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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Albirex Naiigata Singapore (Singapore)

Albirex Niigata Singapore is a satellite side of the club of the same name who are based in the Japanese city of Niigata and play in the J League system.

The Japan based outfit were formed in 1955 whose major honours were the J. League Division Two title in 2003 as well as the regional Hokushin'etsu Football League in 1986, 1996 and 1997.

The club also fields teams of the same name in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as well as in Barcelona where they compete in the Quarta Catalana.

Albirex joined the S. League in Singapore for the 2004 season using Jurong East Stadium as its home venue, where they went on to win the League Cup in 2011. The team consistently finished in mid table for many seasons before a couple of third place endings in 2012 and 2013.

The 2014 campaign saw ‘The White Swans’ complete the campaign in fifth place under head coach Tatsuyuki Okuyama.

Albirex Niigata Singapore will play in the S. League in the 2015 season.

My visit

Albirex Niigata Singapore 0 DPMM 0 (Tuesday 28th October 2014) S. League Championship Round (att: approx 800)

My holiday was going superbly well having bid farewell to my victorious Beer Battered Seadogs team mates after a victory in the Chaophya Park Thailand International Cricket Sixes Tournament. Following an extra days fun in Bangkok, I had arrived mid-afternoon at Changi Airport.

My room at the 81 Orchid Hotel in Geyland was hardly inspirational, but it was all I required. A check of the internet and a spruce up and I was ready to walk through the heavily populated Chinese area to Kallang station on the SMTS train system for a ride to the far side of the island to Chinese Gardens on a busy commuter service. From there it was a brisk five minute walk up to the ground.

The Jurong East Stadium looked impressive on the walk up. A large raised Main Stand dominated the scene with its tower in the centre. The opposite side had a few rows of open bench seating, with both ends enclosed by high hedges and fencing and being out of bounds to spectators.

The Main Stand concealed a multitude of other activities. Inside were facilities for table tennis and badminton as well as a fitness centre. The crowning glory was a magnificent open air swimming complex at the rear with pools and water theme park. It was a sight I’d grow accustomed to over the next few days in a state that took its fitness, communities and sport very seriously. It even had an KFC and Pizza Hut.

I paid $7 (around £3.50) admission from the ticket booth on the first tier of the stand. The choice of food and drink from the outlets was extremely limited. I was given a couple of card fans to keep myself cool in the sultry conditions. There was no programme but the league issued the fans, which when opened out gave the squads on one side, with a match preview on the other.

I’d noticed the land being very wet on the flight in and the pitch cut up in places to suggest there had been earlier heavy rain. The match was very important in the Championship rounds, similarly used in Scotland. Both sides needed to win the game as well as their final fixtures on the Friday to have a chance to lift the title. The visitors from Brunei were three points in advance of their hosts before kick-off.

There was a young enthusiastic crowd in attendance, with a group of home fans around a drum banging out a beat. A few had made the journey to support their heroes in red and black.

The first half was played at a very slow pace, which was understandable in the heat. Just before half time I decided to try my luck to head up to the balcony high above the stand. The Japanese official could not have been kinder. It turned out that Reading were his favourite team in the UK. I saw out the last few minutes taking photos. The Albirex clubhouse was upstairs. This had a ‘jackpot’ room with gambling machines and a small café area but no bar.

For the second half I decided to go into the relative cool of the open seating. The former Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean had his Brunei charges set up very well. They began to get on top after the restart.

Former Sunderland and Northampton Town attacker Roy O’Donovan was pointed out as the star player in the preview and he didn’t disappoint playing off the big Brazilian, Rodrigo. Irishman Joe Gamble played in a midfield holding role and made himself constantly available while never giving the ball away.

It was O’Donovan’s class that sealed the game when a superb piece of skill and pin point cross allowed Adi Said to head home unmarked just after the hour mark.

The home side had a go in what turned out to be an excellent end to end game. DPMM just about deserved the points for their professionalism in the second half. However, it was not be without a major loss. Albirex’s forwards tended to go for one pass too many when a shot on goal would have surely gained more dividends.

I’d quite liked the referee, the turban wearing Sukhbir Singh. He counted the seconds the keeper held the ball to cut down on time wasting. He took no lip from the players. I later found out that he had a reputation as a disciplinarian and so it proved.

O’Donovan, already on a yellow card, did something to upset the official in stoppage time to earn a second yellow card and a dismissal. Kean was not particularly happy. His side hung on but they’d be without their star man for their vital final game.

I was extremely hungry at full time. I also needed another decent pair of flip flops so a trip to the night market at Chinatown was in order. It really was a vibrant scene, despite in getting near to closing time. I drew a blank for footwear, but I hit the bull’s eye in the food department. The enclosed Smith Street had vendors selling their wares. I got an excellent value chicken and rice dish before someone came out of a nearby bar and sold me a much needed glass of Tiger for $4.50, which represented decent value and was a lot cheaper than I expected.

The chap who served me was brilliant in customer service. I so nearly stayed for more but wanted to head nearer home.

Footwear was purchased for the equivalent of a fiver on Geylang Road, but I had trouble in getting any establishments to sell me a beer. I sensed it was just for those dining.

I had no problem sleeping after what had been a great introduction to normal life in Singapore and the S. League.

Unfortunately on my return I had a bit of a disaster with my laptop, losing most of my Singapore pictures. Therefore most images on this page have been taken from the internet.

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