Temasek-Shin Corp saga spills over into football

Football saga imitates real life
The Nation
02 Feb 07

Singapore’s dodgy soccer win fires talk of eavesdropping, use of foreign nominees

Even Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont was curious to know whether Temasek United Football Club had used underhand tactics to win the first leg of the Asean Football Championship. The Thai national team lost 2-1 to the Temasek team in a highly emotionally charged atmosphere.

“Were we cheated?” the PM asked reporters yesterday. He had missed the match broadcast from Singapore on Wednesday night.

The latest clash between Thailand and Singapore has turned into a political issue. It comes hot on the heels of deteriorating relations, with the Kingdom suspecting that Singapore is now able to listen in on its calls because the former prime minister sold control of ShinSat, the sole national satellite company, and the country’s biggest mobile-phone firm (AIS) last year to Temasek Holdings, a state investment firm in the city-state.

Army chief and coup leader Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin voiced concern that Thai military information was no longer secure because control of key telecommunications firms had been lost with the controversial Shin deal. “You pick up the phone and it goes to Singapore,” he reportedly remarked. The military installed government is also afraid that the sale of ShinSat might enhance Singapore’s capacity to eavesdrop on calls here. Premier Surayud said they were looking into whether Thailand may be able to buy back control of the firm or if a new satellite needs to be launched.

The joke going around the Thai team is that their game plan might have been “discovered” by their opponents prior to the match.

After all, how come the Singaporeans knew that Thai star Kiatisak Senamuang would be absent from the game? And how did the Singaporeans players know just to mark Thai midfielder Dassakorn Thonglao, who became the most frequently fouled play by his opponents? Mmm…

Well, the loss was not entirely attributed to Malaysian referee C Ravichandran’s decision to award that hotly disputed penalty to Singapore with just nine minutes remaining.

Was the referee, like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian leader, just trying to drive a wedge further between Thailand and Singapore, knowing the penalty would drive us nuts?

A more deserving question may be how the Singaporeans managed to respond so well to our game plan.

But, what’s done is done. The Thai team lost and Thai football fans are now left hoping their team can win the second leg on their home turf – on Sunday.

Looking around the pitch though, the Thai national team won’t enjoy a huge advantage in the second leg as the physique of the Singaporeans suggests they’re in a different league.

Although the title of the tournament described it as a competition for the Asean region, the appearance of some Singaporean players conjured up an image of nominees – as they seem to come from all over the world.

Take the Caucasian-looking guy with the pierced-nose – the tall Mustafic Fahrudin, who scored their winning goal. Fahrudin, formerly Serbian, rewarded his adopted country handsomely with victory from the penalty spot. In fact, Fahrudin is far from the only nationalised player for Singapore.

Exceptional skill was not the factor that made Precious Emuejeraye stand out from the crowd. Emuejeraye is black, originally from Nigeria, and towered over everyone on the pitch.

Daniel Bennett is not Singapore-born either – but another imported player from the UK wearing Singaporean colours.

A fourth – Si Jia Yi – was once Chinese, but is now Singaporean.

These players were influential in providing the backbone for their team’s performance.

Temasek Holdings has been accused by some of using Thai nominees to acquire control of Shin Corp on behalf of foreigners. And when it comes to football, the Singaporean team has shown the world it can use foreign “nominees” to improve its playing strength.

There is nothing wrong with this. But the next challenge for Temasek is how to truly nationalise Shin Corp without being caught using local nominees. Or maybe that’s just sour grapes.

Thai workers in S’pore told ‘cool it’ after footy fervour
The Bangkok Post
02 Feb 07

Thai workers in Singapore have been told not to walk off the job after Singapore won 2-1 against the Thai national team in the first leg of the Asean Championship football final played in the island state on Wednesday night. A report said a number of Thai workers were protesting over the match result and the decision of the Malaysian referee, who awarded a controversial penalty to a Singaporean player.

Labour permanent secretary Juthathawat Intharasuksri said he had instructed the labour attache in Singapore to warn Thai workers not to stage a strike. There was no violence during the Wednesday night protest, he said.

Thai workers must obey Singapore laws, he said and warned that a work stoppage could worsen the already fragile relations between the two countries.

Labour Minister Apai Chanthanajulaka said he hoped there would not be a repeat of the 2005 riot by Thai workers in Taiwan.

Wednesday’s first-leg match in Singapore was played in a tense atmosphere in front of 55,000 home supporters.

The score was 1-1 with eight minutes to play when Malaysian referee C. Ravichandran ruled that Thai centreback Niweat Siriwong had pulled down Singapore striker Noh Alam Shah in the box, and awarded a penalty.

The Thai players protested by walking off the pitch and refusing to carry on.

After a 15-minute delay, the furious players returned to the pitch and Singapore’s Mustafic Fahrudin scored from the spot to make it 2-1.

Thawatchai Sajjakul, manager of the Thai national team, said it was dangerous for his team to play in Singapore where gambling is involved in football matches.

“A lot of money had been bet on this match,” he said.

Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin said he could not accept the result. However, he said the walk-off was meant only to cool the players’ emotions and to prevent the situation from spinning out of control.

The Thai coach said the team will give it their best and play with sportsmanship in the return match to be held at the Supachalasai stadium in Bangkok on Sunday night.

Mr Chanvit urged the Thai fans not to start a vendetta against Singapore. Extra security will be in place for the game.

Thai workers protest in Singapore against the football match

The Nation
02 Feb 07

Thai workers in Singapore staged protest Thursday following a controversial footballl match between Thailand and Singapore, according to the Labour Ministry.

Thailand lost 2-1 to Singapore in the first leg of the Asean Football Championship on Wednesday mainly due to the controversial penalty kick awarded to Singapore.

The Labour Ministry now expressed concerns about the protest, fearing that things might get out of control.

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