Singapore might not be the first place you would think of when you talk about football. Its men’s team is 158th in the FIFA rankings; its women’s team is 131st. It has never qualified for the World Cup. And it doesn’t have a globally recognised superstar. Yet the following for football has been passionate there for over a century.
Xener Kaur Gill, a 26-year-old Singaporean is thrilled about the inaugural Singapore Festival of Football (organised by TEG Sport) featuring some of the best European clubs — AS Roma, Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City, and his favourite club, Liverpool. The festival will be on from July 26 to August 2.
“As a football fan, I am really excited to see these big clubs coming here. To see our favourite players live in action is truly an incredible experience — from the sheer level of skill we get to witness to the atmosphere, it’s a feeling that’s completely out of the world,” says Xener. “The love for football and — more specifically — Liverpool runs deep in my family. So I’m looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere with my family and enjoying our love for sport together.”
GB Srithar, Singapore Tourism Board’s Regional Director for India, Middle East, South Asia & Africa, expects a lot of Indians, including the expatriate community, to turn up for the matches in Singapore. “A growing trend among Indian audiences is to travel for unique experiences and create memories, including attending global sporting events. People are keen to watch a live match, cheer for their favourite players, and enjoy an immersive experience that stays with them indefinitely,” he says.
Singapore Football Festival schedule
July 26: Tottenham Hotspur v AS Roma
July 30: Liverpool v Leicester
August 2: Liverpool v Bayern Munich
(All matches will be played at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub)
The Singapore Football Association (now called the Football Association of Singapore), established in 1892, is Asia’s oldest football association. Because of this history and mad following, some of the game’s giants have set foot in the tiny island nation. For instance, when Pele visited the place in 1974, awestruck fans mobbed the legend wherever he went.
Usually, fans wanting to witness the best footballers in action will have to fly to Europe because that is where almost all of them ply their trade. And a big chunk of these fans are from Asia. So, fans like Xener are thrilled when their favourite stars come to them.
“Asia is our single largest region in terms of fan base,” Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s chief executive, told the BBC. “Someone once said to me, you could stand at any airport, jump on any plane and have a reason to go there and find Liverpool fans. But a third of our global support is here and we feel there’s tremendous opportunity in Asia.”
Timothy Ho, Managing Director of TEG Asia, credits the success of last year’s pre-season match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace in Singapore as the catalyst of this year’s tournament. “We also have the ambition to repeat it next year as well, subject to the availability of the clubs,” he added.
Besides the footballing action, spectators can also look forward to a series of entertaining offerings at the Football Fan Interactive Festival Village throughout the week. The village will be open to the public on open training and match days as well as on August 1, a day before the final match between Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
Tickets for the Singapore Festival of Football can be purchased at https://premier.ticketek.com.sg/shows/show.aspx?sh=SFFUM