Veteran Singapore international Baihakki Khaizan stressed on the need to focus on improving the standard of the country's local league - S.League - as part of his New Year's message.
Baihakki conceded that Singapore football is at it "lowest point" and that the local league needed sincere support from all stakeholders for its betterment. Notably, the 33-year-old centre-back was part of the Lions squad, which was ousted from 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup as early as in the group stages of the competition. Singapore were not able to win even a single match and crashed out after collecting only one point from the tournament, which was also their worst ever Suzuki Cup performance.
Coach V Sundramoorthy and his men faced quite a lot of flak for their disappointing performance at the biennial tournament but quite a few pointed fingers on the condition of the local league for the national team's failure at the highest level. There are voices raised against the creation of Asean Super League as well. Star players including former Tampines Rovers' star Jermaine Pennant reportedly spoke against such a move but wanted more focus of S.League.
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Baihakki, who is eyeing an S.League return after the end of his successful stint with Johor Darul Ta'zim II, said it was saddening to see only a few number of teams in the S.League. Notably, a few of those teams have also been facing financial issues and even league heavyweights Tampines were forced to let go off their key stars including Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb.
"There should be more local teams playing in the S-League. It's our own league and it's a bit worrying to see that we have so few local teams involved," Baihakki said, as quoted by The Straits Times.
"We are currently at the lowest point in Singapore football, and I just hope that little by little, there will be good vibes that will give local football some hope. We don't need overnight sudden changes, but I hope to see more positive initiatives coming up.
"I hope that the support from local companies and fans will be sincere, that they will support us whether we are doing well or badly."