With 2013 behind us, the Goal Singapore team comes up with nine football-related incidents they hope will come to fruition in the new year
|9. Ronaldo returns to EPL
Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Premier League has lost its claim to being home to world's biggest name in football. Sure, a host of new stars have emerged over the years, but they have never quite filled the gap left behind by the former Manchester United star. Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and now Mesut Ozil can lay claim to be amongst the best in the world but they are not quite in the same category as the Real Madrid star, whose rivalry with Lionel Messi will surely go down in history as one of the game's greatest. Perhaps no one has felt his absence more than his former club. The Red Devils pinned their hopes on Nani and Anderson to follow in his footsteps but the duo have never quite lived up to even their own potential, let alone challenge Ronaldo's legacy.
|8. New Singapore stadium to host big teams
Before Atletico Madrid's surprise visit in May this year, Liverpool were the last European club to make their way to Singapore for a competitive friendly and that was back in 2009 just before the old Kallang National Stadium was demolished. Come 2014, it will have been almost five years since the Reds' visit and Singapore football fans are understandably starved. A lack of a big stadium to play host to visiting teams has resulted in clubs making their way to other parts of the region instead. Just this summer the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester United made their way to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. With the new Sports Hub slated to open in second quarter of 2014, here's to seeing some stars visiting our shores.
|7. Better support for the S.League
Too often it has been said that the S.League is a pale comparison to the European leagues. It is true to an extent - the quality of football is much higher and the excitement is unrivaled. But Singaporeans shouldn't underestimate the S.League. There is a fair bout of excitement, and there really is some good quality there. And the best way for the quality to increase even further is if people come and watch and support the local clubs and make the teams and players play at an even higher level. Of course support does not come from just the public, but from the organisers as well. Support from every department will raise the profile of S.league and bring it up another notch and from there, who knows where it can go?
|5. LionsXII to challenge for the title
Fandi Ahmad will lead the exciting young team in it's third season of the Malaysian Super League. The team has improved since its maiden season two years ago and progressed in leaps and bounds. The only way to keep the progress is to achieve even more success. The team might be devoid of stars like Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan and Hariss Harun, but fresh young blood like Safuwan Baharudin, Afiq Yunos and Gabriel Quak can provide the energy. If LionsXII can maintain their dominant home form, who's to say they can't retain the title? Does Fandi have what it takes?
|4. Bernd Stange to improve current placing of Singapore in Fifa rankings, develop national team further
The German is on route to celebrate his first complete year as Singapore coach. Can he make the Lions progress even further than they have and can we see tangible results, not only in terms of playing style but in terms of the Fifa rankings? Then, there is also the small matter of retaining the AFF Suzuki Cup on home soil.
|3. Singapore clubs to do well in continental competition
After disastrous AFC Cup campaigns from Warriors FC and Tampines Rovers last year, the hope is that the S.League sides who are participating in continental competition this year fare better; much better. The Stags will likely falter in their bid to make the AFC Champions League, but there is is no reason for them not to do well in the AFC Cup, along with Home United. Making it out of the group stages should be the least they are expected to do, while they should aim to progress further after that.
|2. Financial fair play
With 2014 being the first year that Uefa's FFP kicks in, hopefully clubs will monitor their finances to curb overspending. Furthermore, we hope Uefa will be serious in applying sanctions to ban clubs from European competition if they dont comply, instead of bowing to pressure from the bigger clubs and retract from their current stance. Perhaps clubs would also choose to give home grown talents a chance instead of simply spending large sums on older established players, thus levelling the playing field.
While no European league has been suspected of match fixing, the problem is an endemic one around the smaller leagues in Europe and Asia, where player wages are not as lucrative. The problem is also one closer to home, with a Singaporean having been convicted of match fixing. The hope is that the integrity of the game is maintained, and that Fifa clamps down on offenders, both illegal bookies and the match fixing players themselves to completely eradicate this issue.