FAS and FAM elections: Malaysia the clear winner

Singapore football has a new leadership team following Saturday’s first ever election for control of the Football Association of Singapore.

Team LKT, led by former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong, beat the Game Changers, led by the chairman of Hougang United and Tiong Bahru football clubs Bill Ng, by 30 to 13 in a vote to win control of the FAS for the next four years.

Saturday’s vote means that both Singapore and Malaysia have seen changes of football leadership in the last two months, with new people in charge of administrating and developing what both nations like to call their national sport – although that’s where the similarities end.

When Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) won control of the Malaysian football association (FAM) in late March it marked a watershed moment.

TMJ had already forged an identity as a radical reformer of the game both on and off the pitch.

In just a few short years he had revamped club side Johor Darul Ta’zim into a Southeast Asian football powerhouse, developing a football infrastructure like no other while delivering unprecedented success on the pitch in the form of three-straight Malaysia Super League titles and the 2015 AFC Cup – a first for Southeast Asia.

Already in just a month, he has begun to change things in Malaysian football, giving teeth to the body that runs the league, taking steps to address officiating standards and tackle corruption, as well as making the FAM a leaner, more efficient organisation.

Of course, it will take time before the changes can be deemed a success or not, but at least observers can already see that TMJ is shaking things up and attempting to tackle the problems and vested interests that many believe have held up development of the game in Malaysia in recent decades.

Contrast that with Singapore and even the most optimistic of football fans would struggle to believe that Lim and his team will have anywhere near the same effect.

Lim is an FAS man through and through, he has been with the association in one position or another since 1992, or about the same period that fans will argue that Singapore football has been in decline.

And despite 25 years with the organisation and being well regarded within football circles, most fans would struggle to name even a single achievement of his.

Anybody expecting the same kind of radical change as implemented in Malaysia is likely to be disappointed given Lim’s remarks following his win, the new president saying that any “changes will be carefully considered before they are implemented,” which basically sounds like a euphemism for ‘nothing will change’ and if it does change will be glacial.

Of course, we may all be wrong and Lim and his team may make drastic changes that will restore Singapore to the heady days of the early 90s when it was ranked 73rd in the world instead of the current 159th – but don’t bet on it.

Given the records of the two new chairman, it is a no-brainer to predict that football in Malaysia will probably make great strides over the next few years while Singapore will continue to stagnate.

One thing is sure though, is that fans of the beautiful game on both sides of the causeway will be watching future developments with renewed interest.

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