Wanchai Spartans FC

Singapore: Spartans in the Lion City, in the Lion’s Maw, in Harm’s Way?

[A post-modern attempt at a tour report – By the One and Only Terry Graham]

Our intrepid foreign correspondent, Wednesday night, stuck on a limb in the middle of some dance floor, and helped by several rounds of Tequila, suddenly decided to grab a ticket to Singapore to join the Spartans on tour and drop in on Patrick and Wen’s wedding, the social event of the year I’m sure in that sleepy burb along the Malacca Straits. Nothing like a little spontaneity to rule, or ruin, your life.

After a satisfying win against White Horse Thursday night in the 5 a side at Shoushon, a quick drink at the Stag, then back to the apartment to start packing. Mmmh, what to pack, be economical, OK, I threw in a dozen pair of panther stripped undies and my soccer gear and my whip and cuffs. Ooops, that’s for another tour.

Friday morning the bleary-eyed, sphinx-like manager Henry was lugging all his plastic bags full of kit lookin like a Southorn Park bag lady and of course his laptop. It was going to be a working weekend. Right! Chances that Henry would get any work done would be slim and none, well at least that’s what I thought. The ever-prepared Okey showed up bright and early to check in, even though he and Keri weren’t catching the later flight. He looked spiffy in his Ben Sherman slash Savile Row kinda way, with the de rigeur ugly athletic shoes. Urs truly was doing the Gandhi look with an Indian scarf and walking stick. H da porta belly. On the way out to the airport, H had all his little pieces of paper out, trying to work out the different teams, for we actually had 25 guys answer the siren call, that is Singapore and its fair lasses, enough to field two teams in the tournament Saturday. Such an abundance of talent, it looked like we would have two pretty evenly matched teams, to hopefully contend in the grand finale for the cup, the holy grail, the golden chalice.

Early, thought about grabbing a bite at McD but the lines scared us away, found a quiet spot at the Mix, along with a nice smile from the girl with the single earring behind the counter. H goes on how great the flaps at Mix are, I prudently stick to the Granola bar. Poor H is popping the Pepto and making runs to the men’s room, after a late nite bout of indigestion. No white pants for him. We make our way to the JetAir counter, furtive glances, slinking our way to check in our bags. There is Marc V from the USRC, rather responsible for someone so youthful.

Back to Charlie

Spartans Cheerleaders

We separate peacefully, H off to Cathay, M and I off to JetAir, M talking incessantly, I thinking whether I should part my hair in the middle, and eat a peach. It was going to be the Love Song of M, the new girl in his life, and what to do, was it destiny, or just a summer fling. JetAir is a bit less cushy, and we’re waiting to board a bus to drive us out to our flight on the tarmac. Always a last minute rush and crush. But once we’re inside the plane it’s pleasantly cool. We pierce the clouds, leave HK below, enter the realm of magpies. The stewardess comes by with a cart and asks us whether we would like to drink anything. M asks for an OJ and as she pops it open she asks for 3 Sing dollars. No wonder the tickets were so affordable. Too late, might as well quench your thirst. I immediately order a jack and coke, make that a triple. The flight to Singapore is a little above 3 hours, above the incessant drone of the jet engines, we talk about this, and the USRC approach to football, and their dedication, which makes the Spartans slightly pale. I become intimately acquainted with the character of Coach, a person I hope to meet in the flesh, maybe in August when the Spartans play USRC in a scrimmage.

Light flashes and we touch down in Singapore, a strip of muddy river. Make our way through the airport which seems awfully quiet, deserted, like after a town has been taken over by the living dead. I’m waiting for zombies to pop out and replicate me. Throbbing hum of air conditioners, at the far end we spot a Burger King and make our way. Flame broiled and a big coke. Coming out of the bathroom of course is H, still reeling somewhat. Quick bite, look for a map, grab some airport magazine, then find a cab, and roll downtown. Halfway there H’s girl calls sweetly to inquire after his disposition. I keep quiet, snoozing. M gesticulates and articulates, life’s a grand gesture. We cut through the middle of Singapore, see bright offices for some IT company or disk maker or whatever, and round a corner and there we are, suddenly in the middle of life, that is teeming along the sidewalks of Orchard Avenue.

