This is what weekend’s are all about.
One of many people’s complaints (myself included) about modern football is that it’s all completely money-orientated. In the past few years there’s been talk of a ’39th game’ in the Premiership that will be played overseas, and for as long as I can remember matches have been chopped and changed at the say so of Sky TV. One other feature that has become commonplace for many teams over the last few decades is that of a pre-season tour of Asia, America, Australia and so on.
As a Rochdale fan, these tours have never really affected me and I’ve not really paid much attention to them. However; as something of a Serie A fan I was delighted to hear that Juventus would be taking on a ‘Singapore Selection’ as part of their pre-season schedule and made it a priority to get there.
My Hougang Hools friend Faizal was kind enough to sort me out with a ticket (cheers again mate!) and also arranged for me to attend the open training session on the night before the game too. In addition to this, hung around for a meet and greet afterwards but I wasn’t able to get a wristband for the cordoned off area dedicated to this.
Not one to be defeated too easily though, I managed to make the most of Fernando Llorente kindly coming to meet the fans who couldn’t obtain the wristbands. As you can see, he was very pleased to meet me…
Match day came around and I met up with my fellow Hools as well as a host of other S. League fans who came together to try and boost the atmosphere in the stadium and cheer on Singapore. My sore throat today is testament to the amount of effort we put in and there was rarely a moment in the 90 where we weren’t singing – we even managed to get the entire stadium doing the Kallang (Mexican) wave at one point!
The stadium itself is an impressive structure and I felt somewhat proud to have contributed to the first football match to ever take place there. Sadly there were just under 28,000 people in attendance which, when you consider the stadium holds 55,000, is a real shame. In the week building up to the game, pairs of tickets were being given away as part of a promotional deal to anyone who bought $18 worth of a certain drink. In essence, a $40 ticket was going for $9 at the last minute which, I’m sure you’ll agree, seems like a bit of a kick in the bollocks to the fans who bought theirs early.
Another sad sight was the amount of local Juventus fans who were at the stadium. Now, I fully understand the global appeal of leagues like Serie A, the Premiership and La Liga, but surely something isn’t right when people would rather support a bunch of people that they have only ever seen on TV instead of a team picked to represent their own country. The noise made when Andrea Pirlo strolled over to take a corner was louder than any cheers the Singapore team got, which I thought was quite sad.
From what I gather (and feel free to correct me here Singaporeans!) this has a lot to do with the set up of the national team and the selection committee. The large majority of the squads are made up of players from two teams: Courts Young Lions and Lions XII – both of which were set up as something of a breeding ground for national team players.
Whilst in theory this idea may seem like it had the right intentions, to an outsider looking in it seems that to get a call up when you aren’t playing for one of these teams you have to absolutely set the S. League on fire whilst just being a sub for one of the two aforementioned teams is usually enough to get you as call up. Again, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
The match ended 5-0 to the visitors in a predictably one-sided match, with goals from Andrea Pirlo (two, including a trademark free kick), Paul Pogba, Sebastian Giovinco and Kwadwo Asamoah doing the damage. It was a fun day and the match itself was actually a bit of a sideshow next to the comradery we had going on in the stands. It was nice to see some of the world’s best footballers in action (and further consolidate my man crush on Pirlo), it’s just a shame there weren’t more people there to witness it.
Back to the bread and butter of the league next week – come on Hougang!