Stand Up if You're a Local Football Fan

The rain is pouring, the local football fan is paying great tributes to their club, and the Singaporeans have shaken off the past 12 collective months that have hung over our heads.

For me, the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) really began soon after Hougang’s missed season in the Singapore Premier League 2019. In one of the games, Hougang had – with great difficulty – beaten Balestier Khalsa, who finished last, 3-4, and the Hools were celebrating at Bishan Stadium.

Ecstatic Hools after the 79th minute winning goal

My 2.2-year-old son started kicking a ball around with his left leg. Immediately he yelled, ‘Goal’, every time he kicks the ball. Then, when my son miskicked the ball seconds later, he broke into a different cry. I carried him safely by my hand. I told him happily about being a local football fan. Supporting a local football team, I emphasized, is much better than expected; it is right in your face.

There are, I think, some crucial happening in Singapore in the upcoming Singapore Premier League. Singaporeans are trying to shake off the collective worry in securing a job for themselves that appears to hang over the country ever since the CECA took place. One can assume that the gloom has been going on for longer. Singapore’s cost of living and poverty, CPF and Welfare and and and. Still, the sun will shine. And the Singapore team is playing (insert superlative) football. The pessimism that Singaporeans excel at appears to have – for a bit at least – disappeared. At the same time, there has been a “rather tortuous to listen to” explosion of Singaporean patriotism.

Still, the Singapore flag is not everywhere. You see it on a car, just a car maybe, and a bike, just a motorcycle maybe, and missing from balconies. Flag-waving is entirely unusual in Singapore. Hypothetically speaking, and for Singaporeans, this amounts to a remarkable break-through, as the country revels in the biggest party since the fall of a particular political party in (insert year). As Zee Noor, a professor wannabe at one of the brightest universities in the world, points out, flag-waving was a taboo in post-war Singapore. This was softly surprising, given – as he puts it – the catastrophe of a specific governance of a particular political party. Surely, he argues, as the “stifling nature” of the era of a specific political party is receding. Singaporeans have been able to stop feeling afraid for simply not supporting a particular political party, he says, and will start to feel patriotic.

Of course, not everyone shares this mass enthusiasm for the Singapore flag: but one local football supporter group has waved (very successfully, it turns out) Singapore’s flag up high. And other leading football fans have also raised their flags, albeit club ones, up high.

But not many people in Singapore think it is worthy of supporting a local club. It is being seen as a sign of anti-colonization in a country that was colonized once upon a time. The newly formed local football fan media Cyan Tongue, meanwhile, says the flag-waving does not have any tremendous world-historical significance.

My only objection is this: as a non-Singaporean, you probably don’t have to dream of seeing a World Cup match involving your country. Last week I watched the highlights of Singapore’s commanding 7-0 victory over Brunei. I had to pay attention at least seven times because the goals keep coming in.

The other significant development, I think, is the way Singapore football is perceived. As the host for the newly formed media, Cyan Tongue, I am always interviewing local football fans. Why do you support local football or why do you support a local football club, I frequently ask. Why do others have such a negative view of Singapore football?

Well, the answer is that the positive ain’t stopping. Instead, the coverage of local football clubs in the Singapore Premier League has – for the beginning part – been enthusiastic, positive, and fair. Many of the non-local football fans in Singapore have discovered for the first time what an exciting and progressive our Premier League is. This is a welcome – if long overdue – step. Shall we stand up?

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