What makes a champion? Etoile FC, Singapore's most recognised foreign club in the S League, has already won the league cup. They are gearing themselves up for a grandstand finale to their inaugural season at the league and RHB Cup. Success has not been smooth sailing. Adapting and assimilating into a foreign culture and foreign league is one hurdle. Finding local support and recognition is another. Let Restricted Access peek into the history of Queenstown stadium and a subsequent training session to find out about the champions of the stadium as well as Etoile's FC fairytale start to the S League.
Etoile FC's training in Queenstown Stadium
Queenstown Stadium was officially opened in 1970 as one of the first neighbourhood sports complex. It is a premier location for parades and competitions in the 1970s and 1980s and Queenstown residents were often in for a treat with these colourful performances as dazzling region superstars come to the stadium to perform promote an event.
MINDEF First Colour Parade is Held in Queenstown Stadium
Queenstown stadium had done its part in chalking up all the "firsts" for the estate. In March 1972, the Ministry of Defence held the first colour parade in Queenstown stadium. The Guard of Honor of the parade is from the 1st Singapore Infantry Regiment. The flag in the photo is the first colour of the parade.
Parade held at the stadium. Blk 39A can be seen clearly in the background
Beside these memorable times, Queenstown Stadium was no stranger to the galaxy of cantopop stars who came to "Star Walk," a fundraising event held in March 1979. Singaporeans from all parts of the island streamed in to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. Heavy rain threatened to pour a "wet blanket" but many residents eventually smiled their way through collecting certificates of appreciation upon completion of the charity walk.
Charity Walk was almost dampened by the rain
Arrival of Hong Kong Stars at the Stadium
Charity Walk along Queenstown. Where's this road?
Decentralised parades of the national day were held at the stadium in 1983 to allow more Singaporeans and heartlanders participate in the festive occasion. Unlike the parades which are presently held at night, participants to these decentralised parades often had to brave the "hot sun." The guest of honour that day was then-Minister of Defence, Goh Chok Tong. There is neither impressive light displays nor pyrotechnics to "wow" the crowd. But the sincerity and effort in delivering the performances deserve full marks!
Preparation for the parade
March past at the neighbourhood draw hundreds of residents
Mass Display Performances at the stadium
Towards a Better Tomorrow- NDP Theme for 1983
Guns, Smoke and Marching Band Performances
Whistles and Stares for these group of female performers
Queenstown Stadium spent the 1990s and millennium as hosts to a never ending list of football clubs challenging for honours in the S League which is formed in 1995. First came Tiong Bahru United and then Tanjong Pagar FC. These defunct football clubs may not have won the league title, but they have won over fans in Queenstown and others in Singapore. Glory and pride was restored at Singapore's oldest sporting facilities as the stadium was completely filled in numerous occasions. Tanjong Pagar is one of the most widely supported club after SAFFC, Home United and Geylang.
However, the notoriety of Chinese clubs Sinchi (who is the FIRST foreign side to ply the S League) and Liaoning had lend a bad name to the stadium. Match fixing, troubled finances among a plethora of problems did not do justice to the proud an historically rich stadium. 2010 marks a return to prominence for Queenstown stadium as she celebrates her 40th anniversary in Singapore's history. The impressive Etoile FC will rewrite history books if the team of "Stars" become the first foreign side to win the S League.
A training session at Queenstown Stadium
Etoile FC hold the honour of being the first European side to ply in Asia's football leagues. However establishing the football club was not an easy task. Finding sponsors and support have always been the toughest job in Singapore's football league and this task gets more difficult when the club is foreign. The team of players with French nationality arrives in Singapore on January 24 and they are already scheduled to play in mid February. Unlike local clubs, players from Etoile FC has considerable less time to bond and gel together as a team. This difficulty was expressed by their team coach, Patrick Valle.
Patrick Valle, head coach of Etoile FC
Prior to his appointment at Etoile FC, Patrick had coached in the Qatar league for 2 years. He enjoys the beautiful game and aims to improve and showcase French football to Singaporeans. The fiery coach, who had been sent off for 4 occasions this season, expressed concerns over teams who were extremely physical when they play against the French team. Nevertheless, he is determined to train the team so that they can adapt to the Singapore weather and style of football. He wants to win more titles with the club and is confident that the club can win all the honours available this season.
Mattias Verschave (left) and Julien Deletraz
Mattias, a 32-year old striker, brings much needed experience to a young French side. A composed and clinical striker, Mattias (wore number 9) has played for French teams Olympique Nimes, Brest and Cypriot champions Olympiakos Nicosia. Julien Deletraz, the 22-year old towering defender, hails from Grenoble. He puts in impressive performances over the season and is considered an important first team player with the French club.
Mattias and Julien arrive in Singapore and stay in a condominium located in the Western part of the island. The short duration between their arrival and eventual first match in the league makes it hard for both the players in acclimatising to Singapore's weather and style of football. Hence, they are scheduled to train in early mornings and late evenings when the weather is less "hot." In their free time, they will play tennis, swim, bowl and go to the gym. They have been to the zoo and night safari. Queensway shopping centre is another favourite "haunting" site for Mattias, Julien and the rest of the team. They can check up on the latest sports wear!
The rise and decline of Singapore's first sports complex is a heartrending story. It does not boast a 50,000 capacity to host international matches. It does not have a impressive clubhouse to attract the young and the affluent. Waterlogged pitches and cracked roofs are indications of her age. While her physical features are mere ordinary sight to some individuals, she has always been a reliable location for sports enthusiasts to train their fitness and play their game of football. Queenstown Stadium has always been a champion and they are forever a champion in our eyes.
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