Friday, January 13, 2012

A Letter from a Member of Etoile Ultras to Mr Zainudin Nordin

Recently, news have surfaced over the footballing fraternity in Singapore over the appointment of a new S-League CEO and Deputy CEO. At the same time, there were news coming out from the media that our club, Etoile FC, is considering the prospect of withdrawing from the S-League Season 2012 in protest of the appointment of the new Deputy CEO.

The below letter is non-reflective of Etoile Ultras' stance, and is written on a personal basis by a member of the Etoile Ultras:

Dear Mr Zainudin Nordin,

First and foremost, I would like to send out my heartiest congratulations to the S-League for their appointment of Mr Lim Chin as the CEO of the S-League. However, the same cannot be said of the appointment of the Deputy CEO of the S-League on the same day, Mr Johan Gouttefangeas.

Mr Gouttefangeas was the founder and chairman of Etoile FC since 2010, but had since left the club in the middle of the 2011 season. Etoile FC was introduced into the S-League to bring "European flavours" into the League. The move had also stirred interest into many locals, who have otherwise expressed non-interest in the S-League. In fact, the youngest known Etoile FC fan is a primary school student who attends Etoile FC games on a frequent basis.

Having erected a strong foundation in the club's debut year, lifting the League Cup and S-League title in the same year, fans cannot be faulted for expecting the equivalent, or more, from the club in the following year. However, the fans were left to rue what was an uneventful season for the club in 2011, culminating with the departure of Mr Gouttefangeas, with Mr Hicham Moudden, taking over the helm.

Contrary to reports and claims that Mr Gouttefangeas was close to the fan club is without basis. Mr Gouttefangeas, had during his tenure, had minimal contact with the fan club. Materials that were used by the "Ultras" were all paid for by the fan club's members, and merchandises produced were at the fan club's own initiatives. The "Ultras" became the first club to produce a scarf and shirt specifically catered for Etoile's fan club as a result. The "Ultras" were also independent of the "Gouttefangeas Management".

In the 2011 season, Mr Gouttefangeas spoken to the Ultras' fanclub head and we were informed that season tickets were priced at S$99 each. However, each season ticket holders were entitled to 'perks' that were written clearly in the membership form. Not only did Mr Gouttefangeas not fulfill the terms & conditions of the season tickets, the 4 season pass holders had to make do with the membership registration form for the whole 2011 season as the 'season pass'. Apart from that, season pass holders had to face the agony of a decision by the new management, thereafter, that ticket prices would be lowered to $5.00. This meant that fans, loyal fans who followed the team thick and thin, were paying a higher price. But the season ticket holders kept quiet.

Apart from not honoring his promise to fans, Mr Gouttefangeas was also more famous for declaring in 2010, that he would be appointing David Ginola as the club ambassador. 1 year on, Mr Gouttefangeas indeed brought a "superstar" in the form of Sidney Govou to the shores of the sunny island. But that was after failing to land Laurent Robert to the team. Thus, the promises that Mr Gouttefangeas made to the league pertaining to European Club linkage would be as good as saying that Thierry Henry would be playing for a S-League club soon.

After assembling a winning combination in 2010, Mr Gouttefangeas then made wholesale changes to the team. Recruiting players who were virtually unknown, only the capture of Jonathan Toto was able to set pulses running. The team managed to do well, but owing to the "Curious Incident of the Cheetahs and the Stars", Etoile FC's league adventure were de-railed from its original path. The elections (General & Presidential) did not help the cause of the Stars, not forgetting the international call-ups (Serge Souchon and Frankin Anzite for the Central African Republic National Team). Currently, apart from Etoile FC, the only country to call up players from S-League team is the Singapore National Team.

It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out that after numerous attempts, Mr Gouttefangeas would probably not be able to deliver his promises that he made during his interview with the FAS-appointed committee and would probably be another case of "I tried but..." scenario. Further, this would make fans label S-League as a League that "promises", but never delivers.

For the better of the S-League, I would say, remove this man from his current position. The fact that Mr Gouttefangeas was not around in the signing of the sponsorship deal with Great Eastern augurs well for the League. We do not need a person who is driving a BMW, travelling to-and-fro Europe when the club was perceived to be in a financial turmoil to further destroy the league, which is already in a very uncompromising condition.

All this, and I have not touched on players whose wages were owed since 2010 or the fact that FAS had promised to certain officials that Mr Gouttefangeas would not be selected for any position in or within the FAS.

I urge the S-League Committee and yourself, Mr Zainudin, to reconsider the decision made. In the meantime, I can confirm that there are a group of fans (called the "Ultras") who would be agreeable and supportive of Etoile Fc wanting to sit out of the S-League season 2012, should the FAS and/or its committee persists with hiring a man who is not of utmost good reputation to within its rank.

This is not a selfish move, or allowing 'the tail to wag the dog'. I think, this is the consequences of appointing somebody with dubious character into an important position. As the saying goes: If you cannot even tidy your own house, you do not have the right to tidy other people's house. This is a very good statement to describe the man, the FAS had employed to be a Deputy CEO.

I am a Singaporean who had watched the S-League since the S-League All-Stars, fronted by Sundram and Fandi, played against the Thailand Team at the National Stadium in Kallang. However, this is the first time I had seen the S-League shot itself in the foot so badly, by appointing a person who is not deserving of the position of Deputy CEO.

Yours faithfully,
Joel, a true blue Singaporean, and a member of Etoile Ultras

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