Will Albirex Niigata’s winning streak in Singapore be halted this year?

By Soccer Blog | Aug 14, 2019

The latter half of this decade has seen some unprecedented domination from Albirex Niigata Singapore in the city state. The team, a subsidiary of the well known J-League club by the same name, won 11 trophies in a row between 2016 and 2019 (League, Cup, League Cup and Community Shield), even managing to do a stunning quadruple in the process.

Albirex have won the league for the last three seasons in a row and went unbeaten to the title in 2018, finishing a whopping 23 points ahead of their nearest rivals. They had won their maiden title in 2016 by a single point and their second by 11 points in 2017, but 2018, the year when the S.League was officially rebranded to the Singapore Premier League, saw the Japanese outfit take their dominance to another level.

They scored 69 goals en route to the title and conceded just 17 from 24 games. It was a clean sweep at the league’s end of the season awards too for the club- the Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Top Scorer all went to Albirex players.

However this season hasn’t been as smooth sailing for them. The league has introduced some changes this year- key among them the requirement to play two Singaporean players for at least a half in every game. Albirex lost the Community Shield on penalties earlier this year, and at the time of writing, are fourth in the league. They’ve already been beaten four times this year- in 2017 and 2018 combined, they lost only twice.

2019 ST

As with the English Premier League (EPL), the SPL is the highest professional league for men’s association football clubs in the country. Unlike England however, they are only nine teams competing in the tournament, with a total of 24 games to be played by every side across roughly six months.

Over the years, Singapore has invited professional clubs from various overseas countries like China, Brunei, Japan, France and Korea to compete in the league. The objective has been two fold- to increase the overall level of competitiveness and also create interest in the SPL in established football markets. While local bettors are already interested in the SPL, expanding the reach and awareness of the league has the potential to improve both volume and profitability – however, this has all seen mixed success. While Albirex are a model side- their training schedule and club structure is unparalleled among teams in the competition, it doesn’t quite help if locals keep seeing a foreign side dominate a domestic league so convincingly.

The 2018 final league table

albirex domination

Sinchi FC were the first team to compete in the SPL – a side composed of Chinese players. In fact, two of the players – Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li, went on to become naturalised Singaporean players.

However, things didn’t go quite as smoothly for other teams. Sporting Afrique were a team made up of African players, who competed in 2006, but were refused entry in 2007 due to off-field controversies. On a similar note, Super Reds, a South Korean team, only lasted a few seasons before being denied a place after attempts to convert the team into a local one.

Even the top teams, such as those in the Chinese Super League, only seemed to last a year. Liaoning, Dalian Shide and Beijing Guoan each lasted a single season before being removed from the league due to poor performance or disciplinary issues.

French club Etoile FC became the first foreign team to ever win the Singapore Premier League in 2010, but however pulled out of it in 2012 announcing they wanted to focus more prominently on the development of their youth and grassroots teams.

Brunei side DPMM, the last side to win the league before Albirex began their domination in the latter half of this decade, are currently top of the league. They are seven points ahead, but the latter do have to two games in hand.

Albirex have two absolutely massive games coming up in the next few weeks- one on 18 August against Tampines Rovers, and the other on 10 September against DPMM, and both away from home. If they lose one or both, we could have a new champion come October.

Albirex rem

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