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Singapore Football

U-13 players turn up for SYL game to find pitch closed

Players from the Under-13 teams of Woodlands Lions and Hougang United received a rude shock when they turned up at the Bukit Gombak Stadium for their Singapore Youth League (SYL) game at 7am on April 27, only to find the gates locked.

Archery target boards and tents were set up on the field instead, and a notice at the stadium indicated that an archery competition was scheduled there from April 25 to 28.

Muhamad Muhaimin, 43, whose son is in the Hougang U13 side, said that there was a lot of confusion as parents and coaches waited for answers one hour before the 8am kickoff. Even the referees and match commissioner were present, he added, which was a sign that nobody knew that the pitch would not be available until they turned up.

Noting that even the lines on the field were not drawn, Muhaimin said: “The kids all looked forward to the match all week. It is frustrating and disappointing for everyone who was already there on time especially because some families travel from the east to get here. Imagine coming all the way here and seeing that the pitch is not available.”

Another parent, who declined to be named, said: “It is frustrating that such a thing can happen given that this is a league that is organised by FAS and Sport SG. It is a Saturday wasted for me because I had to take a leave from work to be there.”

The game was eventually postponed much to the annoyance of the players, coaches and parents.

Another match between Geylang U-13 and the National Development Centre (NDC) Girls U15 that was scheduled to be played at 10am at the same venue also had to be rescheduled.

Teams were offered an eleventh hour alternative to play the match at ActiveSG Sport Village @ Jurong Town, but this was turned down by Woodlands Lions and Hougang.

Responding to queries, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and national sports agency Sport Singapore (Sport SG) confirmed that the two matches were postponed although the Straits Times understands that a third – between Woodlands Warriors U-17 and Active SG U-17 scheduled for 7.30pm – was also postponed.

Both organisations said in a joint statement: “Our preliminary finding is that this was caused by a miscommunication among the SYL organisers on venue availability. It is clear that this postponement has caused a great deal of inconvenience and grief to the affected teams, parents, spectators, match officials and staff who showed up on time for the matches. The staff on site had tried his best to search for alternatives but to no avail.”

Adding that the league is “deeply sorry for this occurrence”, the statement said that it has fallen short of the standards expected in the organisation of the SYL. There will be an internal investigation and responsible staff will face disciplinary measures, it added.

Both parties said: “The SYL will also reach out formally to all affected parties including clubs, parents and players in the coming week to express our sincere regret over the incident. The SYL will also reschedule the matches and inform the clubs as soon as possible.

“The SYL is a key tenet of the Unleash the Roar! national football project. It undertakes to review its processes to ensure that such an error does not occur again.”

Woodlands Lions chief R Vengadasalam said he sent an apology through his coaches to the parents of the U-13 players. The club will work with the organisers to review the processes with regards to venues.

He added: “It is not an easy task organising competitive games. There are lot of logistics, manpower and planning involved. Let’s move forward and focus on the football.”

The inaugural campaign of the SYL – which is run by FAS and Sport SG – began on Feb 24 and will run till Dec 1. There are six age-group categories – Under-eight, Under-10, Under-12, Under-13, Under-15, and Under-17 – with more than 200 teams from 52 clubs and academies.