Singapore is a small country. Located south of Malaysia and east of Indonesia, it is one of the smallest states in Asia, at just 730 square kilometres. Even so, its football is something to behold.
The passion for football comes from its growing overseas investment. This investment has allowed its domestic league to grow exponentially. Improved infrastructure has allowed Singapore to have more professional clubs. It has also led to better quality domestic players. This is what Singapore’s football league looks like.
What is the Singapore Premier League like?
Singapore is a young country. So is its national football league. It is run by the Singapore Football Association, founded in 1892. Even so, almost all of its history has been linked to Malaysia. In 1995, they decided to become independent in football and set up their own football.
This led to the first league competition in Singapore in 1996. In its first years, eight clubs competed. The number of participants varied from eight to thirteen from the beginning to the present day. It increases and decreases as teams are formed and disappear.
The format of the Singapore Premier League is more complicated than in European football. Eight clubs participated in 2021. All teams play each other three times, twice at home and once away. This completes the 21 rounds of the Singapore Premier League.
The competition starts in March and ends in October, avoiding the months at the beginning and end of the year. It is held in these months to avoid the monsoon weather, where there are big storms that tend to damage some of the clubs’ facilities.
Eight clubs participated in the 2021 season in the Singapore Football League. They were Lion City, Albirex Niigata, Hougang, Tampines, Tanjong Pagar, Geylang, BalestierKhalsa and Young Lions. Only one guest club competed in this edition, the Japanese Albirex Niigata.
There is currently no official Singaporean second division. There are local tournaments where non-professional clubs compete. The Singapore Football Federation has set high requirements for promotion to the first division and no strong second division has been organised.
Other Singapore football competitions
Singaporean football is not just about the Premier League. It also has two other competitions. One of them is the Singapore Cup. This is the most important domestic competition and even clubs from other countries such as Thailand, the Philippines or Brunei can participate.
The other competition is the Singapore Super Cup, which pits the league champions against the Singapore Cup champions. The League Cup existed until 2017, but it was determined that the tournament should be closed to ease the schedule of the participating teams.
An unusual Cup
At its inception in 1998, it was determined that the Singapore Cup would be contested by the top five teams from the Premier League. Eventually, it was opened up to all clubs from the Singaporean Premier League to compete. Other clubs from neighbouring countries were also invited.
Even Bangkok Glass of Thailand were crowned champions in 2010. It is the only non-Singaporean club to win the Singapore Cup. In recent years, Albirex Niigata have monopolised the trophy cabinet, albeit with victories over Global Cebu of the Philippines and Brunei DPMM FC of Brunei.
Singapore’s best football players go abroad in search of opportunities. European football remains a target for all of them. As a result, youngsters are looking for their chance in international football academies in England, Germany, Italy, France and Spain.
Some international football academies such as SIA Academy in Spain host several players from Singapore every year. They all come to Soccer Inter-Action for a chance to turn professional that they do not have in their home country. The development of the Singapore Premier League is still not enough.
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