This piece of news is making the rounds on the Internet.
The Straits Times reported that a private dialogue between S-League chief Lim Chin and Tanjong Pagar United chairman Edward Liu and players was leaked.
In it, Lim - reportedly not a very popular person in the S-League fraternity - was recorded on tape giving a tongue lashing to the players in true military style. He was previously a Colonel and the Chief of Artillery.
Here's what he said:
"The chairman of the club and the management committee (are) above all of you. You are players, nobody is bigger than the club. The chairman heads the club. The management committee is not for you to judge... So i think you all need to know where you stand as a player, as a staff, as a coach. Do not ever question the chairman on his role and responsibility [Emphasis mine]."
Even if you add "You! Sign 10x extra." or "Whole lot, knock it down." anywhere in what he said, they won't go out of place.
To cut the long story short: The teams will be downsized to 10 from 12 for 2015 season and there's a new age restriction,which had many players up in arms. It will limit clubs to only five players over the age of 30 in a 22-man squad, while three players will have to be aged 25 or under.
The implications: 1) 43 players over age 30 will be fighting for 30 jobs and 2) Two teams of 22 players will not be playing S-League football.
Which means: Many football players will be unemployed, following this last minute announcement.
No wonder Lim was booed during the S-League awards show. And judging from the juicy parts of the 85-minute
argument discussion, we are quite sure he's not really a popular chief.
On why two teams are removed from the league
Ahmad Latiff: "How can you be sure that take out two teams can the league getting stronger? How can you be sure after so many years doing the beep test our S-league clubs are up there? And why are you taking out the two clubs and not the foreign teams? Why not Harimau Muda? Why not Young Lions (editor's note: Young Lions are essentially the Singapore U-23 team)? How can you be sure that these players can bring the league to the top?
Lim Chin: "Ok, Ahmad Latiff. You are in the league for a long time..."
Ahmad Latiff: "Ya. I'm speaking in general ah."
Lim Chin: "Ahmad Latiff, nobody knows the future."
Ahmad Latiff:" Ya. But you are saying just now.. (cuts off)"
Lim Chin: "Ahmad Latiff, if you want to talk, I cannot talk. Nobody knows the future. But in the discussion with 13, 14 other people, who also have been in the league for many years. All of us look at the league now and say where the league must go in the next five years. What is the amount of money we have in the league? How to move the league? Then the answers are more obvious. We may all be wrong, you may be correct. But we have to do something. If we don't do anything, if we continue every year, same league, same fitness test, we are not going to move forward the way we want. So to answer your question, we are not 100 per cent sure, like what you said, will the league be better. But we have more confidence, I would say, with lesser clubs, more resources because the time remain the same but we get better subsidies, we get better stadiums and the league needs to move that way.[Emphasis mine]"
Almost a shouting match gone out of control
Lim Chin: "Harimau Muda and Young Lions are teams that we need to support in the bigger picture."
Unidentified player: "Sir, let's say that Young Lions and Harimau Muda are out of your control."
Lim Chin: "Out what?"
Unidentified player "Out of your control."
Lim Chin: "Out of our control?"
Unidentified player: "Out of YOUR control."
Lim Chin: "Out of my control. I think..."
Unidentified player: "Let me talk."
Lim Chin "Ok, don't shout."
It's a matter of resources, which means some footballers will be unemployed
Lim Chin: "By looking at the resources moving forward, Tanjong Pagar is one of the lowest. Your chairman has also taken a look at the figures and moving forward next season, he also knows that it will be quite difficult. And that is one of the key decisions why Tanjong Pagar wants to sit out next season. It's stable, you can continue at this team but the league will be reducing the subsidies. Can you be competitive? You may have a 18-man squad, you may not have three foreigners. So in terms of competitiveness on the field, I think, we look at it, it could be a problem. But we are happy that the club will be able to honour all the contracts. It's not a problem. The club will remain as one of the S-League clubs."
