League’s Board of Directors, Mr Kwek Leng Joo, who was part of the team which had in 1995 worked relentlessly to establish Singapore’s first professional league the following year, passed on in November. Mr Kwek played a leading role in establishing a strong foundation for a new professional league, the S.League, which had just concluded its 20th season.

59. Our former kit man Mr Zainol Abidin Omar passed away in November. Known affectionately as “Encik Zainol” by the Young Lions players, whom he had helped as team kit man, he was at work for the SEA Games despite having just gone through a major operation. His hard work and passion for the game will never be forgotten by the Singapore football fraternity.

60. We will remember their contributions, and grieve for their families.

Looking ahead 

Enhanced Youth Development Structure

61. There are many exciting developments in the near future. We have mentioned the newly formatted youth leagues to involve more participants, and in so doing increase the talent pool; the newly enhanced National Football Syllabus (NFS) coupled with the appointment of a Head of JCOE/CA/SFA to help Michel and his technical team in introducing to the young players a single playing philosophy according to the NFS, which will benefit our National Teams in the long term; and the securing of longer-term training attachments for top players and coaches from six months to more than a year. Details of all these and more under Youth Development will be presented by Michel and his team next quarter.

New Strategic Plan

62. As we prepare for the new five-year Strategic Plan, which we will announce in the first quarter of FY 2016, we are also looking into the possibility of setting up a coaching academy under the direction of Michel, in order to enhance the capabilities and quality of our coaches. To further expose our young players to top level football, we will be preparing to tender for the hosting rights of the Under-17 FIFA World Cup upon receiving the bidding documents next year, and we are also discussing with Spanish Primera Liga side Valencia on a possible partnership to aid the development of our players.

ASEAN Super League (ASL)

63. We are also pleased to share today that the ASEAN Super League, whose main objective is to raise the standards of ASEAN football, is another step closer to its launch. FIFA is currently finalising the regulations of the competition, and we are confident that the ASL will begin in 2017. More details will be announced when they are confirmed.

Conclusion

64. In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to our fans, volunteers, ExCo and Council members, clubs and officials, sponsors, partners, Ministries and government agencies, media and the FAS management and staff for their hard work, unwavering support and commitment towards the growth and progress of local football over the past few years.

65. However, this is on ongoing journey and I humbly ask that we continue to stay united as we implement a new Strategic Plan to further enhance our standards at all levels.

66. We will share the details of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020 sometime in the first quarter of 2016, and we would require the concerted efforts and endeavours of all stakeholders as well as additional resources to implement our programmes fully as we strive to build on the current level of success.

67. I thank TNP Associate Editor Leonard Thomas for his recent commentary, headlined "Right to back Singapore football", in which he called on our stakeholders to support us. Leonard has never shied away from being critical of FAS – though we appreciate that he has always been objective. To Leonard and our stakeholders, I assure that you FAS is determined to overcome the odds and bring Singapore football forward. Thank you for the trust in us, and together we will remain united and move towards the same direction.

Thank you.