Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Courts Young Lions/Jalan Besar Stadium (Singapore)

The Jalan Besar Stadium is the traditional home of Singapore football and home of the Singapore FA. The original stadium was built in 1929 and staged Malaya Cup games between 1932 and 1966 and then Malaysian Cup matches from 1967 until 1973 when the National Stadium at Kallang was opened.

Jalan Besar was closed in December 1999 for reconstruction, fifteen years after it had staged the National Day Parade.

In June 2003 the new stadium was open as part of a sports complex owned by the Singapore Sports Council, which also contained the Jalan Besar Swimming Complex. The pitch remained in exactly the same position.

In 2006 the pitch was taken up and replaced by a new artificial surface. Burnley and Atletico Madrid visited to play friendlies in future years.

The stadium became the home of Lions XII who joined the Malaysia Super League from 2012, going on to win the title in their second season.

S. League side Courts Young Lions also took up residency. The team are the Under 23 side of the Singapore national side. The team entered the league in 2002 with the aim of exposing the players to senior competition. Lions suffered a couple of wooden spoon finishes, but ended in third place in 2003.

Courts Young Lions will play in the S. League in the 2015 season.

My visit

Tampines Rovers 2 DPMM Brunei 1 (Friday 31st October 2014) S. League Championship Round (att: approx. 1,000)

My planning had been just about perfect with my final of four games on consecutive evenings could feasibly see me at the game where the title was to be won.

The day had been top class once again. After a lie in I left my bags at the hotel for later collection and enjoyed a great Friday lunchtime drink in the historic old rooms of the pavilion at Singapore Cricket Club in the company of my sixes cricket pal Sanjaya De Silva who had kindly taken time off to introduce me as a guest and to look after me. Unbelievably we ended up in the Officials Meeting for that weekend’s International Rugby 7s Tournament being held at The Padang.

My free boat trip up the Singapore River on my great value three day tourist pass was thoroughly enjoyed. I paid $30 (£15) for three days unlimited travel on public transport and got the boat and bus tours with it.

Following a look at the Harbour Front across to Sentosa Island I caught a double decker bus back to my hotel, so I could sneak a power nap. I hailed a taxi which got me to the Jalan Basar Stadium for 6pm.

I’m not one to get to stadiums so early but I’d had a stroke of luck the night before on my way to the match at Woodlands Wellington.

I saw a young local lad sporting the shirt of Albirex Niigata and I commented on this as we waited to cross the busy Geylang Road. It turned out that he worked for the DPMM club in Singapore and he told me to be at the venue at my appointed hour so he could sort me out with an complimentary ticket for the game.

While the $6 ticket price wasn’t a problem, I’d hoped to pick his brain and learn a bit more about the S. League.

Unfortunately my pal hadn’t turned up, so I set about taking some snaps at the back of the Main Stand. I then received a tap on the shoulder from him with an apology and my ticket. What wonderful people live in Singapore!

The poor stewards were in a bit of a quandary when I approached the gate with my two large travelling bags. After some gentle persuasion I was let in without them emptying them out to see if I had any concealed food or drink.

I really liked the Jalan Besar. Only the Main Stand side was open. This had a large lower tier with offices dividing this from a steep upper tier and its curved roof. The far side was a fair sized block along the length of the pitch with open seating raised above the playing surface. Each S. League club had a board displaying their badge at the rear. Behind the King George’s Avenue End goal was a semi-permanent bank of open seating like the ones found around the greens at major golf tournaments. The other end had no spectator access. Just a large wall separated it from the Swimming Complex.

The lads doing the Pas and playing the music at the back of the lower tier kindly looked after my bags while I wandered around taking photos. I decided to push my luck and took a lift to the top floor and the corporate area as I was in jeans and a dress shirt. I was in without any questions to be handed a team sheet and wander around as I liked before I decided to call it quits.

Back downstairs I took up a seat and watched the teams warm up while DPMM’s former Sunderland player, Roy O’Donovan looked on disconsolately. He had been sent off in the game I went to on Tuesday evening in stoppage time.

The live TV cameras were in attendance for the game. A Friday night game was played at the Jalan Besar each week as a neutral ground for the watching audience.

The teams came out and the national anthem was played as it was the final game of the season. Before kick-off Tampines retiring striker Aleksandar Đurić received the plaudits with presentations and a video on the screen showing his career highlights while on the island. The veteran started the match on the bench.

My friend from the night before, the Portsmouth and Whitley Bay supporting pal Richard joined me to view the action. I think he was favouring Tampines. I would have preferred to see a Brunei win and the league title with it.

The first half was a tense affair on the artificial surface, which wasn’t as giving as the more modern versions. Jozef Kapláň, the Stags Slovakian forward was causing plenty of problems for the DPMM defence, whose goalkeeper Azman Noor had to be at his best.

Richard and I had slightly misread the positions going into the game. We presumed a draw for Rovers would secure them the title, whereas DPMM had to win. It later transpired a Tampines win would get them a third place finish.

My pal re-joined me after his half time smoke, with the good news that the nearer south gate was open to enable me a quick exit at full time for my 11.05 flight back to Bangkok.

The very popular Đurić was introduced after the interval to try and force the breakthrough. Although he wasn’t the fastest, his first touch and awareness were exemplary. Meanwhile I saw a similar pattern emerging as in DPMM’s Tuesday night victory as Irishman Joe Gamble controlled play in a deep midfield role, as he never gave the ball away before making himself available again.

However the Brunei boys were missing someone to open Rovers up. Someone like the suspended O’Donovan perhaps? Out of nowhere Tampines took the lead as Kapláň beat Noor on his near post.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Steve Kean’s side for a while. Just eight minutes later it was 2-0 as Đurić was denied a dream farewell but team mate Miljan Mrdaković fired home the rebound. DPMM had just seventine minutes to salvage their title aspirations.

The big Brazilian Rodrigo gave the smattering of visiting fans hope by pulling one back on eighty one minutes. However, it was to be too little too late.

I said my farewell to Richard as the fourth official put up the board revealing that there would be four minutes stoppage time. I exited just before the final whistle and managed to pull up a taxi quicker than I had initially feared.

The driver knew exactly the quickest route as he deposited me at Changi Airport with over an hour to spare. Like everything else in Singapore, the airport was clean, spacious and ultra-proficient.

My trip to the island had gone like a dream. I’d possibly overdone it with the dashing around, but it was worth every bit of tiredness and pain at times. I was so glad I’d used up my time properly and got a proper insight both into life on the island and the S. League.

I recommend it to any traveller.

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