I don’t watch football, but the controversy over S-League’s move to trim down the league looks pretty exciting. More exciting to me than watching grown men chasing a ball. So let me re-produce the drama in a letter. FICTION, of course.
Congratulations on turning 35! In five years’ time, you will be eligible for Eldershield! In the meantime, to prepare you for your future and to ensure that you rest that torn tendon, broken ankle and bruised body suffered over the past 10 years, we have another surprise for you! No longer will you need to sweat in the sun and get drenched in the rain, you will be given a one-way ticket out of football, with 10 free passes to watch future S-League matches!
This is to demonstrate our appreciation of your loyal service and for sticking with the S-League despite its declining lustre. You will be pleased to know that we are adding a new shine to the league, with fewer teams and younger players. You see, the racial and age demographics are simply weighted too heavily towards a certain race and beyond a certain age. This does not mean that we consider you old, not with the sort of goals you have scored, the awards you’ve won and despite being caught smoking. We just don’t think you can run as fast as the young ones, who must be given room to play. This is not unlike air stewardesses who get grounded after a certain age. Not because their looks fade, they just need to rest more. Like you.
We entreat you to turn a deaf ear to those who say that we are engaging in age discrimination and that we should be reported to Tafep. We aren’t giving you the boot; you can keep them. Plus, you are far too young to be considered old. And please banish any idea of starting a union. That is not sportsmanlike behaviour. Note that you should never have considered footballing a life-long career. That’s like scoring an own goal. Every person changes jobs several times in his life-time; it’s the nature of this globalised, mobile and inter-connected times. Your second career, we are sure, will be as fulfilling and you can turn to the labour movement for a job. So many others have made it, as sound technicians or in construction and some of them even coach other teams. Go read The New Paper on Sunday on warriors who turned workers.
Please do not complain to the media that we should have communicated the news to you earlier so you could have found places in other teams. By the way, do not try Tanjong Pagar; it’s sitting out the season. And we think you should also give up on Woodlands and Hougang because they will be merged. Yes, Woodlands. Not Aljunied.
The reason we kept this wonderful news under wraps and couldn’t do a locker room briefing was because we didn’t want to tip off the bookies (You know how tough Singapore is on match-fixing or team-fixing). This is the big idea we have to rejuvenate the S-league. Rejuvenation by regulation. Immediately, the median age of the footballing fraternity will go down. You know also that we will start footballing in a big way in schools. Please make sure your son gets on the programme.
For your info, this is how we will be wording the news to the media: “In the interest of achieving a higher level of footballing excellence, the S-League has resolved, after numerous discussions among key stakeholders, to streamline the number of teams to a nice round number, 10. To ensure that new blood is infused into the league, we will also cap the number of senior players in each club, all of whom agree that they should be amputated to make way for younger players. This demonstrates their profound commitment to the S-League which they will continue to support by attending the matches. To show our appreciation, they will be allowed to play the jackpot machines in their former clubs.’’
So, you see, we will be giving you a nice send-off. Actually, what we are not telling the media is how much we will save by slimming down the league. But pure mathematics will show that it means we will have more money to spread around fewer people, whom we can probably pay better too. That is, unless yet another sponsor pulls out. Anyway, at the very least, you will no longer be embarrassed about playing to empty stands or handing out flyers to get people to watch you play. And we don’t have to come up with gimmicks like hand out finger food to spectators.
Another point we hope you will note: Please do not tape or video any proceedings between the S-League management or your club and you. That would be a very bad foul. It is very awkward to hear ourselves telling you about the hard truth about football in Singapore. People will think that we are high-handed and do not care about breaking your rice bowl. Please remember that the people do not play referee in this case. Nor should we give them more off-field drama – unless they are paying spectators.
It remains for us to wish you the best in your future career. Go break a leg!
S-League board and management