A friend brought to my attention the following article which made troubling reading:
This concerns former Lions XII and national defender, Sevki Sha'ban, who represented Home United FC since last year. He was unceremoniously dismissed over week ago without any compensation. What's troubling is the dismissal coincides with the Ramadan period and the upcoming Hari Raya Puasa. As a Malay-Muslim, this is the biggest festival of the year. What's even worse is that he was dismissed without any form of compensation.
Sevki started playing in the S-league 12 years ago, when he represented Sembawang Rangers. He then moved to the Young Lions during his NS days, where he was a bit part player. Thereafter he moved to Gombak United for 3 seasons where he enjoyed his best spell to date. He was even made club captain. He also earned his first national cap during the period. He then moved to Geylang United in 2010 but picked up a serious injury that curtailed his career. Eventually he moved on the Lions XII team, that took part in the Malaysia Cup after an 18 year absence.
An unpleasant Ramadan/Hari Raya surprise for former national player Sevki Sha'ban.
Just when things were looking up for him, he suffered an anterior cruciate injury in October 2012. This also curtailed his national team career and he missed out on the team's triumphant Suzuki Cup triumph in December that year. However he managed to recover and signed a 2 year contract with Home United at the beginning of the season last year.He forced his way back into the team and played in the Singapore Cup Final last year, which Home won.
His current predicament
His problems began this year when Home appointed South Korean Lee Lim Saeng as head coach. Sevki fell down the pecking order and has not played a single game this season. His relationship with the coach soured so badly that he wasn't even allowed to train to with the team. He was eventually dismissed on grounds of 'unsatisfactory work and under-performance', as stated in a cryptic club statement.
Former South Korean international Lee Lim Saeng is Home United's head coach.
He was told he was free to leave last month during the transfer window but rejected a lower paying offer by Hougang United. The window has since closed and he's unable to sign for any other club until the new season. He cannot also represent Lions XII in the Malaysia Cup because that competition's window has also closed.
As such he's left in limbo now, and with Hari Raya beckoning, the father of 3 has little or no means to provide for his family other than depend on his wife and family members. He's now seeking the FAS help to grant him a reprieve and allow him to sign for another club.
The troubling issue
The troubling issue here is the rather callous and heartless manner in which Home United went about in dismissing him. Some may say, 'Why didn't he take up the offer by Hougang United?' or 'surely he must have known the writing was on the wall ever since he was dropped from training even?' Perhaps he was a bit naïve but that's beside the point. The point is – when you sign a contract, you expect it to be honoured, even if you're surplus to requirements. Or if really there's a desire to remove you, then compensation must be given, if not in full, at least a portion of it. Home United did neither. Even blogger Roy Ngerng received a month's salary after being dismissed by TTSH.
If Home found his performance unsatisfactory, then they should have told him as such much earlier, encouraged him to find another club and warned him of the possibility of getting sacked. No such warnings were given. And surely they would have realised that as a Malay Muslim, Hari Raya would soon beckon and just dismissing him like that, is rather heartless. How would Lee or any official in the club feel if they were dismissed suddenly, just as their biggest cultural and religious event was about to begin? Couldn't they see that as a father he would be called upon to bear the costs of the celebrations especially for his 3 young children? Couldn't they wait until after Hari Raya to dismiss him?
An ironic description of the S-league. The FAS is living in a fantasy world if they expect the league to grow and improve when basic things like contracts are not honoured.
Sevki's case is not the first, this is just the latest in a long line of dismissals by local clubs, where players who get injured or dropped, are unceremoniously dismissed without any form of compensation. With such short notice, that leaves them with little or no options. Some people without understanding on how professional football operates may take the view, 'Hey, what's he complaining so much about, he should be lucky that he can earn a salary by playing a sport or a hobby!'
That's not correct, a fulltime sportsman has to sacrifice a lot. Just go try running and kicking the ball for 30 minutes and see how 'pancit' (out of breath) you are. What more players playing at a much higher level for 90 minutes. Sevki like others had to train super hard to maintain his fitness and he had to sacrifice the best part of his youth in order to play football. He had to forgo any future education or work experience the past 12 years, not to mention face the prospect of a career ending injury.
We often read of the FAS saying how it wants to promote football here and build a strong team in the future, not to mention make the S-League one of Asia's best. But the first step in doing that must be to ensure that football is a viable and somewhat secure career. They cannot allow clubs to tear up contracts as when they please, especially when players get injured. They must ensure that contracts are honoured, and adequate compensation is offered when it isn't.
It's just a matter of time before another 'kelong' case erupts if nothing is done to make the S-league efficient and more professional.
The FAS makes a lot of noise about wiping out match-fixing which was prevalent here in the recent past. But if you don't ensure players are paid properly, it only gives match-fixers a great opening to entice these players in a large money-making scheme. They cite can Sevki and others before him, who were unceremoniously sacked with little or nothing to fall back on. Although I have no evidence, former match fixers I spoke to believe that some degree of fixing is still going on. These they allege is done by players themselves, who realise they need to have some back-up plan or finance should their career end suddenly. Not all of them can go into coaching or some other sports related job. Most are not highly educated and have no relevant job experience to fall back on, other than football, which counts for squat in the working world. As said this is just hearsay, but poorly or unpaid players are a fertile ground for match-fixers. If the FAS doesn't do something to address this, then they shouldn't be surprised if another major match-fixing scandal engulfs the S-league sooner or later.
Home United's logo. Well they certainly didn't offer Sevki Sha'ban any protection. Other players in the club better be prepared for another round of dismissals if coach Lee doesn't fancy them.
Finally, we must take Home United to task as well. As a club representing the Home Team, the dismissal of player without compensation, indirectly portrays the organisation as uncaring. And the failure to be emphatic to a player or person about to celebrate his primary festival of the year, make Home United look like a heartless and callous employer. The manner and timing of Sevki's dismissal is deplorable and Home United deserve to be roundly criticised and taken to task for their actions in this unfortunate affair for Sevki.