Devs Masterclass

Pull into H’s hotel, M and I haven’t booked yet, and immediately run into Flabbo, Abbie, Jonathan, Zoe, Dev, and Dawn, relaxed, tanned, just back from Sentosa Beach, doing the café del mar trick, boozing, and chilling in the pool, just like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Exchange greetings, drop bags, but mercifully not on big toe, and head out across the street to Swensen, to replenish ourselves on the Zing-Ding chocolate sundae, with cherry on top. Feeling half human again, it’s good, and having nothing to wear for the wedding, it’s bad. M and I, alongwith Flabbo and Abbie decide to do some last minute shopping. Somehow we manage to end up in Zara where F picks up a snazzy summer pin strip suit (I make suitably impressed sounds) and M a couple of shirts. I look and look but a corduroy jacket in Singapore at this time of the year, don’t think so. Back to the hotel with our purchases, up the elevator to our rooms, we have a couple hours to spare before the wedding. H is actually getting some work done as he’s got a mini major fire to put out, some website isn’t running. Watch H stuck in some hotel’s business centre, sweating the details, an unfortunate break. M and I grab the key and head back. M gets ready first while I chomp on an apple and watch a Liverpool FA Cup 3rd round match replay from last year. Alonso scores an amazing goal from midfield to seal the victory for the Reds. Wish Pennant luck for next year (so much for Birmingham ever making it back up to the Premiere).

Flabs with the trophy and photo shoot with the famous Fandi Ahmad probably the best Singapore player ever who played with the likes of Marco Van Basten in Holland and scored a double against Barcelona in UEFA Cup game


It’s all about the footy.As M finishes I step into the bathroom only to be greeted by a sight of utter devastation, and I don’t mean downtown Beirut. Water, water, everywhere, inundated, towels strewn about, shaving kit asunder, what a mess. Well, I sigh, welcome to the jungle that is a five star hotel bathroom. After I finish showering and shaving and laquering up, we break out the mops and clean the place up before H shows up. It looks relatively OK.

H comes in, jumps into shower, tosses some gook into his hair, and a second later squeezes himself into pink shirt and tight spandex pants for the wedding. Up we go to join the others and down we come to the ballroom where the wedding, with only 800 guests, will be held. The lady at the welcoming table and H gives her a smile and wink, charming her, almost whisking her off her feet, and we’re told where our table is, somewhere along the eastern front that is that ballroom. A quiet corner, the Spartans are gathered, sipping wine, refine, divine, J and Zoe, her bro Rob, Sanj and Terese, F and Ab, me and me, H on the phone, still dealing with work, pacing about, and M on the Coke, saving himself for later. Lots of old pop in, quite jolly, , all coiffed.

We sit down at the round table, gallant knights and their ladies, service is impeccable, my wine glass keeps getting refilled, the room is buzzing, the food comes, and H’s seat is empty as he’s off to deal with work. [May I never have a real job in my life.] The lights dim, and speeches are made. The best one is from Patrick’s father in law, who talks about his precocious daughter Wen, independent minded, who goes to fair England to find true love, and the impression Patrick, who for an Englishman embodies a lot of Confucian values, makes on his future in-laws. The best man is Portuguese so we readily tune him out. And Patrick steps up and blissfully gives a short thumping speech, acknowledging the Spartans presence. There’s a band on the other side playing jazzy tunes. I stroll around and see some former president. But there are just too many faces. Then abruptly the lights come on and the dream is over. We proceed into the hot night, abuzz with delight, for it’s off to Zouk.

Get in There

Zouk, the club to end all clubs, so I’ve been told, can’t remember how we get there, a lot of twisting and turning. We roll up to the gate, on the invite list, the velvet underground, or is it the velvet lounge (can’t quite remember). See Dev pop up but he’s in another part of the club, flits in and out. Have to pay Sing 30 dollars to get into velvet, small club, and see Bobby and Charlie on the far side, and Mehdi and Francis on the other with a friend (but surprisingly not a female one).

