FAS amateur leagues set for 4-a-side tournaments
Women's teams, SFL clubs and COE sides expected to return after barren year
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is looking at creating four-a-side tournaments for various amateur groups - including its women's teams, Centres of Excellence (COE) and Singapore Football Leagues - while making sure that these competitions conform to prevailing Covid-19 protocols.
Players across these amateur leagues have not seen game time since early last year and the FAS "acknowledges the need to get them back to the field this year", despite team sports in Singapore largely restricted to a maximum of eight participants.
"With the pilot done last year with the Singapore Premier League (SPL) resumption, we are confident to now put forth plans for the amateur competitions, including for the COE, Women's and SFL teams in 2021," said FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari.
"From the feedback received from our engagements with them, we are currently formulating modified small-group activities and competitions, including 4 v 4 competitions which would allow our amateur players to return to action, albeit in a modified format of play.
"The planned programmes will strictly adhere to any prevailing safety measures in place and the necessary regulatory approvals will be sought to continue having our stakeholders' health as the utmost priority."
Tampines Rovers COE Under-21 coach Afiq Yahya hailed it as a "good initiative", but was also wary of the challenges the modified format would bring.
"The players have missed competitive action as they keep asking me when the league is going to restart. It is something they enjoy and look forward to, so this is positive going forward," Afiq told The New Paper.
"There would be some challenges as we have to be mindful of intermingling and ensure the players follow protocols.
"The players will also need to adapt to four-a-side games, they will have to learn how to make use of the extra space.
"The game will also be much quicker, but it will also give players a chance to brush up on their techniques."
When asked if goalkeepers could potentially suffer from the format change as the dimensions of the goals are expected to be reduced, the 29-year-old said: "These days, we want goalkeepers who are good with their feet, so this format will not affect their development as they can work on their footwork."
Tampines U-21 player Danish Siregar, who has been one of the few fortunate ones to see some game time when he made three first-team appearances in the SPL last season, was pleased as his fears of "stunted development" due to the lack of action was allayed with the imminent modified competitions.
While Tiong Bahru women's team manager Angelyn Pang said the news was a "pleasant surprise", she expressed concern about ensuring sufficient game time, an issue also raised by Fonda Chai, who turns out for Still Aerion in the Women's Premier League.
"In a team of 25, there are already issues (of game time) when it comes to 11 v 11, so what more with 4 v 4," said Pang.
"So we have to wait and see what kind of competition (FAS introduces) - will it be more than one team per club or whether it is round-robin."
Ex-SPL coach Hairi Su'ap, meanwhile, feels that less technical players stand to lose out in small-sided competitions.
"This format would mean an intense and exciting brand of football with lots of goals," said Hairi, who is in talks to take the coaching reins at SFL Division 1 side Yishun Sentek Mariners.
"So to build a more attack-oriented side, I would sign or pick players who are more technically gifted and creative, and that could be a problem for others, especially if teams can send only one side to represent them in the competition."
Other sports like hockey, floorball and netball have already announced similar plans, and it is expected that the Singapore Swimming Association will be releasing news of revised water polo competitions in the coming days.