Men in suits wagging fingers, talking about “integrity” and people aiming for leadership “for ulterior purposes”.

No, it’s not an episode of The Sopranos.

Source: Straits Times Facebook.

Two men — Lim Kia Tong (on the right in the video), a Football Association of Singappore (FAS) council member since 1999, and Hougang United Chairman Bill Ng — are fighting for the leadership of Singapore football and the control of some S$25 million of dollars of funds that go into the sport.

April 29, 2017, is the date for FAS’s leadership election, where the association’s 44 affiliates will vote for their leadership team.

The video is Lim’s interview with The Straits Times alongside former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng (on the left in the video), a well-respected football man.

It is the first time FAS has an election for its leadership and Lim’s method is to “go negative”.

How negative?

First, Lim insinuated that his opponent lacks integrity:

“In order for any team or anyone to bring football forward, this person and the team and each and everyone of them must have integrity. And must believe that they come here not for ulterior purposes.”

Second, Lim almost called Ng dishonest and defended the performances of the present leadership team.

“If someone says that we have not brought football to a different level, then that someone is not very dis..(honest?) very not straightforward because how do you account for the four successes of the Suzuki Cup? Is that not success? Of course, football national team sometimes up, sometimes down, but we did have successes. It’s not that the whole game is dying that we need a person to come and rescue. If that’s the impression the opposition wants to put across, then that type of impression will never go down well with the members.”

This is despite Lim rejecting The Straits Times‘ suggestion that Lim’s team are the incumbents.

And if he is not the incumbent, why is he calling Ng’s team “the opposition”?

Most important of all, he argues that “it’s not that the whole game is dying that we need a person to come and rescue”.

Singapore’s current ranking is 163 and it achieved one of its worst-ever rankings (171) in history last year.

Source: FIFA website.

Is Lim sure that the state of Singapore football is doing okay?

Third, Lim questioned the track record of Ng:

“If a person wants to bring a level of the national team up and ranking up, then we have to ask ourselves the question, did he (Ng) manage to bring a club up to certain standing within a small number of ten teams, twelve teams etc.

But when you talk about FIFA ranking, you are talking about ranking among two hundred over countries. So that is the thing when you want to talk about something, you have to talk about reality whether it can be achieved. Talk is very cheap. Realising the talk is very expensive. So we need men with integrity, like Uncle Teo here, like myself…”

Indeed, Ng’s record at Hougang United is mixed, finishing 6th, 10th, and 7th respectively in the past three years.

But what about Lim’s own record as an FAS council member since 1999?

His record for Singapore in the past three years was also mixed — 165, 149, and 157.

If we were to assess Lim’s own record as a council member, he couldn’t even claim all four Suzuki Cup victories. Just three.

A full, unedited video of The Straits Times video was shared, following the deletion of the first ST video on ST Facebook

As TODAY noted, a new edited version of the video, lasting over three minutes, later replaced the first version with some of the quotes trimmed.

A full and unedited video had since appeared on a social media platform.

In the video, Lim appeared even more hard-hitting and questioned Ng’s agenda:

“If for one moment, we turn our attention to Bill. We have to ask ourselves, is he of the same mold as all of us? In this team? Or is he of a mold of someone who is only interested to gain some mileage?

Stepping into the shoes to manage football association is a very onerous responsibility. Our responsibility is not only revolve around raising fund to jackpot machines, our responsibility is a far and wide-ranging one.”

But here’s the thing about managing or mismanaging money and resources.

The New Paper(TNP) reported that Ng’s club used the profitable jackpot operations to register a profit in excess of S$2 million in 2014, set up a S$1 million scholarship fund for young footballers, and is the only S.League club that operates without the S$800,000 annual subsidy from the Tote Board.

On the other hand, Lim is part of the FAS leadership team that spent $4.4 million on a wrong strategy — supporting the LionsXII who were booted out of the Malaysian Football league after three years.

 

Morale of the story? This may be the most consequential election that most of us can’t vote in

As ST’s Wang Meng Meng astutely pointed out, a “long-term vision must be the rationale for voting decision” of the FAS leadership team. And only 44 affiliates get to vote.

Unfortunately, the FAS leadership campaign is already off to a sour start with such character assassinations.

There is no serious debate about the malaise Singapore football is currently in or any discussions about Singapore’s football future.

Instead, the talk is about the integrity of the new leader and his team.

However, this is not merely a condominium management or a country club fight that involves 44 key stake-holders.

It involves the management of some S$25 million, or in Lim’s words, satisfying the “guardian of the finance of the funding”.

And we do not want to reach a day when all Singaporeans think that it’s more worth our while to fund 25 Joseph Schoolings instead.

 

Top photo from Straits Times Facebook page

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