Tampines Rovers v Ceres La Salle, Tuesday 15th March 2016, 7.30pm


A week in Singapore works quite well for sightseeing. The Chinatown area was interesting enough with a decent museum that had plenty of olden-day photos. We went to the zoo, which was very good by zoo standards, but when you’ve recently spent a couple of years in Africa it’s hard to get excited by a pair of zebras in a pen.

Down at the harbour we took a boat trip past some of the older quayside areas and had lunch at a roof-top restaurant that gave us a view of most of the Singapore, including the Formula One circuit just below us.


Whilst all that stuff was very enjoyable, the sightseeing that I really wanted to do involved taking in a local game. The fixtures worked in my favour as there was an AFC cup match between Tampines Rovers and a team from the Philippines, Ceres La Salle, taking place during our visit. The Asian Federation Conference Cup is a bit like the UEFA Cup although it seems that rather than being for the not-quite top teams from the best footballing countries as it is in Europe, it’s for the best teams from the not-quite top footballing countries in Asia.

Jen and I had plenty of time before the 7:30 kick-off and so we took the subway to the Little India area and had our tea there before walking the remaining half hour or so to the Jalan Besar stadium.


I’d hoped to be following the crowd, but whilst the streets were busy it was with people going about their business rather than heading for the match. In fact we was almost at the ground before I spotted anyone who looked like they might have any interest in football.


There were separate ticket offices for the home and away fans and as we came across the away office first, that’s what we bought. Six dollars a pop and apparently at the swimming pool end.


We were directed towards the swimming pool but ended up entering the ground a little too soon and we found ourselves among the home fans in the main stand. There were stands down both sides, with the seventy or so away fans opposite, the swimming pool to our left and a fence behind the goal to our right that didn’t really look suitable for preventing the ball bouncing across a busy road and causing an accident. I wonder how often an irate motorist threatens to “stick a knife in it”.


Tampines had Jermaine Pennant playing on the right of an attacking midfield three behind a lone striker. Yes, that Jermaine Pennant, he of the electronic tag, the spouse who poses in her smalls and the former owner of the car found at a railway station covered in five month’s worth of parking tickets after he had forgotten that he’d left it there.

The ex-Liverpool player certainly put the effort in, although at times he must have wondered what was going on as the standard of football was, unless he had ever turned out for his prison team, way below anything he would have encountered elsewhere.


At half time the drinks options were lychee juice or chrysanthemum tea. Wonderful. Don’t they know I’m on my holidays? I’ll never complain about the John Smith’s Smooth at the Boro again, or at least I won’t until I next order a pint of it.

Pennant dropped a lot deeper after the break, possibly hoping to have more of an influence by starting moves off, rather than waiting out wide in the hope of a pass. The change might very well have made a difference as midway through the second half the home side took the lead when the Ceres keeper fumbled the ball and someone was on hand to knock the loose ball in to the net.


It all looked to be in the bag for Tampines until a couple of minutes from the end when a floaty cross wasn’t cleared and one of the visitors stabbed it home from close range. The point apiece seemed fair and left both sides with a decent chance of qualifying from their four-team group.


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