Sports Desk 1, Singapore 0

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SINGAPORE – Readers of the most respected English broadsheet on the island might have been forgiven for not knowing which country they were in had they begun reading it from the back page, which is the front page as far as sports fanatics are concerned.The back page in its entirety was devoted to the Red Devils of Manchester United. What first catches the eye is a glorious full-colour photograph of dark clouds (from Reuters) in the sky over Old Trafford coupled with a picture (from Associated Press) of a demoralised Rooney, Hernandez and Carrick standing over a ball. The accompanying article, sourced from the Times of London, nestled cosily on the left of the page, screamed DARK CLOUDS OVER UNITED and carried the sheepish admission by “Manager Moyes” of the reigning champions’ difficulties.

On the right of the article, spanning just shy of 13 inches as measured using this writer’s laptop screen diagonal, is a list of bullet points regarding “United’s Devil of a Problem”. As the eye moves farther down the page, the reader is treated to a column by Rohit Brijnath titled “Red Devils’ winning culture faces a stern test”. Intriguing reading, no doubt, but probably commentary more expected in the Manchester Evening News than the Straits Times.

Singapore’s first appearance on the back page of the occurs in minuscule print at the bottom:

Published and printed by Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. A member of Audit Bureau of Circulations Singapore. (truncated)

Eerie foreshadowing, then, for the reader who expects it to improve on the inside. Flipping open page B19, one is greeted with the headline Liverpool show off dream team up front accompanied by the current English Premier League standings. On this page, a preview of Arsenal vs Napoli takes centre stage, along with an invited column by -phew- the well-respected Singapore international Aleksandar Duric on how it is time for Arsenal to win the title again. All this would be fascinating reading but could have been given a lot less priority.

Oddly enough, this page has more mention of Singapore than the last. If only on frequency.

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It is not till the third page, B18, that the Singapore sports scene is given its desultory mention. Sanjay Nair’s coverage of the Singapore leg of the Fina Swimming World Cup to be held on November 5th and 6th at the Singapore Sports School. Following the eye down from the AFP portrait of Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu, the reader might notice two sentences about tomorrow’s friendly match between the Courts Young Lions and the Under-23 side of Eintracht Frankfurt “AS PART of their preparations for December’s SEA Games in Myanmar.”

It kicks off at 8pm at the Jalan Besar Stadium, incidentally, and nowhere is it stated that entry is free. It would be a miracle if Eintracht Frankfurt, who must have been pleased with the turnout at the previous Lion City Cup, will bother to entertain Singapore again after they see tomorrow’s attendances.

Thankfully, almost a quarter of the page was allotted to Fabius Chen’s introduction of the 3rd Asian Water Polo Cup hosted at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, beside some excellent photography by Alphonsus Chern of Iran’s Masoud Ahmadi taking on Japan’s Kohei Inaba in the recently-concluded Asian Youth Water Polo Championships. Singapore’s boys finished seventh in a ten-team tournament, and if the words of captain Valampurithavan Thamilarasan are anything to go by, they are hungry for more international exposure.

Tickets to watch Singapore’s senior water polo team in action at this competition from today to Saturday will set one back $10 for a single session or $40 for all five days, and watching the regional powerhouses test themselves against the best of the continent should be entertaining for all in attendance.

The last part of the SPORT section, like the upcoming Downtown Line, has to borrow space with the deceased (no offence intended). Even then, the article of note on this page is from the AFP. NADAL PLAYS IT COOL IN BEIJING flows over the fold and right onto a small segment titled NEXT 48 HOURS where it is mentioned, in print barely larger than what Singapore’s appearance on the back page, that the first leg of the RHB Singapore Cup semi-finals between Tanjong Pagar United FC and Global FC of the Philippines is to take place at 7.30pm today at the Queenstown Stadium and that the 3rd Asian Water Polo Cup is on at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, for at least today and tomorrow.

While the print media cannot and should not be held solely responsible for Singaporeans’ interest in sports, a little more coverage would surely not hurt the chances of the Singapore Sports Council’s Vision 2030 coming to fruition.

Print media attendance was also dismal at the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup last Saturday. Only a duo from The New Paper, accompanied by various online media photographers and writers (including this one), represented the Singapore contingent. It was heartening to see Sazali Abdul Aziz and Gary Goh’s contributions appear in the Sunday edition.

It is this writer’s personal opinion that more local print media should follow suit, or risk becoming even less relevant in this interconnected day and age.

(P.S.: Approximately 100 S.League fans made their way up as the proverbial drop in the bucket of an almost-full Shah Alam Stadium. In the stands, it was a battle of Spartan proportions, and on the pitch Spartan valour from goalkeeper Hassan Sunny kept the marauding Red Giants of Selangor to a slim 3-2 win over the S.League selection.)

(<ADV> #SOSCup features a play-by-play repeat tweetcast of the main event between the #sleague and #Selangor selections.)

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