Voices From The Ground: Hougang United vs Albirex Niigata (S): What The Fans Think

Photo: Christina Seah Rodrigues

Chris Peng
The Unofficial S.League Podcast

Voices From The Ground: Our writer spoke to Hougang fan Salihin and Albirex fan Satria to find out about their thoughts from the game.

Pre-match interview with Hougang United fan Sal

Chris (C): As a supporter of a club that has yet to win anything, the recent trio of victories has put your club on a pedestal and you guys are starting to see real potential in the team. The Hougang HOOLs have always been fervent in your support whether your club is losing, drawing or winning. So now that people are seeing Hougang in a brighter light, any plans from the fans to ride this wave of optimism? Perhaps a new chant or more collaborations with the club?

Sal (S): We have always took on this stance - support the boys whether they win, lose or draw. Every game the HOOLs’ approach is to have fun, banter with a group of friends or maybe even make new like-minded friends. To us, every victory is a bonus and we'll be hoping for the boys to build on this momentum for the domestic cup competitions. We are hoping to see our beloved team venture into the AFC Cup soon.

C: You guys had to operate without a proper striker not too long ago. With Antoine Viterale scoring his first senior goal and both Pablo Rodriguez and Fareez Farhan finding the net, do you see your team being less reliant on the likes of Azhar Sairudin or Nazrul Nazari for goals?

S: In my honest opinion, we did not only lose Stipe Plazibat. We also had to do without our lethal local forward Iqbal Hussain. Iqbal can be quite a handful for opposition defenders to handle due to his speed and his shooting power. Now that he has just fulfilled his mandatory two-year national service, we'll hope to see him banging in the goals again.

C: The League Cup is often discussed as a Cup to blood young players, Coach Aw is obviously more than prepared to do that. Just look at the line-up in the last (S.League) game against Albirex Niigata (S). If you were him, do you think it’s hard to find a blend between experience and potential?

S: Our Prime League team is swamped with talents. Justin (Hui), Gareth (Low) and Gerald (Ting) have shown their hunger for their first starts and they are just 19 to 20 years of age.

It’s not the first time Coach Phillippe has unleashed Prime League players. He played Ariyan Shamsuddin during the first home fixture against Geylang, Syukri Bashir against Balestier and Royston Tan in our home game against Tampines. Hopefully we can nurture our youth players from our youth system in the coming years and give them opportunities to kick-start their professional career.

C: For last season’s campaign, you guys started out slow, losing to DPMM but later progressed after beating Warriors and Balestier Khalsa. Are you hoping for a better start this time?

S: My personal opinion is that Coach Philippe would use this opportunity to unleash more of our youths and let them cherish the challenge in the League Cup.

C: Let's end off with the usual way we end our fan interviews; what does your heart and mind say about tomorrow’s game?

S: We've beaten Albirex once and we are on an unbelievable winning run. Let's hope the boys will continue marching on and hopefully we'll get the first piece of silverware. I am going for a scoreline of Hougang United 2 - Albirex 0.

Pre-match interview with Albirex Niigata Fan Satria

Chris (C): Your club has looked unbeatable for most of the season. Losing the two games must be a blow to both the title race and the team's morale. What do you think may have gone wrong?

Satria (S): Yes, of course it’s a blow for us. But having said this, we were also quite lucky that the results from other games were in our favour. Despite losing two games in a row, we are still topping the table with a 2 point lead. The reason for the loss might be due to the pressure of "staying unbeaten" and also due to the unexpected game play by Home United and Hougang United. Luck also did play a part for those two losses. But anyway, kudos to the two teams that have managed to break Albirex’s unbeaten run.

C: What do you think can be done by the players, coach or fans to turn things around?

S: Well, I’m very sure that the team and coach have now learnt about their mistakes and they will surely come out with a game plan to turn things around (starting with Hougang in the League Cup) to get back their winning momentum. Knowing the current group of Japanese lads, I’m very positive that they are capable of doing so. As for the fans, we will continue with our support regardless of what's the outcome.

C: Is it a good or bad situation to be up against Hougang United again after just 4 days? Do you think that it’s a good chance to make up for the loss in the league?

S: I don’t think its a bad situation. We are drawn with Hougang in the same group for the League Cup. Sooner or later we are going to be meeting them. I guess it's good to be meeting them again soon as the Albirex players will have the urgency to prove the critics wrong.

C: Since the game is coming up so quickly, do you think that your team is fit enough or has a deep enough bench to compete strongly?

S: As for Albirex’s team, they have a very strong squad for this season. With all due respect to the team from 2016, I think that the current season' squad is even stronger than the one we had last season. Both the first eleven and reserves are good enough to take on necessary roles when called upon.

C: Your team has goals written all over the lineup. Other than Tsubasa Sano, Ryota Nakai and Kento Nagasaki, Naofumi Tanaka and Shoichiro Sakamoto have also scored at least two league goals each. How do you feel about this?

S: As what Joachim Loew (Germany national team coach) said, ‘’We do not have any individual stars but we have a team’’ (Laughs heartily)

C: Do you think that your team will be heavily rotated for the League Cup? The schedule is pretty tight.

S: I'm pretty sure Coach Kazuaki (Yoshinaga) will rotate the squad around and at the same time give the other players some exposure. Perhaps he might introduce a few unused players for the upcoming Cup tournament.

C: Last but not least, what does your heart and mind say about tomorrow’s game, score-wise?

S: Well, (ponders thoughtfully) I’m still very confident of an Albirex win. The same scoreline as our last encounter but reversed (2-1 to Albirex).

Post-match interview with Hougang United Fan Sal Bernal

C:. 2 games in quick succession. Were you surprised at the line up?

S: I felt that the league cup’s fixtures are too closely packed together. No surprises with the lineup as Philippe needs to ensure that the team will be fresh for every game

C: Your team had less possession so is a point a good result? Especially considering Home United, a favourite in this competition, lost to Warriors in the other game.

S: Yes, it was a good result. Any points earned against the defending champs are valuable and we look forward for the upcoming games.

C: Pablo won plenty of aerial battles but often the loose balls weren't picked up. Any thoughts on this?

S: I felt that the team was playing safely and besides, we just need the points against Albirex.

C: Are you looking forward to see Fareez Farhan or Iqbal to make an impact soon?

S: Fareez has been doing his best every game. Hopefully he stays fit after every game especially after suffering a knock against Home United. For Iqbal, no questions asked. The boy is full of energy and springs surprises at every game.

C: Was it a strange feeling seeing Shirota keeping his former team mates out?

S: Nope, the Shirota 'wall' has to do his part for the team and he has been doing that for the entire season. I honestly hope he and (Fumiya) Kogure would stay at Hougang for the long haul.

Post-match interview with Albirex Fan Satria

C: After playing two games in quick succession, were you surprised at the line up?

S: No, actually the lineup tonight was more or less expected by us (Albirex fans).

C: Your team had more possession but didn't make good use of the chances. What are your thoughts about this?

S: Well, I believe it’s due to the fatigue and perhaps we were looking for the momentum to score again.

C: Do you think fatigue played a big part?

 S: Yes, definitely.

C: Well, Warriors beat Home United tonight and your team has a decent position in the table. Are you satisfied with the way things have panned out tonight?

S: That result was really a shock to most of us at the stands just now. Home United was leading 3-1 during half-time but it seems like the Warriors really fought back and earned themselves three precious points. I have to say that it is really a job well done by the Warriors.

As for Albirex, the table is still open and we are going to compete with the Warriors on Monday. Hopefully we can get the result we want with our home grund advantage

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