‘The Scorpions’ are ready to sting to be an SPL club

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SOUTH Avenue Sports Club intends to make big waves in order to take an ambitious crack at professional football in Singapore.

“The Scorpions”, as their nickname goes, are set to show they can sting in the NFL (National Football League) Division One League, starting this weekend, that they’ve quality in depth in players and officials to merit a place in the SPL (Singapore Professional League), previously known as the S-League.

Formed in 2015 the East Coast-based club won the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Islandwide League (IWL), but unfortunately didn’t qualify to play in the National Football League (NFL).  The following season, they got cracking in the NFL Division Two but narrowly lost out winning the championship on goal difference.  Now with promotion to the top amateur league, they believe they can prove to the FAS that they’re worth a knock on the professional door.

“We’re a serious-minded club with serious longer-term goals. We’re run by experienced and passionate football people,” says general manager Halid Rahim Nawawi. “When you enter into a relationship with us, you have the opportunity to work with trusted and dedicated individuals who are ready to bring the club up into the next level.”

 Leading the professional-bidding campaign is former Lions skipper Samad Allapitchay, in his capacity as SASC Vice President. The 69-year-old, who won 105 “A” caps for the Lions between 1968-1981, with two Malaysia Cup victories under his belt in 1977 and 1980, is regionally respected as a hard-tackling, no-nonsense defender with a penchant for bulldozing his way from defence to attack. He was once dubbed “The Rock of Gilbratar” by former national coach Mick Walker, one of the first British to handle the Lions in the 1970s.

SHAHRI RAHIM, THE PRESIDENT

The club’s President is Shahri Rahim, Malaysian fans are familiar, as he wore the No 1 jersey for the Lions in the 1988 Malaysia Cup squad that won the M-League and for the historic 1994 Double-winning team (Malaysia Cup and M-League). A thoroughbred goalkeeper, he played professional S-League football for Singapore Armed Forces FC, Tampines Rovers and Balestier Khalsa and later became goalkeeping coach at Geylang United. He attained a Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Level 1 goalkeeper-coach certificate and is also a AFC Licenced coach, He has trained goalkeepers in the national women’s team, national Under 21 squad and the National Football Academies (NFA) Under 15, 16, 17 and 18,

Brought into the fray, for the first time in a big-time way, as head coach is 46-year-old Rafi Ali, a former outstanding Lions midfielder, who won the 1998 Tiger Cup.  He had a sterling professional career with Geylang United, SAF Warriors and Tampines Rovers. In 2014, he was appointed head coach of Tampines Rovers.

“As I’ve mentioned earlier, we have a very strong spine leading the club in the background to take the step up to the next level to compete professionally here and also qualify for the region’s tournaments,” says Halid Rahim. “With the people we have, it shouldn’t be a problem to attract the biggest names, player-wise, and put the club in the limelight. 

“With the right funding, we can be in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), and we know we will be one day – giving opportunities to budding talents, showcasing the biggest names in the industry, provide employment and compete professionally in Singapore and the Asian region.”

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) President Lim Kia Tong, who graced Tuesday’s sponsor-launch event at the Victory Restaurant, praised the initiatives of ‘The Scorpions’. He says: “For a NFL club, they’re showing big spirits and longer-term goals. It’s not easy for sponsors/partners to step forward to the amateur ranks and I congratulate South Avenue Sports Club for their bold initiatives.”

Team spirit ranks highest at SASC and the passionate flavour of the players and officials will be one of the steering factors in the club’s longer-term ambition to make their professional football dreams come true.

FUTURE NATIONAL PROSPECTS

Shahri singles out goalkeeper Reduan Fatah, former Lions striker Syafiq Zainal and Danial Razali, former Young Lions striker and son of former international Razali Rashid. He marks out 18-year-olds Robbi Alhambra and Jude Immanuel as future national-team prospects.

Halid Rahim adds: “The committee members are all in non-salaried, voluntary capacities. What we look for, in terms of funding, will mostly go towards rewarding the players who’re with us despite of knowing that we are not able to pay them allowances, incentives and/or compensations for now. 

“We respect and value their integrity and passion, thus the hard work to try provide them with some form of monetary gains where we can, as well as the routine budgeting needed to run the club in terms of apparels, field bookings and perhaps short trips for the players’ bonding.”

He says that SASC has been “surviving largely out of the pockets of the committee members plus some donations here and there…this year, we have a team filled with experienced players who have had professional backgrounds and some were even in the National Team”.

Nine sponsors have so far come to the fray to back “The Scorpions”. Halid Rahim says: “We hope to reciprocate the efforts of these sponsors and partners by highlighting them through press and media coverage.”

 The SASC Management Committee: President (Shahri Rahim); Vice-President 1  (Samad Allapitchay; Vice-President 2  (LTC (Retired) Christopher Wong); General-Secretary  (Zulkifli Ramli); Treasurer (Badrul Hisham Kassim); General Manager  (Halid Rahim Nawawi; Head Coach  (Rafi Ali).

Hats off to ‘The Scorpions’ who’re ready to sting to be a Singapore Professional League (SPL) club. Not hot air, I hope, as It takes a lot of the proverbial “fire in the belly” to be ambitious-minded to take a crack at professional football in Singapore. – By SURESH NAIR

 

  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who’s familiar with South Avenue Sports Club as he grew up in the same eastern-end settings of ‘The Scorpions’
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