Singapore Premier League timely rush to change its official matchday balls is unmatched in the region and reflect a stroke of professionalism.
The next Singapore Premier League season, as has been widely discussed, will witness an unprecedented display of fervent local support for only local teams. Less noted is the fact that this display is way more Singaporean than a particular agreement. There’s no parallel of course, but at least in the SPL, they are bringing in good, better and new balls.
We are not talking about untested balls: there is a tradition since 2000, an affirmation to one ball in the balls of other balls. But why should we be eager to celebrate this new ball announcement? What are the innuendos being spew here?
It’s said one of the best things about football is: a ball, the smaller entity that the guys busting their guts in SPL somehow represent. But it remains difficult to know how to pick the right ball. Singapore is not the home to at least 1000 football factories and employs almost 60000 people. And choosing the correct ball is a category vague enough to many football fans. Crucially, it carries both organisational and biological connotations. (Though the usage of “ball” is increasingly contested, being on the ball is frequently a synonym with a ball-breaking kind of activity)
For years, the Singapore national identity is not having a ball, and being one is not an identity of privilege, both within Changi Business Park and a few roads. This emergence which is a widespread concern has been attributed to immigration. For Singapuraphobes and racists, Singapore identity is under siege, and that's the way the ball bounces, sadly. For some, however, the interest in everything local, like the Singapore Premier League, is an effort to fashion a modest niche behind this eight ball world.
Recasting Singapura identity as one united people, equal, free of elitism aggression is a more complicated business than juggling balls (here is a relevant video). The ball-carriers skip a vital point: a realistic assessment of their wantedness – none. Oh no, no, we are not in a climate shaped by paranoia about immigration (wait till they take your jobs/balls away), demands that Singaporeans keep the ball rolling for their policies are often contradictory.
Take the recent declaration that we are the first in Asia to use SELECT SPORT as Official Match Ball featuring a picture of SELECT SPORT’s BRILLANT SUPER ball placed in the middle of two elongated hairy white lines. No kidding, see it for yourself. Zoom lah can see better. This ball of an image was saved on the lines, no no just kidding, was annotated with the fine print on the ball, which reads, “OFFICIAL MATCH BALL of the SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE”. The image was found on the website of – FAS –the bearer of football aspirations of this nation and the embodiment of regulated professional football. What is most alarming is that, declaratively, this visual discourse of a ball is the same standards as Germany’s Bundesliga and Portugal’s Liga NOS! What a ball!
Then came the comments, or more precisely, textual scenes of copious mouth discharge of abnormally liquid faeces. They say nothing good about the introduction of the balls above. Fortunately, their comments are reflective of an obsession associated with a minority few. Here is a video of someone’s brother saying something reflectively similar to what I had in mind. Their comments, an anti-local aspect of being local, is subordinated to pro-colonisers sentiments, which is why their sac of unreleased spermatozoon involuntarily dripped out.
But what can fans of the Singapore Premier League do about these comments? Yes, correct, balls to them, cos, who cares? What is bellowed out from the terraces of the shared stadiums in Singapore is a paean to a liberated future, without reference to a particular political party! Singapore for Singaporeans dressed in all colours of clothes and not just white!
The Singapore Premier League is a uniquely local event to be relished by any Singapore football fan. But it is possible to support and enjoy the Singapore Premier League while at the same time questioning its broader social impact.
This issue is not about SPL fans versus non-SPL fans. On the contrary, the SPL fans are generally enthusiastic about SPL’s new balls. Those of us who support other leagues, or find the colloquially-accentuated-singing in the shared stadiums gross and cringey – let me welcome you by saying, “Selamat Datang Ke Singapura,” “சிங்கப்பூருக்கு வருக, “欢迎来到新加坡.” Of course, there is nothing inherently xenophobic or reactionary about supporting SPL new balls. But that the new balls have rapidly become so assertive that it suggests it will definitely be different from the older balls.
So should displays of Singapura pride be treated with scepticism or anxiety only after the introduction of new balls?