The music unfortunately is a bit disappointing, everyone on the floor seems terribly short, and for $29 Sing dollars for 2 coronas a bit overpriced. People start dissolving and moving on, to the hip hop tube. Packed tight, we gather in the back for more coronas and Tequilas, Mehdi and I are up front on the floor, the music thumping, body moving, it gets dimmer, alcohol takes hold, u move, u smile, something goes bump in the night. The group is in the back, and meeting up with some of Dev’s friends. Marc meets a model who asks him what he’s up to in Singapore, playing football, ah so you’re a professional, the Premiere League? No, Hong Kong, amateur, well that brings that conversation to an abrupt end, a screeching halt. Sometimes it’s alright to tell a little lie. A hundred people seem to be having a conversation with you at once. Before I know it, it’s past 3, and we head out to the wide open spaces of Zoukland, drum and base country, like I’m in some kind of prehistoric hut, New Mexico, Georgia O’Keefe landscape, bleached bones, parched throats.


Come On Oaks

Places do close, so we move on, to some Tower, some four floors, some dark tower, some tower out of the Lord of the Rings, the abyss. Mehdi, Francis, H, M, and I are all that’s left of the convoy, to face the evil that lurks in dark places, hearts of darkness. How am I not surprised? And then there were five little Indians. Pretty soon we’re in a cozy place, music thumping, everyone goes their own separate way, someone’s doing the humpty dumpty, everyone’s laughing, and drinks keep getting poured. This has got to be the best way to prepare for a footie tournament the next day (well actually in a couple hours), that fleeting thought keeps slipping out my ears. Regretfully we leave the womb, the warm embrace, and proceed back to H’s hotel, still haven’t had checked in. Out of nowhere, fifty bicyclists storm down the middle of Orchard Ave, a flock of seagulls.


At H’s hotel, we try to book a room for a couple hours, and they’re going to charge us 600 Sing dollars for the comfort. ‘But, but.’ I mutter feebly, putter, oh well, off to crash at H’s. Knock, knock, Ben’s fast asleep, we tiptoe in, and fall soundlessly. The air con is on massive, freezing in the morning, teeth chattering, H at business centre still trying to put out the fire, Ben the only one to avail himself of the breakfast buffet, M and I with icicles hanging from our noses. For the next couple hours I don’t remember much but then around 1 o’clock we’re all gathered in the lobby kicking the football around, there’s Rich, Stevie, the team is looking good, looking forward to the big game at the National Stadium in front of 50,000 adoring female fans. We all pile into cabs and we’re off. But once there things take on a decidedly different cast. Soldiers everywhere, firemen, policemen, Police Academy IX: Singapore. What’s going on, where is this training pitch we’re supposed to go to? We walk around, construction grounds, yawning mounds of dirt, prickly heat, not a single cloud in the sky. Oh where oh where is this godforsaken pitch? We ask but no one seems to know. Then a taxi stops and Bobby steps out, wrong location! Off to somewhere else. So much for a moment of truth on the field of dreams. Once again we’re divided and take different paths to get to this new stadium. “10 minutes” become “10 [more] minutes.” Is there light at the end of this tunnel?

Eventually we manage to make it to a soccer pitch and a decidedly rustic changing room, the Sunday Spartans wearing blue look a strong side, but so do the Sat Spartans decked out in red. It should be a good tournament. The two other teams show up, one grey team, from Malaysia, the other yellow and blue from Singapore.

The Sat boyz play first, against Malaysia. Dev is running late so someone has to be forced to play left back, out of position. The Sat boyz look a bit jittery, Malaysians have some good wing play but can’t supply that coup de grace, that finishing touch. Francis and Streaky are the centrebacks, closing all final venues of attack, Streaky’s friend Meaty is on the right. Henry and Tim Murphy in the middle, Mehdi out wide right, doing his Ribery impression. Stevie up front working tirelessly. Against the flow of play the Sat boys go up 1 nill on a great header by Jonathan, off an inch perfect cross from Mehdi. Minute later, Jonathan should have made it 2-0 as he misses a golden opportunity. I’m already thinking Jonathan for the golden boot, shades of Klose. Sat win, we’re on next, I start out on the left with Bobby and Marc in the middle, Ben on the right, Okey right wing, Rick Ogden on the left, Charlie and Rickman in the middle, and Alan and Flabbo up front, with Rich doubling in goals for us. Bobby unfortunately comes up gasping for air a few minutes into the game and has to pull out, we’re forced to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic, and I go into the middle, with Howard coming on the left. We’re moving the ball around well, and create chances, Flabbo it is I think who puts us up 1-nill. Our game is methodical, our team well ordered, things are looking good. Right after the end of the 1st game we’re back on the pitch for the 2nd game, against the Malaysians, they’ve seen that we’re pretty well organized, and they come out with a strong formation, but Marc has us marshaled at the back, impervious, unbreachable, Charlie is running rampant down the sidelines and puts in dangerous crosses and shots, Oggie comes close a few times, Rick’s pulling the ball back and moving it around, Okey making his runs, Alan and Flabbo flirting with scoring, tempting the fates. We end up winning this game one nil again. Strange how when you’re playing in the game it’s actually quite difficult to remember anything.

