Voices From The Ground: Geylang International Versus Balestier Khalsa, A Painful Match For Everyone Involved

Photo: Christina Seah-Rodrigues

Chris Peng
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

Voices From The Ground - I attended my first match as an official member of the media but it was hardly a match that would set the pulse racing. The attendance was sparse and media attention was lacklustre. The match itself was also sub par.

Geylang International was treated to the Balestier Khalsa buffet but ate only a single head of cabbage. They walked past every other dish with disdain. The Eagles enjoyed the bulk of the ball, had plenty of width but lacked any sort of penetration, sending multiple shots awry or straight into the grateful arms of national custodian Zaiful Nizam. The awkward expression displayed by their coach Hasrin Jailani during the press conference confirmed his frustrations as such - clearly he was happy to claim maximum points but wasn't a fan of the finishing and crosses squandered by his men.

Balestier was hardworking but limited both on and off the ball. The Tigers created very little and their lack of an out-and-out striker was clear to see. Marko Kraljević had to repeat his concerns again. The common denomination between all his games will be the fact that his team is really crying out for an out-and-out forward. His youthful team bolstered by Myanmar Internationals can play in a skillful and speedy fashion but they haven't a Sano or Stipe to stick the ball in the back of the net. Their lack of a cutting edge must have been painful for Marko to witness time and time again.

So was it all bad? Hardly. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Both sets of fans were lively, this was epitomized in the second half as the respective set of fans engaged in a drum and chant contest. They managed to fill the stadium with their enthusiasm and injected some much needed energy into this otherwise dour affair. Naturally I was interested in getting a feel for the vibes in the terraces.

Pre-match Interview with Geylang International supporter Fifi.

Chris ( C ) : So how do you feel about Geylang's chances tonight?

Fifi ( F ) : Obviously, we have a good chance to win!

C: Considering what happened for the last few games, how do you feel about Geylang's current form? F: Versus Hougang United, we didn't do well in the first half but came back strongly in the second half, clinching the equalizer. We are looking to turn things around tonight. 3 Points!

C: Were you looking forward to this game?

F: Yes of course! Every game! Always looking to win and to stay in the top half of the S-League standing. If we can keep winning games we'll be up there. We definitely do not want to be the wooden-spoonist!

C: Pretty unlikely! As it is, we have a group of inexperienced Singaporeans and a team from Brunei propping up the table.

F: Oh yes! Last night's game was very shocking! ( Home United 9 Brunei Dpmm 3 ). People had lots of opinions on Social Media. Back to our game tonight, I am confident for the boys.

C: You guys should be reasonably confident, the squad is good. You guys almost took the AFC spot ahead of Home United last season!

F: Yes, a matter of the goal difference! The final game of the season, I was there!

C: Balestier is short on fire power, if you guys can keep it tight at the back, I don't see why you guys can't nick a couple of goals. Yuki Ichikawa can play upfront. He's good.

F: We can't be over confident or complacent, the bottom team can beat supposedly stronger teams. We need to win fairly and enjoy the game.

C: Yes, entertainment is important, the crowd is miserable and it's up to the fans and the media to revive the league.

F: Indeed, I would love to see packed stadiums. We love this league and need to encourage the others to join us, especially the young ones.

C: Perhaps through social media or via community involvement with the likes of schools and Community Centers. Everyone will have to play a part, for now, enjoy the game and good luck, thank you!

Fifi was obviously enthusiastic and wants the best for not only his club but for the league. We'll need many more Fifis in every club to truly stir a revival.

Half time Interview with Balestier Fan John

Chris ( C ): How did you guys find the first half?

John ( J ): We are very disappointed with the goal, it was scored from an offside position! The linesman didn't see it. ( Looked onside to me. )

C: Other than the goal, how did you find the game? Did you enjoy the game?

J: Not really!

C: Maybe the second half will be better,

J: Yes! Our Myanmar player will come on. Our number 7 Aung Kyaw Naing.

C: He should be able to inject energy into the game with his speed and skill right?

J: Yes, he will come on and be better than our number 20. ( Jonathan Tan ).

C: Maybe he will turn the game around, good luck in the second half!

J: Thank you!

John was one member among a cluster of Burmese Football fans coming to support their Burmese compatriots who are donning the kit of the Tigers. There may not be many of them but their nationalistic spirit is to be applauded. 

While Balestier Khalsa may not have had a good season, their Burmese flavor did inject some dynamism in our league and I am  looking forward to see them in numbers, especially at their home ground. Toa Payoh Stadium may not be known to be one of the better furnished and popular stadiums but perhaps the Burmese fans can really make it their home and our league will be all the better for it.

Full Time Interview with Geylang International fan Javier 

Chris ( C ): Hi, I represent the S.League Podcast. How did you find the game?

Javier ( J ): It was exciting, lots of aerial battles but unfortunately we didn't create many clear cut chances.

C: From my perspective, Geylang created a lot of chances but failed to finish. Whether it was crosses or passes, the finishing touch rarely materialized.

J: Yes, the finishing wasn't that good. I went to Geylang's training last week and our coach Hasrin was actually doing a lot of shooting drills of the 1-2 variant. We are not doing well not because we are playing poorly, we are just unable to put the ball into the net. You can have 20 shots on goal but still lose if you fail to convert the chances. We need to get the ball to the striker and he needs to finish his chances calmly. Then we will get the results.

C: Seems like Geylang is right in the middle. They can finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th, the league still has a long way to run and is very open. So how do you feel about Geylang's chances in the near future?

J: I think that as long as the players do their best in training and listen to the coach, train hard both officially or by themselves, they can improve a lot. As they said, form is temporary, class is permanent! The form is not there but we know what they are capable of doing, its also a matter of luck that they are not scoring.

C: I noticed that Yuki Ichikawa was pushed further up in the second half, going from a member of the back line to a defensive midfielder. Possibly even an attacking one! Is this a norm for Geylang? Possibly due to the fact that Balestier wasn't posing much of a threat?

J: For Yuki, he is a reliable defender, I feel that he was pushed further up front as he had the height to win the aerial battles. He is pushed further up to pressure the opposing back line, he is well capable of creating or even finishing chances! Perhaps the coach wanted to deliver more crosses but there were no one to finish them off, hence Yuki was given that responsibility.

C: He did score against Home United as an emergency striker. It is a good thing that your team didn't play well but still secured the win. As the adage goes, it's a mark of a good team to win despite playing poorly. Overall it is a positive result. Thank and good luck, Geylang!

J: Thank you! 

Javier is one of the most ardent and enthusiastic Eagle supporter out there. His loyalty to the club is matched by his eloquence and knowledge about his team. He was truly a joy to converse with and it marked a positive end to my first day as a media newbie.

To sum up, the game wasn't fantastic but talking to the fans made my day. I'm certainly looking forward to glean knowledge and emotions from many other fans as I travel along this path.

Onward and forward!

All copyrights © 2017 are attributed to the respective contributors above.


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