Ahmad Latiff: "Why make the decision to cut two teams? For what?"
Lim Chin: "I just told you, Ahmad Latiff."
Ahmad Latiff: "No, no... Let's say all the clubs are full. Then all the rest of the players who want to come in, there's no club for them."
Are the foreign teams helping the S-League?
Lim Chin: "The league cannot sustain a 12 club league. The league can sustain a 10-club league with very good resources."
Ahmad Latiff: "Then not the local teams lah. Get rid of the foreign teams. They are not doing us any good anyway. What they do? What they do? What did Young Lions do good to us? Nothing. What good did Harimau Muda do to us? Nothing."
Lim Chin: "Ahmad Latiff, you can say they do no good. Tan Ah Kow can say they do no good... So we have to take the decision as a collective whole and it's not that simple for one person to say 'this club is no good, that club is good'. We are looking in terms of numbers, in terms of resources, in terms of competitiveness. [Emphasis mine]"
Unidentified player: "By bringing foreign teams in, I don't think it will be a benefit for the local clubs where we need to find national players."
Lim Chin: "Like I said, every proposal, be it foreign clubs, be it local clubs, there are pros and cons. The S-League has benefitted from Albirex Niigata to Etoile FC and now perhaps you can say Brunei DPMM. Harimau Muda next year, with their senior squad, will be another injection of excitement to the league. CYL (Courts Young Lions) is grooming for the national team. Every proposal has its advantages and disadvantages... The advantage of bringing foreigners into the league, you have Monsef Zerka and Sébastien Etiemblé. They have raised the standard of the league.
Ahmad Latiff: "Then why..."
Lim Chin (raises his voice): If you don't want them, okay advantage: more locals can play."
Ahmad Latiff: "It's not that we don't want them. You guys cut the two teams, then where are they going to play?"
Lim Chin: "So like I said, every decision has an advantage, has a disadvantage. You cannot have a decision that will be advantageous for everyone. That is very ideal. If we can find such a decision, it will be very good."
Ahmad Latiff: "There should be other options. Not just by cutting two teams what... It will not benefit what. What do you mean by benefit? Benefit the players or what?"
The league needs to pay the bills
Lim Chin: "Ahmad Latiff, the league has so much resources. With 12 clubs, each club will get so much. With 10 clubs, each club will get slightly more... Everyday the cost of living in Singapore increases. You all are all family man, you all should know. Your salaries have increased since 4 to 5 years ago, every year. How are we going to pay for this salary increase? How are we going to afford the rental increase of our facilities? We are happy that our clubs are stable. We are happy that the club houses are still doing all right. But we need to have a plan to move forward and in that plan it's to consolidate the league. For all you know, Tanjong Pagar may come back and merge, I do not know. Tanjong Pagar can come back with a big sponsor and take over one of the clubs later on. But the plan now is to move forward with a 10-club league in 2015. Consolidate, have very good players, have very strong teams, do well in AFC."
Ahmad Latiff: "What very strong teams? What good players? If we cannot put players into a team, when all teams are occupied. How can you groom them?
Lim Chin: "Well, we still have the..."
Ahmad Latiff: "Then some more they cannot play for the Young Lions, cannot play for Harimau, cannot play for Brunei DPMM. Three teams are out.
Unidentified player: "Albirex also."
Ahmad Latiff: "Four teams are out."
Run so fast for what?
Lim Chin: "The league demographic shows that... Every year, if you are on a one-year contract, how do you find another club? You have to make sure that you are better that the rest of the players. You must work hard, you cannot just pass your fitness test at 945, you must pass at maybe 830 to prove that you are doing well.
Ahmad Latiff: "Run 830 for what? FIFA don't implement also. Malaysia also don't have."
Who is Ahmad Latiff?
36-year old Latiff is affected by the ruling because he is a player who is over 30 years old and a player whose team will no longer play in the S-League next season. The former national striker played 43 times for Singapore and scored five goals.
The leaked conversation can be found here:
Top photo from here.