In From the Bridge, we step away from celebrating the founding of the Lion City Sailors to glance in the rear view mirror to see where we have come in the previous year, before turning our eyes to the horizon on the path ahead.
In the opening piece of the series, Sailors Chief Executive Chew Chun-Liang pens his thoughts as he reflects on victory in the Singapore Premier League in 2021, and the good work that continues behind the scenes as the club drives towards its lofty vision.
Today the Lion City Sailors celebrate the second anniversary of the founding of our club, and it brings me great pride to say that we celebrate as champions of the Singapore Premier League (SPL), and Singapore’s representatives in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) when the tournament kicks off in April this year.
Over the last two years, we have set essential blocks in place, have started to build upon that, even growing local capabilities, and are in the process of stitching all these elements together more effectively as we look towards achieving our vision of becoming one of Asia’s best.
And there has been much to celebrate.
On-field success is an important facet of the platform for our growth, and credit must be given to Head Coach Kim Do-hoon and the team, for not only getting us across the finish line, but for playing attractive football and perhaps more importantly, for the desire and gumption that the team displayed time and again as we battled on the pitch – they truly demonstrated what the Sailors stand for.
This was perhaps best illustrated in the last four games of 2021.
The team conceded a late goal to draw 1-1 with our closest title rivals Albirex Niigata (S), in September but I remember it like it was yesterday, largely because it felt like we lost more than two points in the dying minutes of that game – it felt like we had lost our chance to win the SPL.
That day, I told the team that while things were no longer in our hands, it was not over, and we should still be proud of ourselves if we go on to win the final three games of the season. And I must admit I was blown away by how Coach Kim and the boys rallied around each other and battled to three sensational wins for us to be crowned champions of Singapore for the first time. They demonstrated character and a never-say-die spirit and fought to the end – those three weeks or so gave me my best memories of 2021.
And that is saying something – as a club, the Sailors grew a lot in the year.
We started putting essential blocks in place in 2020, and we continued on a similar upward trajectory, and have started growing local capabilities in 2021.
This is witnessed in our specialist teams – the technical team, sports science, sports medicine and performance analysis – on the administrative side of the club from operations to fan and community engagement, and even in terms of forming key partnerships that can help us drive exponential growth in club capabilities and our youth development pathways.
Most of this work took place away from the public eye, but they all contributed to the success of the club, both on and off the pitch and have set a strong foundation for the club to achieve sustained success into the future.
For example, our performance analysts not only study patterns that arise in our opposition to help our technical team formulate tactics, they also leverage data to help the technical team search for new signings who can help the club get to the next level. Our sports science and medical teams also similarly contribute quietly, but importantly, to our on-field success.
Off the pitch, the Sailors signed a partnership with German giants Borussia Dortmund in July last year, and within some four months sent a 40-member delegation to Europe. It was a two-pronged trip: knowledge-sharing for our specialist and administrative teams, and training for our Elite Under-14 academy squad. The academy team spent some six weeks in Europe, managing to play 11-a-side matches – something we were unable to due to pandemic measures in Singapore – and even demonstrated that our boys can be competitive against some of Europe’s best.
There have been improvements on the fan-engagement and community-engagement fronts, and while these are still works in progress, we are moving towards bringing more value to Sailors’ fan club members – The Crew – deepening engagement on social media and our website, while also expanding our lifestyle offerings.
Our fans and the communities we live and work in remain at the heart of everything we do, and while Coach Kim and the team continue to excite and entertain you on the pitch, the Sailors will continue to do our part in communities, like we did – alongside our BVB friends – with MacPherson’s Grant a Wish initiative last year.
We will be able to dive even deeper into our communities soon, because of another bright spark of 2021 – the start of construction work on our Mattar Road training centre.
We are poised to operationalise the centre in the middle of 2022, and I am personally excited about kicking off programmes with our partners in Singapore’s sporting fraternity as well as our friends in the Mattar community, not to mention the massive boost the facility will provide us on the football front – both for the first team and the youth development pathways that we will be able to refine and grow.
With all hands on deck, the year ahead promises much for the club, and what we can do with our partners, our friends in the community, and you, our fans. Our commitment remains the same – we will continue to drive excellence and professionalism within the club, while contributing to the Singapore football fraternity.
I look forward to welcoming you to the Jalan Besar Stadium in the year ahead, and also to the various initiatives we will roll out in 2022.
Happy Birthday, Sailors!