By Suresh Nair
EVEN before November’s AFF Suzuki Cup, Singapore and Malaysia football officials are scampering over a bigger boardroom battle: Who will lead the FAS and FAM?
Singapore, finally, started some shooting-practice when it announced a new president will be in place by the end of the year. The Extraordinary Annual General Meeting (EAGM) is on the cards for Sept 24. The agenda for the AGM includes seeking approval from its 46 affiliates and members, for amendments to the constitution which will allow an election of office-bearers, which is set to take place before November’s AFF Suzuki Cup.
Malaysia, likewise, are fighting another in-house battle over the right propriety of its office-bearers after alarming boardroom battles, over issues of alleged corruption. The Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, has handed over a pen drive containing a detailed report on the Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) alleged leakages and wrongdoings to Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
I understand this includes information and activities within the FAM, the media personnel that the FAM always uses, former footballers in Malaysia, and the amount of money taken by Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership and given to the FAM.
For Football Association of Singapore (FAS), after 35 years, there will not be any government nominations, which is an extraordinary new strategy and only the candidates who receive a majority vote from these affiliates and members – which comprise local football clubs from the professional S.League and amateur National Football League – for the position they are contesting, will be elected as office-bearers.
I believe this is a pragmatic move in the right parliamentary direction. The amendments of the constitution include the stipulation of the need for elections for council members, which is in line with global football body FIFA’s regulations.
FIFA has taken issue with article 19.3 of FAS’ constitution that was last updated in 2011. The article states that “all council members shall be appointed by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (the former name of the current Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY)” – including the FAS president – “and shall, unless otherwise decided by the Minister, hold office for a period of two years”.
For the politicians form the People’s Action Party (PAP), the ball is no longer in their courts. From outgoing FAS President Zainudin Nordin, appointed in 2009, when he was serving as a Member of Parliament. Ironically, he was not put forward as a candidate at last year’s Singapore General Election.
It’s high time that football be ruled democratically by the grassroots, the people on the ground, who best love the sport. If they’ve been neglected or if heartland development programmes have not been up to the ark, this is the time for them to vote the honest, credible and passionate playmakers to the front.
In my opinion, Asean football really needs a big kick in the butt to wake up from its “frogs-in-the-well” mentality and to create new tsunami-like waves to fire up the world’s undisputed No 1 sport.
Mind you, Brunei’s national football association was suspended from football activities from September 2009 to May 2011 and Indonesia’s from May 2015 to May this year, for direct government interference in their affairs. The same could well apply to Singapore and Malaysia, if parliamentarians try and put on the jerseys to run the show.
Better late than never for FAS. Just last Friday, a think-tank group, led by FAS Vice President Lim Kia Tong, presented the proposed constitutional changes to the FAS Council. This came after “months of consultation”, with various key stakeholders of local football, as well as global governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, said the FAS. The proposed changes will now require FIFA’s approval, which the FAS hopes will arrive within the next two weeks.
No doubt, a new fiery chapter in set to emerge in the Singapore football scene and Lim, a 64-year-old lawyer, who is also the deputy chairman of FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, is hoping to skipper a new team to bring the “Lions” out of its rut as FIFA’s No 159 affiliate.
Likewise, in Malaysia, it’s time to do major spring-cleaning to find defining ways to get the “Harimaus” back on track from its shoddy No 167 position.
New brooms sweep clean, as they always say. On both sides of the Causeway, it must be time for “people’s power” to come to the fore to lift the flagging fortunes of an exemplary sport, which in the 1970s and 80s, drew 50,000 crowds from Kallang to Shah Alam and evoked extraordinary passions among the grassroots kampong folks from Kuching to Kota Bahru, Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur.
The most important criteria: Finding the right honest and credible leaders matter.
Yes, a few clowns, too, have apparently thrown their hats into the election ring but for the sake of longer-term sustainability, I believe they must fade away into the sunset and give way to the genuine newcomers, who must be undisguised, unfeigned and upfront, without sneakily putting their hands in the financial tilt or selfishly running for their ego-infactuated motives.
There must be absolutely no room for the partial and prejudiced. Standing to be counted must be the straightforward and scrupulous. Those dependable and determinative to bring Singapore to a refreshing long-overdue sunshine.
BATTLE AT HAND
Yes, it’s a major uphill, if not mountainous, battle at hand. Whoever comes to the fore, definitely without serious political connections and personal egos, will have a very tall order at hand to lift the declining fortunes of the No 1 sport.
More importantly, to ensure that there’s thorough efficiency and transparency in football administration at both ends of the Causeway, something which has been regularly frowned upon by the critics.
The only good Causeway news, from a football perspective, is the “Causeway Challenge” between the world’s No 159 (Singapore) and No 167 (Malaysia) match, played for the first time at the new SportsHub, scheduled for October 7 at 8.30pm.
Yes, ideal preparations for the year-end Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup, which kicks off on November 19. The last time Singapore faced Malaysia was at the Suzuki Cup in November 2014, when Malaysia triumphed 3-1 at the now-defunct National Stadium.
Indeed, the best of neighbours, like long-standing abangs and adeks, go to the Causeway Challenge, their 65th battle, neck-to-neck, and records show Malaysia have won 22 times and Singapore, 19 times. They have drawn 23 times.
And, how ironic, that these two Causeway relatives now have bigger boardroom battles at hand, in finding succession candidates to come out of their self-imposed rut.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist, who has been involved with the FAS in various capacities, over the last three decades.