Not Messi, money alone can help S.League, says Tampines Rovers' Jermaine Pennant

Pennant called for more sponsorship and government support to help S.League grow.

Lionel Messi
Pennant said it would be impossible for anyone to make an difference to the league single-handedly Reuters

Tampines Rovers winger Jermaine Pennant stressed on the need to bring in more money and support from Singapore government to help improve S.League.

The former Liverpool and Arsenal winger has reportedly rejected a contract extension offer from the Stags and is leaving the Singapore club at the end of the season. Pennant was forced to make the decision after the Tampines management reduced wage budget considerably to venture into a "sustainable" future.

Pennant will bring an end to his nine-month stint at S.League on Saturday when he plays for the Tampines one last time in the Singapore Cup final against Albirex NIigata. Notably, he was rested for Wednesday's final league game against the White Swans, which his side won by a comfortable 5-1 margin.

Arriving to a rousing reception in January during Tampines' pre-match friendly against Hougang United, Pennant helped bring in fanfare and traction to the club and to the league.

However, the 33-year-old added that it would be impossible for anyone to bring about a change single-handedly. He believes that even the arrival of Barcelona great Lionel Messi to S.League can only help bring in more fans but the quality of the league will improve only with more government support and sponsorships.

"No matter who you get, you could bring Messi here, yes, you would attract fans but without money, and the government and the league helping out out like they do with other sports, or what they do in other countries, it is not going to grow," Pennant was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

"All I can do is go out there and play my best and hopefully create a buzz. But it needs more than that, you can't just expect me to come here and change everything."

Despite having the likes of of Pennant, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb in their ranks, Tampines have not been able to win a single piece of silverware yet. The Stags finished second best in the league behind champions Albirex and their AFC Cup run came to an end in the quarter-final of the tournament.

Pennant remained optimistic about the finishing the season on a high with a positive result in the upcoming cup final. However, he expressed disappointment at the club situation and said he had hoped for better things when he signed up for the S.League giants.

"If we would won the league it would probably be a bit better but hopefully we can end on good note and win on Saturday," Pennant added.

"I do not think it [my stint] is a failure. I have enjoyed my time here. It is a bit disappointing what has happened to the club. When I signed everything looked good. But I definitely did not regret it."