Goal.com met up with the defending Tiger Street Football Singapore champions, who revealed their aim of representing the nation
The sport of football is – or arguably amongst – the most popular sport in Singapore. The media coverage of European, Asian and local leagues in the city state speaks for itself. If you compound the amount of money spent per football fan on renting playing turfs, jerseys, boots, etc., that will be good substantiation of the fact that football is indeed big in the Lion City.
For a peculiar reason however, futsal - a direct derivative of football - is not as popular. So what is up with futsal in Singapore?
Goal.com caught up with one of the best futsal teams in Singapore, ‘Touch & Go’, to shed light on the world of futsal. These gentlemen, namely Arif Aiman, Faizal Sa’don, Mahmud Hashim and Raziz Buang, have done the country proud by winning the Tiger Street Football Singapore tournament twice in a row and wiill look to defend their title in July this year.
THE STORY BEHIND TOUCH ‘&’ GO
These guys started off as friends who simply got together for a friendly kick-about. In 2010, things got a little more serious when their teammate and goalkeeper at that time, Yong Li, took the leap to officially start a team to play in the Gladiator Tournament – they were called ‘On the Run’.
In 2011, they won the Tiger Street Football Singapore title and soon after, they disbanded but came back together for the 2012 edition as the new and improved ‘Touch & Go’ to successfully defend their championship.
But they are not an actual futsal team. They are just street players looking for a chance to make it big one day.
Arif and Mahmud shared with Goal.com their love of football. Both of them, along with Faizal and Raziz, were once part of the S.League or professional football in Singapore; Arif played for the Young Lions (2009), Mahmud for Balestier (2009/10), Raziz for Seng Kang Punggol (Prime League, 2007) and Faizal for the Singapore Under-21 team.
The duo said that it was their dream to represent Singapore on a grander stage but the opportunity never came. However, with their back-to-back success on an international stage via Tiger Street Football, it dawned on them that they could soon live their dreams.
“It will be very difficult to challenge for glory in the 11-a-side competitions because European teams by their sheer size, can easily beat us, we are relatively small," 29-year-old Mahmud said.
"On the futsal court however, it is an even playing field as speed and technique are paramount for success.”
When queried about representing the nation, Mahmud revealed the difficulties his team faced in getting the backing of the footballing body in Singapore.
“We approached the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) but they told us to wait as it isn’t the right time for futsal,” he said.
He explained that his team were told to continue the hard work and when Singapore is ready, ‘Touch & Go’ will be the first in line.
Collectively, Arif and Mahmud want to be the pioneer batch to set up a platform for future futsal enthusiasts in Singapore and hope make futsal a bigger sport in the country.
FUTSAL LIFESTYLE IN SINGAPORE
When he is not playing futsal, Mahmud helps in the operation of futsal rental grounds around the city.
He has noticed that in Singapore, the idea of futsal is skewed to a level that it becomes dangerous.
“I see that a lot of locals and Caucasians play futsal using a lot of body contact and sliding but in the actual games at an international level they use speed and technique," Mahmud explained.
"There is almost no body contact at all. I think it’s because they pay money to play and that is why they feel like they can do anything."
For Mahmud and his friends, they make time amidst their busy working schedules to get together three times a week to train or to play in a futsal league called the ‘Next Big Thing’. A lot of time is spent in neighbourhood courts, futsal turf pitches practicing body-checks, short sprints and shuttle runs.
In preparations to defend their Tiger Street Football championship, ‘Touch & Go’ will be looking to YouTube for new tactics, as they have for many years. They will also have the foundation of playing in Malaysia.
When playing against unknown teams, ‘Touch & Go’ have learnt that it is important to never underestimate the competition but at the same time, it is vital to be confident. They have to do a lot of training as many teams don’t want to face the wrath of Mahmud’s side for a friendly.
“As a team, we are quite solid," Arif said. "We are a very balanced side with a lot of experience. We gel together perfectly.”
The Tiger Street Football tournament will arrive in Singapore in July, and ‘Touch & Go’ will also participate in two of the remaining six installations of the competition as international entrants. In Cambodia last month, they lost to Netherlands, but one can bet that they will be ready for the next challenge.