Finally the ball’s started rolling

Finally the ball’s started rolling

The opening whistle for the resumption of local sport was blown after mixed martial arts and football both made significant strides yesterday.

Hours before One Championship’s Reign of Dynasties event played out behind closed doors at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong announced that the Singapore Premier League would resume next Saturday after a 211-day hiatus.

He indicated that the football competition which, like all local sports, had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, would also not be open to a live audience though fans can catch the action via live streams and on cable television.

Mr Tong, who is also the Second Minister for Law, wrote on his Facebook page: “Glad to hear that the Covid-19 swab test results came back negative for all 223 players and match officials. Coaches and team officials will be masked up during games, alongside other safe management measures. Only the 22 players and four match referees on the field can be unmasked.”

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) also shortened the season from three rounds to two so that teams face each other only twice, thus allowing the tournament to finish by year end.

The Singapore Cup has also been annulled to avoid fixture congestion, a problem many overseas leagues such as the English Premier League have faced on resumption.

However, a cloud remains over the participation of Bandar Seri Begawan-based Brunei DPMM, with travel restrictions still in place in both countries.

FAS president Lim Kia Tong said the defending champions have been provided an option to play their matches in Singapore, and will wait for a favourable reply by Monday. He said: “This is an outcome that the FAS and the SPL clubs, along with Sport Singapore and the relevant government authorities, have worked tirelessly towards in recent weeks.

“The FAS will ensure that all the necessary Covid-19 safe protocols are strictly adhered to, to ensure the smooth restart of the league and hopes it will pave the way for more local sports leagues and events to resume.”

With the Republic hosting several marquee sports events such as the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix annually, which involve global stars who travel here from various parts of the world, the One event had been touted as a pilot project by the Singapore Tourism Board. It features foreign athletes who arrived in Singapore and underwent quarantine periods shorter than the stipulated 14 days, among other restrictions.

Meanwhile, the SPL’s resumption date was welcomed by the football community. Geylang International coach Noor Ali said: “It is good news. We have one week to prepare and we are raring to go. In the next few days, we hope to get more clarity in terms of any rule changes such as the number of substitutions allowed, so we can prepare accordingly.”

It is understood that the FAS will meet club officials on Monday to share more details.

WIN-WIN SOLUTION

“This is an outcome that the FAS and the SPL clubs, along with Sport Singapore and the relevant government authorities, have worked tirelessly towards in recent weeks.”

LIM KIA TONG, FAS president, hailing the decision.

WE CAN’T WAIT

“We have one week to prepare and we are raring to go. In the next few days, we hope to get more clarity in terms of any rule changes such as the number of substitutions allowed, so we can prepare accordingly.”

NOOR ALI, Geylang coach, on their final adjustments.

NO EXCEPTIONS

“Coaches and team officials will be masked up during games, alongside other safe management measures. Only the 22 players and four match referees on the field can be unmasked.”

MR EDWIN TONG, Culture, Community and Youth Minister, on the strict health precautions.