By Suresh Nair
NUTS and bolts have been hurled, in recent weeks, at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in the run-up to the September 24 annual general meeting because of controversial constitutional amendments.
The upcoming elections are momentous because after more than 40 years, there will not be any government nominations.
Indeed, an extraordinary new strategy and only candidates who receive a majority vote from the affiliates and members – which comprise local football clubs from the professional S.League and amateur National Football League – for the positions they are contesting, will be elected as office-bearers.
The current office-bearers have their arms locked and forced to move in the right parliamentary or democratic direction because their knuckles have been rapped by the global football body FIFA (Federation of Football Association).
FIFA has taken particular issue with article 19.3 of FAS’ constitution that was last updated in 2011. The article states that “all council members shall be appointed by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (the former name of the current Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY)” – including the FAS president – “and shall, unless otherwise decided by the Minister, hold office for a period of two years”.
And there were rumblings in the football grassroots that the FAS may tweak some constitutional changes in their favour by insisting that senior office bearers, like the President and Vice Presidents, must hold office in international sports federations.
But this week, I take my hats off to FAS Vice President Lim Kia Tong for four excellent presentations as he met the grassroots clubs from the S-League, National Football League (NFL), Islandwide League and other associate affiliates.
He made nonsense of what the media has speculated as he explained, in simple layman terms, the proposed major constitutional changes, most controversial being that the senior office-bearer candidates had to hold FIFA or AFC posts. This would unfairly trim the list of potential presidential candidates to only one or two incumbents.
Mr Lim, who is Singapore’s highest ranking FIFA official, as Deputy Chairman of FIFA Disciplinary Committee, came off very creditably and sincerely as a honest component of fair play in explaining to the grassroots the nitty-gritties of the upcoming AGM.
He did it FAS (Fair And Square)
In a nutshell, he explained that any candidate just needed to be active in football the past two years or more, in any capacity, as a FAS-affiliated club official, even as a coach or referee or a player to qualify to stand for any post, from President downwards. The strict criteria: They have to undergo FIFA-recommended integrity checks.
More good news: Even those not involved in football, but hold value-added posts in other sporting organisations like bowling, cricket, hockey or swimming, can qualify as a pragmatic move to lure good talents from the “outside”.
There’s even a mandatory provision for a woman senior candidate, in line with FIFA’s welcome move to give the fairer sex more say in international football affairs.
Critics may have ridiculed the FAS in umpteen ways, sometimes justified, in acronyms like Forget After Service (FAS) but I credit the FAS, just based on Mr Lim’s endearing closed-door Friday performance, which I attended, as: Fair And Square (FAS).
Ultimately, after more than 40 years of government-appointed FAS committees, now the affiliated clubs have a fantastic chance to pick their new leaders.
Now’s the time to stop bitching and to vote wisely with your heart and soul, for genuinely credible candidates. The moment of truth is here, for the grassroots to have a big say, to who should be the new football supremo.
The influential morning newspaper, The Straits Times, reported that at least four separate groups, on a nine-member team slate, may contest the upcoming polls. In my mind, the most important criteria: To find the bona fide football grassroots-loving leader matters.
Those wanting to throw their hats into the election-ring must be more than passionate about football. They must gel with the grassroots, come and watch the S-League matches (which has sadly been neglected by the present FAS Council members, expect for a mere handful) and know how to right the wrongs that has sickened the No 1 sport for more than three decades.
Yes, like in any football match, a few clowns, too, will come to play, some beating their chests to arrest comedy-like attention. But for the sake of longer-term sustainability, I believe these football jesters must fade away into the sunset and give way to the genuine newcomers.
The cry is out for candidates who’re people-orientated, undisguised, unfeigned and upfront, without even sneakily putting their hands in the financial tilt or selfishly running for their ego-infatuated motives.
This is the much-awaited turning point for Singapore football. There must be absolutely no room for the partial and prejudiced. Standing to be counted must be the straightforward and scrupulous. Those dependable and determinative to bring the FAS to a refreshing long-overdue sunshine.
For better or for worse, the election of the council members, through the election pathway, ranks as a new refreshing historical chapter in the history of the FAS, which, for the record, is the oldest affiliate of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), with its founding in 1892.
My straightforward message to the football grassroots: The ball is finally at your feet.
Please don’t screw it up and score any own goals, simply because the No 1 sport must finally move forward, fair and square, if I may say so.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist, who has held various football appointments the past three decades.
Republished with permission from Sports 247.