SingaCup on pitch and screen

V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR

SingaCup, a staple for the football community in Singapore since 2011, was structured to suit the evolving Covid-19 situation and staged as a hybrid event on Dec 18 and 19.

The highlights were a four-a-side football tournament for youth and an online FIFA competition with one-versus-one and 11-versus-11 categories.

SingaCup 2021 also featured day camps for kids and a celebrity FIFA challenge featuring former Singapore captain Aide Iskandar, singer-songwriter Haneri (Daphne Khoo) and local footballers Madhu Mohana, Zaiful Nizam and Iryan Fandi.

There were also virtual meet-and-greet sessions with Tottenham Hotspur women's team midfielder and South Korea national team captain Cho So-hyun, Olympique Lyonnais defender Ellie Carpenter and West Ham Women's Under-21 coach Stephen Opoka.

"It's important for us to be able to adapt well to any situation, no matter how challenging it is," said the tournament's director Selvakumar Panneerselvam. "Last year's eSingaCup gave us the confidence that a virtual event has its perks too.

"By adding an online experience to this year's SingaCup, we were able to extend our reach and connect with a wider audience, even if all are not based in Singapore. All our physical football matches and camps adhered to the prevailing safe management measures to ensure the safety of all participants and the community."

The four-versus-four youth football tournament took place at The Cage Sports Park in Turf City with 318 players participating across four age groups: Boys' Under-14, Boys' Under-16, Girls' Under-16 and Girls' Open. The winners were: Amigos (Boys' U-14), ALFA (Boys' U-16), 4-IN-1 (Girls' U-16) and Tiong Bahru FC (Girls' Open).

The online FIFA competition, which was introduced during last year's eSingaCup, saw 784 participants take part in two categories - 1v1 and 11v11.

FIFA is a popular online football game which allows players to compete against their opponents by creating their own teams and controlling their favourite players. The winner of the 1v1 category - Ch4pz15_ (Mohd Ashraaf) received a cash prize from a pool of $1,120, while the champions in the 11v11 category - Akherat FC (Indonesia) - were given a cash prize from a pool of $2,000.

The organisers also arranged an all-inclusive camp for youth with special needs in collaboration with SingaChamps, which provides sports and arts training to youth with autism.

All camps were conducted by certified coaches and professional football players.

At the virtual meet-and-greet sessions, Ellie, who represented Australia in the 2019 Women's World Cup, spoke about the growing popularity of women's football and advised young female players on how to turn their dreams into reality.

"Never stop working towards what you want," said Ellie. "I've had people tell me, 'You'll never make it, you're never good enough'. I think the best thing you can do is just stay in your own lane, work on you, focus on you and get better every day.

"Work hard - your work ethic is the most important and, for me, that's one thing that I have never stopped doing: Working hard no matter what, even if I don't feel like it that day."

Cho, who is South Korea's most capped player, told the audience about how she started playing football and about her experiences of playing in Japan, Norway and England.

She also explained how she stays committed to training. "I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my experiences and thoughts with the Singapore football community, especially women and girls who are passionate about the sport," she said.

"It's always nice to chat with female footballers from other countries and exchange stories about our favourite sport."

Stephen also spoke about daring to dream.

Children were happy just to be playing football again on a pitch during the tournament.

"I found the SingaCup to be a new and unique experience," said Rinu Raj, 15, a striker.

"The fun thing was that we got to play matches and the highlight for me was Mr Zaiful Nizam giving me tips about taking up football as a career."

santosh@sph.com.sg

SingaCup organiser Dynamique Konzepts is partnering the Children's Aid Society to raise funds and provide a holistic range of residential care, specialised therapy and psychological services to support and empower the most vulnerable in our community through their challenges of adverse family circumstances, family violence and child neglect.

All donations will go to Children's Aid Society. You can donate at https://childrensaidsociety.give. asia/campaign/singacup-x-children-s-aid-societyfundraiser#/

"It's important for us to be able to adapt well to any situation, no matter how challenging it is. Last year's eSingaCup gave us the confidence that a virtual event has its perks too." - Tournament director Selvakumar Panneerselvam (above, left)

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