It is with a heavy heart that I write this year’s message as we enter 2017.
Globally, the multiple headwinds of negative business sentiments brought on by the Brexit referendum , U.S. elections and the wave of nationalist fervour across the world will threaten business confidence. This may well continue beyond 2017 and possibly even 2018! The one poignant trend; with continuous very rapid changes brought about by globalisation, political leaders have fail to grasp the true sentiments of its collective negative impact on the world’s working class. Much as globalisation has benefitted the masses, there are still those among the masses that will be displaced in their way of lives. This does not count the current wave of refugee crisis enveloping Europe.
In our local football fraternity and following FIFA’s imposition to keep political intervention out of FAS, our national body is set to face radical changes with our first free election by our delegates in 30 years. Many have viewed this as more than timely, perhaps that this process should have been done many years ago. But it is never too late to embark on positive changes if it is for the betterment of Singapore’s football.
The very dismal signs are there besides continuing falling attendances at our S.League matches and the lack of a well crafted national football policy to ensure a constant supply stream of new players and coaches buttressed by a well thought out incentive scheme. The embarrassing score card is there for all to see. Our National Team crashed out of the AFF Suzuki Cup from the group stages (with only 1 goal scored and 1 point achieved from a possible 9 points). As for the Singapore’s youth team (U-14s to U-23s) we chalked up an eye-sore tally of 10 wins, 39 matches lost out of 62 games played. This is certainly no accolade for the future of Singapore’s football.
On our club’s front, it was with great expectations that started our 2016 S.League season. Through an exhaustive selection process we have recruited several experienced backroom staff to support Coach K.Balagumaran and his young and hungry squad. Several players played with distinction this season. M.Anumanthan is on his way to be a permanent mainstay for Singapore as displayed by his performance over the 3 matches played during the AFF Suzuki Cup. Our other Cheetahs; Iqbal Hussain, Nazrul Nazari, and Khairulhin Khalid are but a few who will see more opportunities to don our national colours and do our nation proud.
While we had a great run of form in the early part of the 2016 season, the team’s form somewhat fizzled out in the next two rounds which ultimately saw us booted out of contention for a historic AFC Cup qualifying position. Our decline was summarised by our 6th place finish, well below our pre-season expectations.
There was thus a serious post-mortem done as to how and why we could have avoided tripping at our last few hurdles given that we started off from the block so well at the beginning of the 2016 season. In this respect, there were takeaway lessons that the management and the technical team have learnt and these will be crystalized as we prepare our squad for this 2017 season.
In that respect, I like to welcome our new Head Coach Phillipe Aw and his superb, tested technical team to the Hougang United family. We hope that his methods and track record for both on-field results and player development will ensure a very successful 2017 outing and many more good years beyond too.
Off the field, Hougang United FC has played an active role in Singapore’s sports fraternity supporting many social and charitable causes. We have provided financial assistance to former Singapore Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach Zhu Xiaoping who was diagnosed with colon cancer. Ms Zhu showed her unwavered passion for the sport even when she was not feeling well. She continued coaching the team and led them to a gold medal in the 2015 SEA Games. This struck a chord in our hearts and beyond our compassionate monetary contribution to gymnastics coach, our club greatly salute all sportsmen who have contributed and achieved success and bringing pride to our nation.
The club is currently also supporting our former head coach Amin Nasir in the form of a monthly grant. Amin as all in the fraternity knows is still fighting a tough battle against cancer.
2016 is also a year of sadness as we remembered those who have left us. On 7th October we lost a pioneer of Singapore football, the late Mr. S. Anthonysamy. I was there to see him at the hospital during his final moments before he slipped peacefully away. Hougang United acknowledged his contributions to Singapore football from the late 80s to the 90s and had unconditionally provided financial assistance to him over the last few years. Anthonysamy was and will always be an inspiration to us. If there is one great lesson that he had left us with, it is that ‘adversity breeds strength’. Despite being paraplegic for a greater part of his later life, his presence was always inspiring to those who knew him. We will miss him greatly.
On 9th of November 2016, we also lost our former Team Manager, the late Mr. Bruce Tan. The club was shocked and deeply saddened at his sudden departure. Bruce was a mainstay during the early years at the club. We are grateful and will always remember his contributions.
Going forward, we have also continue to invest in modern training technology. The club purchased the new Globus Eurogoal shooting machine from Italy to sharpen our goalkeepers’ skills. This machine has the ability to produce shots of up to 140km/h and allows the goalkeeper coach to set and select shots from different angles. The machine also allows us to set the trajectory, swerve, spin and velocity upon which it can shoot the ball. I would personally strongly recommend this machine to the National Team for further development of Singapore’s goalkeepers.
Our club’s infrastructure has also been upgraded with the new bucket seats dugout – the 1st in Singapore football in any stadium. At the time of this writing, we are in the tail end of finishing our renovations to our dressing room. It is a complete overhaul which besides adding more functional spaces and new individual lockers, it also includes a built-in bathtub for post game recovery. The end result: a way better conducive dressing room design for our players. I dare say visually, it will be the envy for other clubs.
Our main sponsors; Green Rubber Global – A Petra Group Company and ESW Manage Pte Ltd will continue with our journey into 2017 season as they have been for many previous years. I deeply regard their partnership as a testament of their continuing belief in our methodologies and our hunger for success both on and off the field. I would like to sincerely thank both sponsors for placing their trust in Hougang United as we collectively dream big of further success on and off the pitch.
Finally, I would like to sincerely pay tribute to our fans and supporters. Our special thanks especially to the Hougang Hools! Collectively with the Hougang community as well as the family and friends of each and everyone of the players, the technical team and the management, they have always proven that they are never the fair weather supporters despite our ups and downs. Matter of fact, they themselves has established a reputation in the fraternity for their unwavering pride.
To each and everyone of you who takes pride in always supporting the Cheetah’s footballing journey as you have for so many years, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your unfailing dedication! Please be assured that I, collectively with my team are very fired up and determined to make 2017 a breakthrough year of unsurpassed success!
Let us walk this journey together with pride and confidence to face the exciting challenges ahead.
On behalf of each and every Cheetah at the club, I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2017.