FAS and Furious blame game

Sense And Nonsense - by Tan Bah Bah

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For the time being, the FAS story is not about Game Changing. It is quagmired in a Blame Game, in soccer parlance, passing the ball around. And the game is being played rather curiously, with the unsaid and the almost unbelievable testing the thinking public’s patience and intelligence.

Police investigations into Tiong Bahru FC’s alleged misuse of funds and purported attempt by a senior officer of the club to obstruct the completion of audits into several non S-League clubs simply means that answers are being sought to even more questions which may yet to be asked.

By now, we know that Bill Ng approved a Tiong Bahru FC donation of  $500,000 to the Football Association of Singapore. What was it for? Who actually asked for that donation? And why is there a need for everything to be, if not hush-hush, so  indirect?

Ng said he was given to understand by Winston Lee, FAS secretary-general, that the money was to be used to benefit Singapore soccer.  Lee said Ng knew full well it was to help develop a football management system for the Asean Football Federation.  To simplify it: We help the AFF and that will, in turn, help Singapore soccer. Comprendo? Ng wrote in a letter addressed to the then FAS president, Zainuddin Nordin, that he was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the FAS and the AFF. The Game Changers team leader claimed that Lee was the one who prepared the letter which he just signed.

So far, Zainuddin has not responded to questions being thrown at him about the donation. His weird and rather dismissive reply was that he would not be commenting: “I’m not running for elections.” All the developments took place during his watch and his name was clearly mentioned. And he has nothing to say, except to deny any business links with Bill Ng. But he seemed to have time to do some quite revealing tweeting, according to a report in The Straits Times: “Revenge is a dish best served cold” and “Blaming others is excusing yourself”. Whoa!

So what really took place? I propose this ABC theory, which does not necessarily put anyone in an evil light, ambitious perhaps but more misguided and somewhat selfish, that is, I hope so, for each’s sake, with the CAD now in the picture:

A and B wanted to put Singapore on the world map of soccer, ok, not world but maybe regional (or even Asian) map. Get into the AFF or AFC (Asian Football Confederation) action. Smooth your way into those arenas. A bit like the way another local sports personality catapulted himself into the Olympian heights through the over-extravagant YOG and whatnot, including a wholly misled and embarrassing foray into the IOC.

C was roped into the plan.  Fall guy or willing partner, who knows.

Who A, B or C is, I leave it to you to guess. If the cap fits, as they say…

The bigger mystery in all of this is: Was it possible that other FAS Council members were totally unaware of everything?

Some observers blamed it on the leadership style of Zainuddin Nordin.  If he had brought results instead of the depths into which Singapore soccer has fallen, he might have been regarded as, what soccer-mad Brazilians would call, a malandro, an anti-hero who has jeitinho, the ability to find the “little ways” around society’s rules to achieve a goal.  This is from a book I am reading called “Brazillionaires” by Alex Guadros, which is about the godfathers of modern Brazil.  But the ex-FAS head honcho was a dismal failure during his time at the football body.

TODAY online quoted ex-national captain Razali Saad, who was on the FAS Council from 2013 till last year, as saying that he and other council members were never consulted on important matters: “Important decisions on football were made without much discussions or engagement with the entire council. For example, a policy would be drawn up (without any prior discussions) and that was it. Everybody would have to agree to it.”

Lim Kia Tong, who heads Team LKT, which will contest next Saturday’s elections against Bill Ng’s Game Changers, said he did not have a lot of say in previous decisions. Unbelievable. He could have done better, he was a vice-president.

$500,000 may not even be enough to pay Cristiano Ronaldo’s weekly salary of $515,000 at Real Madrid. But it is a lot of money for local soccer clubs.

Not a trifle sum. And, indeed, corporate integrity is priceless.

Othman Wok (1924-2017), a leader with integrity

The late former Minister of Social Affairs was a leader with an impeccable feel for the common man.  He did much for Singapore sports. He was of that generation that did not count the digits in their salaries. Service was all that matters. Inche Othman would have made an excellent Elected President. May he rest in peace.

Sense And Nonsense is a weekly series. Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.