Singapore Floorball Association creates four-a-side tournament
Floorball body introduces modified format to adhere to Covid-19 protocols
The Singapore Floorball Association (SFA) has come up with a modified tournament to kick-start the local season, in view of safe management measures which prevent the usual format from taking place.
With team sports in Singapore largely restricted to a maximum of eight participants due to Covid-19 protocols, the SFA has introduced Back to Floorball, a four-a-side tournament with reduced game time and rules to prevent intermingling.
The plan was communicated to local clubs at a virtual meeting last Wednesday, with the SFA expecting the modified tournament to kick off at the end of the month.
"This tournament is to give something back to the community, something for the players to look forward to as they have been training amongst themselves and have not had the chance to compete against different opposition," said SFA president Kenneth Ho.
"Even the match officials also need games to get back in touch."
Instead of the regular format, where rolling substitutions are allowed for the five outfielders and one goalkeeper throughout the three 20-minute periods, this tournament will be played across three 15-minute periods.
Three outfielders and one goalkeeper will be deployed in the first two shifts.
For the last period, only four outfield players from each side will be on court, with a smaller goalpost used instead.
Players cannot be fielded in more than one shift.
Each period will be further broken down into five stanzas lasting three minutes each to mitigate the risks of injuries, given that there will be no substitutions.
A referee, score-taker and safety management officer will also be allowed on court.
Ho, 34, added that the SFA has earmarked indoor courts at Our Tampines Hub and Hougang ActiveSG Sports Centre for this tournament, which is open to players aged 15 and above, with registration closing on Feb 10.
He is hoping to get at least 21 teams playing in a round-robin format in groups before moving to the knockout stages, which is expected to conclude in May or June. Another tournament in the second half of the year is also in the pipeline.
Local club Black Wondersticks men's coach R. Saravanan, like many others The New Paper spoke to, was thrilled at the prospect of his charges being involved in competitive action after an enforced hiatus of over a year.
"Good start to have a mini-tournament such as this, as the players have been training, doing skills and drills but have not seen game time. So this is a good way to kick-start the season as we wait for the leagues to resume," said the 41-year-old, who guided the men's national team to SEA Games gold in 2015.
"Going from five outfielders to three outfielders will require players to adapt but, at the same time, they will improve in terms of their skills, game sense and quick reflexes."
National players Siti Nurhaliza Khairul Anuar, Lim Jian Hong and Vignesa Pasupathy were among those who hailed the initiative as a positive move, but the format change has also raised worries.
"Injury and the lack of substitutes are concerns, but also this tournament is open to all level of players aged above 15," said Saravanan.
"So my concern is that the level of play is totally different. For example, my side play at a high level but 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds may not be as conditioned as the senior players."
NUS Titans' Siti said this format means players have to travel for games only to play 15 minutes, but added that it's still "better than nothing".
Vignesa, who returned to full fitness just last November after an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee, wasn't too perturbed by the potential injury situation.
"After being out of action for so long, training without competition can be so draining," said the 24-year-old, who won the Premier League title with Black Wondersticks in 2018.
"Yes, the risk is higher, but just have to be better prepared."
Lim, who turns out for NUS Nemesis, added that, without the rolling substitutions, the 15-minute duration can be too intense and expects the pace to drop as the period progresses.
Even so, the 25-year-old is only too keen to return to the court for matches, though he hopes the format for future tournaments can be tweaked so as to further minimise the likelihood of injuries.
Addressing the injury concerns, Ho said: "We are looking into giving game officials the authority to introduce 'power breaks', especially in the early weeks of the tournament, if the officials deem that the players are looking exhausted or are in need of a break."