Newly elected President Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s presence at the Jalan Besar Stadium was not an invitation.
He wanted to be there.
Also present were young footballers from the Tasek Sailors, a partnership between the Sailors and Tasek Jurong, a social service agency set up to support under-resourced residents in the President’s former stronghold.
Standing at the glass parapet during half time, he greeted fans below the VIP area, waving as his wife stood next to him, amid cheers.
Across chatgroups, football fans wondered when was the last time a President attended a football match.
Actually, both Presidents SR Nathan (photo below) and Tony Tan have attended football matches either at the National Stadium and the Jalan Besar Stadium during their tenure.
So too have Wee Kim Wee and Benjamin Sheares, before them.
And just like President Nathan did, President Tony Tan also invited the winning Suzuki Cup team in 2012 to the Istana for a reception.
And in a Facebook post, President Shanmugaratnam said that Singapore’s national project to improve the state of football – “Unleash The Roar – will help groom a new generation of footballers in Singapore.
“We must and can bring Singapore football back up,” he said.
IS IT A TALL ORDER?
The President’s words may be inspirational, and to a certain degree, somewhat aspirational.
He reflects what most football fans would hope for Singapore football, given the current sad and sorry state.
But it will not be that easy to lift the game out from where it currently lies.
Even rising from the ashes may be impossible given the years of decay and rot.
The first step for change would be if the Football Association of Singapore to recognise and accept that it has made many bad decisions.
Hiring a coach who is clearly not qualified to lead a national team.
Poor development structures.
Lack of playing facilities.
The deterioration of the standard of play in the Singapore Premier League.
Lack of fan interest.
Trying to silence critics who are trying to improve the state of affairs.
Preventing a bigger cohort of potential candidates from qualifying to take up leadership positions in the football body.
These are but a few of the issues which continue to plague Singapore football.
If President Shanmugaratnam truly believes that we must lift Singapore football up again, then he should probably have the right people in Government do a deep dive into the FAS and how it has been running football in Singapore and call for a reform of the football body.
Or discard the notion altogether that anything will improve.
MAIN PHOTO: THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM FACEBOOK