July brought the best sports news of the year. On July 2, Singapore's LionsXII won the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title at Jalan Besar with no less than the PM in attendance. Later, in September, Ng Ser Miang made an unsuccessful bid at the coveted presidency of the International Olympic Committee, followed by National Service (NS) deferment to Singapore's top swimmer Joseph Schooling in October. Schooling later shone for the city-state at SEA Games held in Myanmar in December. Singapore also remained in news throughout the year for allegedly being the base of an international football match-fixing syndicate.
A convincing 4-0 demolition of KL Felda United on home ground and LionsXII became the first Singapore team to win a Malaysian title since 1994. After a goal-less first-half, the match came to life in the second, when Felda's Azrul Ahmad scored an own goal. Lions XII's skipper Shahril Ishak scored the second goal at 57th minute and set-up one for Fazrul Nawaz in the 60th minute. With just six minutes remaining, substitute Shahfiq Ghani sealed the win for the home team.
Later, in November, Lions XII coach, V Sundramoorthy, who led the team to MSL title, moved across the Causeway and took over the Malaysian club Negeri Sembilan. Three key Lions XII players was moved. Captain Shahril Ishak to Johor FA, and vice-captain Hariss Harun and Baihakki Khaizan to Johor Darul Takzim.
In December, just before the SEA Games, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) ended months of speculations and confirmed the appointment of former Singapore international Fandi Ahmad as Lions XII's new coach. The team will begin its 2014 MSL campaign against Malaysia Cup champions Pahang in Kuantan on January 17.
The sports highlight of the year for the region were the three weeks long 27th SEA (South-east Asian) Games held in Myanmar in December. Particularly, as Singapore is due to host the next edition in 2015. Ng Ser Miang, Singapore's International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, congratulated the Myanmar SEA Games organising committee for successfully hosting the Games after a 44-year hiatus and handed them the IOC Trophy. Ng, earlier in the year, had made an unsuccessful attempt at IOC presidency.
Overall, the city-state stood sixth in the 11 nations meet with 34 golds, 29 silvers and 45 bronzes. The first-placed Thailand got 107 golds, 94 silvers and 81 bronzes.
Few performances brought back memories of old times. These included Saiyidah Aisyah's gold in rowing since 1997, Ho Han Boon's gold in Judo in 24 years, Janine Khoo's gold in equestrian since 1995, and Chan Jing Ru's archery gold in 30 years. Moreover, there were few firsts for Singapore during the Games as well including Mok Ying Ren's gold in men's marathon and Dinah Chan's gold in women cycling.
Sailing (five golds), table-tennis (four golds) and swimming (11 golds), produced great results for Singapore as expected.
Notably, for Singapore, the star performer was 18-year-old Joseph Schooling, who came back with a haul of five golds and one silver, and was the event's most decorated swimmer. With this performance, Schooling has taken steps towards proving that the decision by the Ministry of Defence to grant him long-term deferment from National Service till 2016 Summer Olympics may indeed be the correct one.
Football match-fixing syndicate
It all started when in February the European anti-crime agency Europol said that a Singapore-based syndicate is involved in fixing at least 380 football matches in Europe, including Champions League ties and World Cup qualifiers. Investigations followed, and later in September, Singapore Police Force and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau arrested 14 suspected members of the organised football match-fixing crime ring.
Also, in April, three Lebanese referees were barred from officiating in an AFC Cup match in Singapore on suspicions of match-fixing. Later, referees Ali Sabbagh, Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleh were jailed for six, three and three months respectively, for fixing a game between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal in return for sexual favours.