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TODAY20: S-League football stars who take home less than maids (June 7, 2006)

SINGAPORE — So, you envy the glamorous lives of professional footballers playing in a national league, signing autographs and driving their fast cars? A visit to a semi-detached house in Seletar Hills may serve as a reality check.

TODAY reported that some foreign footballers playing for a club making its debut in the Singapore domestic league were paid only S$100 a month.

TODAY reported that some foreign footballers playing for a club making its debut in the Singapore domestic league were paid only S$100 a month.

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WHAT HAPPENED 

  • In an exclusive article, TODAY reported that some foreign footballers playing for a club making its debut in the Singapore domestic league were paid only S$100 a month 

  • On paper, the players are supposed to be paid S$1,600 a month but the club deducts S$700 for providing them food and S$800 for their accommodation. Their match-winning bonus was an extra S$50

WHAT NEXT

  • The report triggered an outcry among football fans

  • The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) also stepped in, with a meeting held between FAS, the club’s management and the players 

  • Less than two weeks later, the club agreed to increase the players’ monthly take-home salary to about S$600

 

SINGAPORE — So, you envy the glamorous lives of professional footballers playing in a national league, signing autographs and driving their fast cars? A visit to a semi-detached house in Seletar Hills may serve as a reality check.

Five or six men share a room, with 22 crammed into the house.

They barely go anywhere other than the stadium because they find travel too expensive.

No movies. No sightseeing. Not even enough money to buy clothes.

The reason: Some footballers from S-League club Sporting Afrique told this newspaper that, for the past six months, they have been paid just S$100 a month by way of cash. That is about a third of what the average maid in Singapore earns and even less than the pocket money that many schoolchildren take from their parents.

The club, which made its S-League debut this year, consists of young players from the African continent, including Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon.

On paper, the players are supposed to be paid S$1,600 a month but the club deducts S$700 a month for providing them food and S$800 for their accommodation.

This leaves the players with just S$100 to tide them over an entire month. Since rentals in the area are in the range of S$3,000 a month, the players say they are being grossly overcharged if 22 of them have to pay S$800 each.

As for food, supplies of chicken and rice are given to them and one of the footballers cooks. On match days, they are given apples and bananas to supplement their diet.

Yesterday, Sporting Afrique president Collin Chee explained that when the players signed their contracts, they knew that S$1,500 would be deducted from their salaries every month to cover the cost of food, accommodation and transport from their Seletar Hills home to the Yishun Stadium.

''We are not a rich club and this is our first season in the S-League. We need time to get a firm footing,'' said Mr Chee.

''The players knew what they were signing. We are not shortchanging any of them. And I do not understand why they are bringing this up after six months.''

The players explained that, over time, they realised that they simply could not carry on with such little money. ''There is no way anyone can live in Singapore on S$100 a month,'' said one player.

Some of them have been borrowing money from the maids in the area. Occasionally, the maids also give them food to eat.

There is no question of buying new shirts or fancy clothes. Two of the players said they were playing with broken football boots because they could not afford new ones.

Club chairman Chee pointed out that on three occasions over the past three months, the players had been paid an extra S$50 as match-winning bonus.

He also said that they would be entitled to 35 per cent of the prize money if they finished in the top three positions in the league. Considering that the third place fetches S$40,000, this would work out to S$14,000 to be shared among the team.

There appears to be little chance of that, however, as the club, also known as the Flamingos, currently lies eighth.

''This was supposed to be a stepping stone for the players and if they play well, they will be offered bigger contracts at other clubs. This should be their ambition,'' said Mr Chee.

''Would they even have a chance to play football in any other country if they were not given this opportunity in Singapore?''

For the players, however, day-to-day concerns are overshadowing ambitions about the future. Some of them approached Football Association of Singapore director of competitions Quah Kim Song with their troubles. Quah confirmed this, but refused to comment further.

One player decided to share his plight with another S-League player. After that, he had no money to return to Seletar Hills from Choa Chu Kang Stadium and had to borrow his friend's ez-link card.

 

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