Avery in the Zone

The next game I do remember well, the Sat Spartans versus the Singapore team. Mehdi one on one with the goalie misses just wide left, should have back heeled it into the goal. The opposition scores a cracker of a first goal on a left footed curler which has Rich come off with a cramp. Patrick dons the gloves and steps up bravely. A header by Dev ties the game but the Singapore attacker gets a bit too much space around the 18 yard line and lines up another nice goal. The Sat boys are throwing everything at the other end, Stevie hits a canon of a shot, that goes off the inside post only to bounce back out in the waiting hands of the goalkeeper. The game ends 2-1 for Singapore, a tough loss for the Sat boys to swallow, absorb.

The next game is the derby match between the Sat and Sunday boys, we’ve got Patrick in goal, braveheart, staring down the stampeding hordes of Sat Spartans. They play their best game, Murph is tireless in the middle, coming at our back 4 wave after wave, with Francis covering him, and winning balls. Rich keeps them in the game with some fantastic saves in the first five minutes, Alan is having just as much trouble with the right foot as with the left, as he finds the ball invitingly on his right foot on the five yard line, and instead of belting it, tries to walk it in, losing it out of bounds. Stevie puts Marc under pressure and M makes one of his rare mistakes, giving the ball away, S shoots but Patrick comes up big. Jonathan shoots from long distance, but Patrick punches the ball, and I clear it. We’re losing some of our attacking impulse so I decide to push up, locking up with Jason who has been cast as a right back. A golden opportunity for Okey to slip me the ball behind the Sat defense goes askant. Ben is stepping up big for us in the back as our shape is being bent out of shape, our midfield giving away the ball a bit too readily. Murph puts Mehdi in behind Howard, Patrick has the near post cover, but M shoots wide. Dev has a header off a corner but Ben is there to head it over the crossbar, harmless. A pulsating match, one that ends up nil nil, with H predictably muttering how lucky we were and that they were the better side. Sounds like an excuse, sour grapes.

H Talks about the game

The Sat boys go into penalty shootout with the Malay team for 3rd place. Murph walks up to take the 1st penalty, strikes it well, but the goalie makes an incredible matrix like save, where time slows down, and he just seems to reach up and bat the ball away. Rich has a hard time with the Malay penalties, not coming too close to stopping any. Stevie makes his, with a blast down the middle, Dev precise in the left corner, unstoppable, but Jonathan’s penalty is stopped, the Sat boys, for all their hard work, come in last place.



       We did play in the stadium!!!!

The championship match is between us and the Singapore team. Halfway through their goalie gets sent off for handling outside his box, we’re up one, and we keep pressing our advantage. Singapore team has some fast dudes but they can’t get by the Cannavarro, the maestro, (guess who dat is?). Off an Ogden cross, Okey rises majestically to head in the 1st goal, we get a 2nd one when (what’s his name) rounds the goalie after a nice run to slot into the empty net. But the defense has been dominating throughout the afternoon, four clean sheets, not conceding a single goal, not even an own goal (which is hard to believe considering who’s playing centreback for them). Felt like we could have played on and on, they never were going to beat us, get past us, that sense of control, complete. Fun.

There’s a very nice trophy presentation at the end. And we all slump to our hotels afterwards. Alright, the drugs are wearing off, this is where I end, and I leave it up to Sleeves, if he wants to, to take up the rest of the red thread. Just one last thing, the Paramount Hotel, taxi drivers know it, once u step out, just prick up your ears and listen for the music, the rest is history, as a few lucky Spartans got to find out Sunday night.

Sat Spartans vs Malaysian side

Sunday Spartans team

Picture of all 4 teams which entered behind Jalan Besar Stadium.