Amateur champs Eunos Crescent eye place among S.League big boys
SINGAPORE — They proved themselves to be the best amateur football club in Singapore last year, beating nine other teams to clinch the National Football League (NFL) title and the S$10,000 prize money that came along with it.
But success in the amateur NFL is just the tip of the iceberg for Eunos Crescent Football Club (ECFC).
Buoyed by their success, the club, which was founded in 1975, has now set itself a much loftier target: To be able to compete in the S.League as a professional outfit one day.
Spearheading ECFC’s charge towards the S.League is club official Darwin Jalil, who has served as the team’s president for the past two years.
Explaining why ECFC were aiming to join the S.League, Darwin told TODAY: “When I took over Eunos Crescent three years ago, we set ourselves the target of winning the NFL championship. We did that within two years, and so we then asked ourselves: Where do we go from here?
“That’s when we started seriously considering becoming a professional club to play in the S.League.”
However, the businessman admits that Eunos will need to improve significantly both on and off the pitch in order to be able to compete at S.League level.
“Of course, in terms of playing standards and fitness, there’s a difference between our level and the S.League at the moment,” he said.
“But we will continue to look towards improving our coaching and playing standards to bridge that gap.
“In terms of administrative procedures and the day-to-day aspects of running a professional football club, it is also something that we will have to learn as we go along.
“But if we are given the same kind of support from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) that other S.League clubs get, and because we will ensure that we have a responsible and capable pool of administrators in the club, then I’m confident we can overcome this issue.”
S.League clubs can get between S$800,000 to S$1 milion in subsidies from the S.League every season if they meet key performance indicators. The funding comes from Singapore Pools.
ECFC are already looking to expand and professionalise their operations. The club are set to form their own under-18 team to take part in various grassroots competitions this year, and are also looking to put together a team to compete in the FAS Women’s League.
In addition, they have also recruited former Woodlands Wellington manager and veteran local football official R Vengadasalam as their Director of Football.
Explaining his role at ECFC, Venga said that he would oversee the club’s youth development, as well as helping them source for sponsorships.
“I’ll be assisting the club by sharing my expertise and experience in managing a professional football team,” said Venga, who most recently served as the team manager for Island Wide League (IWL) side Gymkhana FC.
“I joined them in this project because I liked how ambitious Darwin and Eunos Crescent were.
“It’s going to be a challenge to take this club to the S.League, but that’s my job, and I hope to see the club included in the league in the next two years.”
Venga added that he has already brought in Samy’s Curry Restaurant and Lotto as sponsors. He aims to raise over S$30,000 in sponsorships for ECFC this year. On average, the club operates on an annual budget of around S$60,000.
On the pitch, ECFC has also recruited the likes of ex-national players Indra Sahdan and Precious Emuejeraye to not only boost their playing ranks, but also serve as mentors to the younger players in the team. The club, who are coached by former Woodlands Wellington, Home United and Singapore defender Mohd Mardani, has a policy of including at least five under-21 players in their 25-man squad.
But while ECFC are doing their part to prepare for life in the S.League, Darwin admits that whether they eventually achieve their dream depends largely on the direction the FAS takes for the S.League.
In particular, Darwin hopes that the FAS — which is due to conduct its first-ever election of office bearers by May this year — will look towards implementing a relegation and promotion system between the S.League and NFL.
“A lot depends on the future leadership of the FAS,” he said.
“If they’re keen to make the S.League more competitive, and have more local-based players in the league, then they should consider having a relegation and promotion system.
“This will make the current teams work harder not to get relegated, and will shake the clubs out of their comfort zone.
“In addition, it’ll provide clubs in the NFL with something more tangible to work towards.
“Currently, all NFL club owners are just spending their money on the team with nothing in return, but if there is the incentive of being promoted to the S.League, then at least they’ll have something to work towards where they can see their investments pay off.”
Eunos Crescent open trials
Eunos Crescent will be conducting selection trials for players this Sunday (Feb 19) for the upcoming NFL season.
The trials are open to all players aged 18 and above.
Date and time: Sunday, Feb 19, 2-5pm
Venue: Serangoon Stadium
Attire: Football jersey, shorts, socks and football boots