Kindly introduce yourself and what is the role that you are performing right now?
Greetings, Eagles supporters… I would like to first wish all an enjoyable long weekend and to my Muslim friends – Selamat Hari Raya Haji!
Since I left Geylang International Football Club in November 2021, I took time off for a couple of months relaxing and spending time with my family and grandkids – not forgetting the weekend golf with my buddies.
After almost a decade of involvement in football management, it is hard to just remove football from my life completely. I’m still missing the match day engagements, preparations and above all the interaction with players and fans. Having said that, I could not keep my eyes and heart off the football scene especially the matches being played in the Singapore Premier League! (laugh)
Please share with us your experience as the General Manager of GIFC.
Never a dull moment during my tenure as GM. Like I mentioned earlier, it is the preparation leading to the match that matters most. And the excitement of the match, the misses, the goal celebrations and post-match interactions with fans.
The role of a club GM encompasses all aspects from securing sponsorships, committing to activations, engaging the community, dealing with team issues and planning for match day activities to enhance fans’ experience.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you were in GIFC?
Working with Finance and Technical team to balance the budget in order to have a team capable of challenging and finishing reasonably in the League standings. The task required finding other revenue streams, hence securing sponsorship from corporations was utmost importance. I’m grateful to Epson Singapore for continuously committing as the Main Sponsor and FBT Singapore for the apparels.
Another challenge was encouraging more fans to watch our home games at Our Tampines Hub, a fantastic avenue to enjoy the atmosphere with the family. Again, I’m grateful to many loyal supporters, especially the Ultras Eagles and community partners like Pertapis Halfway House who without fail, rain or shine be at OTH to sing and cheer the Eagles.
How was your relationship with the fan group(s) or fans in general at GIFC?
I always subscribe to the notion – Football without fans is nothing!
Hence, I make it a point to engage them, support them and accede to their requests as long as those requests are within the confines and ability of the club.
My affinity with UE and Pertapis Halfway House goes back a long way from the day I started my role as GM of GIFC. I’m glad to see UE growing from strength to strength in numbers since 2012 and Pertapis Halfway House doing a great job with their mission.
Please share your involvement with Udon Thani FC and your experience as the only Singaporean managing a Thai league club now.
I am not sure if I am the only Singaporean managing a Thai League Club (laugh) but it is no coincidence that I am involved with the club.
I have a good relationship with the President of the UDFC and when it was known that I had left GIFC, the offer came to me to take up the role of GM.
Hopefully, I can instil the values of prudent financial management and professionalism in club management. Not that UDFC is lacking in these areas, but I hope to get the best of my experiences in GIFC and impart the good values.
As for fans engagement, probably Thai fans are fervent and passionate and I believe in this area, I can learn much and see how UDFC can further enhance matchday activations and fans experience.
How is the football level in Thai League 2 as compared to the SPL?
The level of play of T2 and T3 is comparatively close in terms of team skills. The league is so competitive and there is not much difference in standards between the top and bottom teams on their day.
The foreigners in these teams are good and have consistently helped their teams.
Probably for T1 clubs, their squads are of much higher level due to the bigger budget allocated to sign players of higher quality.
SPL teams probably would be as good as any team in T2, in my opinion. I may be wrong but this is my assessment from watching SPL and T2 matches.
In terms of management of the club, how different is it as compared to your experience at GIFC or SPL generally?
The principles of managing a club are the same throughout the world. I would think for a successful club to thrive, putting the right people on and off the pitch is the key to success.
On the pitch, you need a good technical team starting with the Sporting Director, Head Coach and right down to the Logistics Officer as well as a good academy for grooming young, talented players.
Off the pitch, the Club President/Chairman needs a clear direction of where he wants the club to be – always challenging for the title or satisfied with just staying in the league year in year out. A good mix of dedicated professionals to be in the Management Committee would be a great advantage.
Teams in T2 League are not as fortunate as SPL teams as the subsidy from the Thai Football Federation is minimal. Hence, presidents of the respective clubs need to work hard to find the additional source of income to sustain the club.
This is a big factor as survival of the club is utmost important. Clubs are often innovative in securing sponsorships, increasing ticket sales at matches and last but not least boosting more merchandise sales.
Do you have plans to sign a Singaporean player for Udon Thani FC?
As a Singaporean, it is my wish that UDFC will be able to sign a Singaporean player and contribute to the team. Just as in the past, the likes of Gabriel Quak, Zulfahmi Arifin, Baihakki Khaizan and recently the Fandi brothers have plied their trade in Thailand. Eventually players playing in a foreign league will bring out their best and if they are called up for national team duties, pretty sure they will contribute.
I will be on the look out hopefully to sign one local player in the January 2023 transfer window.
Recently you had decided to get Udon Thani to sponsor jerseys for the Ultras Eagles futsal team. Please share your thoughts on what motivated you to launch this initiative and whether this partnership will go on beyond the current Fan Club League season.
It came to my knowledge that UE was sending a team to compete in the Fan Club League and I thought it was a good league for fans of the various clubs in SPL to play regularly in a weekly league.
When I heard that UE was looking to purchase team jerseys, without hesitation, I offered to provide the team with UDFC jerseys. To be honest, I would not acknowledge this as a sponsorship but rather a gift to the UE members for their 10th Anniversary – an important milestone.
Lastly, as you know it is the 10th Anniversary of the Ultras Eagles. Any words you would like to share with UE and our readers?
I’m excited and glad to know that it is UE’s 10th Anniversary indeed!
I have a close affinity with UE since 2012. Seeing the growth in numbers is a welcome sign that the group is doing the right things.
My wish is that UE will continue to grow and support GIFC – like the saying goes, win, draw or lose we are always there for you!