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

London

September 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hougang United (Singapore)





Hougang United FC were a professional football club in Singapore who were formed in 1981 as Marine Castle United by a group of Newcastle United fans.


After playing in the National League for many seasons the club gained entry into the S. League for the 1998 season. For the first four seasons United finished in the bottom two of the table. A change of name to Sengkang Marine FC in 2002 bought slightly better finishes for a couple of seasons.




Financial problems forced the club out of the S. League in 2004 to be replaced by Paya Lebar-Punggol FC. The club merged for 2006 to form Sengkang Punggol FC to play in the S. League, finishing no higher then tenth place.


Things improved in 2011 as the club became Hougang United and attracted a local fan base and marquee players without making the top half of the table. The supporters group became known as the HOOLS (Hougang Only One Love).












After ending the 2014 season in seventh position under the stewardship of Amin Nasir, the club announced it would be merging with Woodlands Wellington FC to form a new S. League club for the 2015 campaign.




My visit


Hougang United 4 Tanjong Pagar United 2 (Wednesday 29th October 2014) S. League Relegation Round (att: approx. 500)




Having awoken after a brief siesta, I dragged my aching body off my hotel bed treading gingerly on my blistered feet. I’d had a fantastic day visiting six other S. League venues using the trains and buses of Singapore.




My evening appointment wasn’t too far away at Hougang. Following the game I was to be picked up by my local based cricket pal from the sixes circuit; Sanjaya De Silva, so I dressed as smartly as I could while remaining comfortable.




Thinking I’d save some energy I saw a bus heading to Aljunied station. That seemed most attractive. It would save my feet and energy. I sat back and relaxed as we headed off in the wrong direction! Yes, we did get to my intended target, but only after a long circular bus ride around the stunning housing and buildings of Marina East.




This meant I was likely to miss at least the first ten minutes of the match, which was due to kick off at 7.30pm. I wandered across the open space outside the station and walked towards the bright floodlights. I was just passing the swimming complex as I heard the anthem being played to welcome the sides out. I missed about thirty seconds!












I paid my $6 admission, which equated to £3 and walked inside the stand. The old lady at the front of the stand gave me a couple of fans, which doubled up as a basic programme as I got my bearings.


Hougang Stadium had a smart Main Stand with the only proper seating in the centre VIP section. The rest was deep stepped shiny concrete. Open seating was on offer on the far side, but there was no proper spectator accommodation. A running track encircled the playing surface. The teams entered from either end of the stand.












The HOOLS were down the far end of the stand, so I went to investigate. They had a full range of songs, although I found their ditty about building a bonfire for the officials most out of keeping for the very polite locals I’d come across. Some wore a familiar shirt to me. It was the same as the orange Scarborough Athletic top from the previous season.












It wasn’t long before Nelson Moura put the lads in an even more enthusiastic mode as he put Hougang ahead. The PA blasted out White Stripe’s Seven Nation Army to celebrate.


The red and white striped visitors were not the best team I’d ever seen, but they weren’t there to defend. I decided to view the action from the far side for a while. The stewards allowed fans to walk round the track to reach the seats, trusting anyone to be sensible and not encroach onto the pitch.












I’d returned just before the interval as Firman Hanif made it 2-0. The Tanjong players trooped by me disconsolately shortly after for a drink and to receive instructions after the break. At half time the club held a free raffle with the numbers on match tickets being entered. It seemed a really nice community based club. I was ten numbers out for a minor prize.












After the restart, the visitors made life interesting as Kamel Ramdani slotted home a penalty to the particular joy of one real character. A local man well past retirement age dressed in party attire with a hat that had flashing lights on it. When the goal went in he released a large popper that let out hundreds of bits of confetti. It seemed to cheer up the few visiting fans at that end of the stand.












The game could have gone either way for a while. Tanjong tried their best to draw level, but ‘The Cheetahs’ put it to bed with goals from Brazilian Igor Ferreira on seventy three minutes and a second from Moura four minutes later to make it 4-1.


I moved towards the front after letting Sanjaya know that the game was close to finishing. There was one last goal as the diminutive Tanjong winger Abdul Rashid, who was missing half of one arm netted deservedly with three minutes to go.












That should have been of no significance, but it certainly was to the old boy who cleaned the terraces. He’d got a head start and cleaned a few minutes earlier. He seemed proud of his work. He sadly hadn’t allowed for our ‘character’ who then let off another giant popper to spew paper all over a wide space. The look of the cleaner was a real picture.












The poor lad was speechless apart from telling the old girl who handed out the fans. He just stood there and stared at his nemesis. I stood nearby as I didn’t want a geriatric brawl. Fortunately common sense prevailed as the cleaner just hissed as Mr Partyhat went down the tunnel.


It made me laugh!




Sanjaya was waiting for me in the car park and kindly took me to the private Singapore Indian Association club for beers and nibbles out on the lawn, before main course was enjoyed at the excellent Newton Circus. I’d definitely never dined out on oyster omelette and chilli coated stingray after a match.




It was a perfect end to a wonderful day. I didn’t half sleep well! It definitely didn’t occur to me that I’d seen the last game for the club as Hougang United.











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