07 May 17 The Straits Times by WANG MENG MENG
Although Singapore football is struggling at the elite level, Kadir Yahaya thinks those who play the sport at a recreational level can make a big impact.
Thousands of weekend warriors play their favourite game, be it in five, seven or 11-a-side matches on courts, natural or artificial pitches.
And Kadir, the former international right-back, thinks the Republic can be a force in futsal - the five-a-side hard-court version of football - and has urged the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to boost the smaller five-sided game.
"I think (the FAS) had not cast the net wide enough," Kadir told The Sunday Times.
"Singapore has many indoor halls to play the game. Futsal can be played any time without worry of inclement weather. It is one of the most popular games in our country but ever since we hosted the Tiger 5s (which ended in 2001), we have neglected futsal."
And the 49-year-old, who now coaches the St Joseph's Institution's football team, pointed out to last year's Fifa Futsal World Cup Finals held in Colombia as a case in point.
Thailand and Vietnam - the only two South-east Asian nations with domestic futsal leagues - managed to reach the round of 16.
Kadir believes that if the FAS takes futsal seriously, Singapore can qualify for the Futsal World Cup, saying: "Realistically, given time, we can compete against Asia and the world's best."
Futsal, aside, the newly elected FAS council wants to support grassroots football by expanding participation across all ages and ability.
It also wants to set up a central exchange to let social teams of similar abilities to arrange matches with one another.
Former Singapore midfielder Lee Man Hon has been an avid social footballer since retiring as a professional. His team, Team BI (Beyond Imagination), are the leaders of Safra League Group A, and play on Saturday evenings. Teams in Group B play on Sundays.
The 43-year-old believes there are talented weekend warriors out there who can play professionally, and feels that the infrastructure has to be improved to make social football a more pleasant experience.
He noted: "The basics must be right. The pitches must be desirable for the players.
"The lights can be very dim for night matches and it is dangerous because when players challenge for high balls, it could lead to a clash of heads."
Weekend footballer and marketing executive Aziq Luqman has welcomed the new council's idea to introduce the central exchange to arrange friendlies for social teams. His team pays between $120 to $140 to a third party to organise games.
The 35-year-old said: "Sometimes, these games can be quite chaotic as it is not properly refereed and there are no linesmen, which causes dispute.
"Hopefully the FAS can improve the social football scene where players can enjoy their weekend kickabouts."