Amid a period of uncertainty in Singapore football, S-League club Hougang United is making bold moves in a bid to jazz up the local scene.
Change was the buzzword at the club yesterday as it held its season launch at the unlikeliest of settings – at the swanky Lantern Rooftop Bar, perched atop The Fullerton Bay Hotel.
Players and staff arrived in stylish black suits, led by flamboyant chairman Bill Ng in his striking blue jacket.
There, the club unveiled its new kit for the upcoming season. It also extended its sponsorship deal with Malaysian company Green Rubber Group. Green Rubber founder Vinod Sekhar, who was present to sign the agreement, started the evening challenging the club and players to be a catalyst for change and to do their part to inspire the younger generation.
In his message, Ng also gave an indication of his vision for the club at a time when the future of local football is up in the air, with the Football Association of Singapore poised to hold its first election of office bearers by May.
Ng, a director at private equity firm Financial Frontiers, said: “It is never too late to embark on positive changes if it is for the betterment of Singapore football.”
Hougang general manager Matthew Tay added: “We want to be more professional on and off the pitch. It can be as simple as how we look, to the club’s infrastructure.”
For one thing, players will be donning the suits for overseas games and for matches that will be telecast live from Jalan Besar.
Renovation work on the club’s dressing room at Hougang Stadium is also nearly done, which will see, among other installations, new individual lockers and a bathtub for post-match recovery.
The club is also aiming to generate revenue by selling the rights to a new football data analytics software called RetinAR, which Ng is helping to fund.
Among other functions, the programme provides almost real-time statistics of an ongoing match.
It aims to help coaches with their decision-making as the match takes place.
Change is also afoot on the pitch, with new head coach Philippe Aw set to implement his attacking style of play.
Aw, who joined the club from Home United in the off-season, said: “There is a way I want the team to play. It will take time to achieve, the players have to learn the new philosophy.”
He added that he will be counting on players who followed him from Home to help the transition.
Singapore internationals Zulfahmi Arifin and Azhar Sairudin are among those who made the switch with Aw.
The Cheetahs, who finished sixth in the nine-team league last season, are aiming for a top-three finish this time, as well as a first piece of silverware.
Said Aw: “I’ve only been with the club for seven weeks. It is still a work in progress but I believe with hard work and unity, we can achieve our targets.”