A Feast Like Never Before
The clubs' end-of-season ceremony would be uncharacteristically delayed today, but then again, this was a celebration like no other - for Grilled Birds had finally clinched the national double. Not even the relegations of Farmer Bunnies and Grilled International could put a dampener on such an occasion, and the other two clubs would more than willingly take a back seat for this event.
There would be several minutes' standing ovation for the champs, no less than could be expected, as head coach Eren Serpin
entered with the S-League trophy, followed by predecessor Hovaness Noubaryan
with the Singapore Cup, flanked by team captain Moey Xin Seng
, and vice-captain Chan Ze Han
. It was a sight to behold indeed, and one that had been all too many years in the making.
Even Serpin would be overcome for some moments. "I was hired to manage the club, not to give touching speeches, so I hope you all understand." he began, to much whooping from the gathered. "But I do think I have - we have - done pretty okay at that first part. So far."
This would go on for a few short if heartfelt minutes, and blended smoothly enough into the announcement for Grilled's best player of this historic season. "There're no lack of heroes here - Moey provided invaluable leadership, Bilal's been an absolute warrior and the only player to start all twenty-three of our competitive games, Kamal's got that killer instinct, and Mudaliar challenged for the league Golden Boot for months, among others - but I think there were only two real choices here."
"Chan Ze Han
's been close to the best in a team of great players whenever he's played, been declared Man of the Match for almost half his appearances, and scored 17 goals in 16 starts. And even this was not enough. Gentlemen, our Player of the Season, hailing from Kilkenny, Ireland, capped for his country, Singapore Cup top scorer, Bernie Egan
"Oh, and Egan's original club Smithwick's FC have won the Irish Premier and Irish Cup double too, what a coincidence; here's to hoping we don't have to meet too prematurely in the Hattrick Masters tournament!"
Academy graduate Teoh Long Yong would be hailed as the Birds' Young Player of the Season, after quickly working himself into the reckoning with Romania's CFR-1907-Cluj. The competition hadn't been overly fierce, to be frank, although scouts have reported good impressions of several fellow academy candidates such as Cameron Law, Eu Ming Chuan and Siu Wai Shi.
The Grilled set would sportingly keep the volume up when their sibling clubs' turn came, which began with the Bunnies' Kwek Yun Jie
receiving a record fifth POTY citation. Still a rock at fullback - and deceptively dynamic as a winger - despite having turned 36, there really weren't any others who came close to his standards, what with Kwek having also assumed captaincy duties due to Tham Leng Teck
's lengthy injury time-outs.
Farmer Bunnies' YPOTY went to Kyrgyzstani trainee Aitykul Zaripbekov
, who had been nineteen throughout most of the season. Solid but unspectacular in his seven official appearances for the club, the Number Twelve nonetheless remained a cut above the other eligibles, mostly from the academy; the consensus appears that there might be quite a lot of potential in the Rabbits squad, if mostly underdeveloped.
Grilled International honoured midfielder Sazwan bin Hj Muhd Salleh
with the senior award, some seven seasons after he had earned the junior version, for his combination of indefatigability and effectiveness. Fausto Perono
had apparently not done his bid much good with his apparent threat to leave, and their overall disastrous season was perhaps best reflected by Zaini bin Hj Kaling
taking the club scoring record with a mere six goals.
This has caused the club's supporters to turn to their youth hopes as a distraction, among of which budding forward Kasmi bin Addie Erwan has popularly been regarded as the foremost star; the multi-talented Lee Yun Chang reportedly garnered his fair share of votes too, together with Hj Mahari bin Hj Yussof, who has been said to be an underrated modern wingback in the making.
A number of players and associates also took the opportunity to declare their retirement, most notably Hovaness Noubaryan
, who considered his work here done with his cultivation of Serpin. Club legend Enzo Paolo Panzarino
would be raised to the Buns' Hall of Fame at 41 years of age, with former main goalkeeper Akıner Sayın
and utility wingman Hasmawi Alawee Ramli
also calling it a day. Azni bin Raimi
and Ratano bin Omar
would retire for International, with popular old favourite Micky bin Kadir
raised to their Hall, slightly shy of his 38th birthday.
There would also be short announcements for Birds trainees Irfan Zainuddin Mat Aris and Yee Chuan Kim, Buns trainees Craig Pang and Tate Vu, and International trainee Hj Ersan bin Jamalul, all of whom had their temporary contracts run out by mutual consent. For Grilled's Toma Tamiya
and International's Rosmin bin Hj Khamis
, however, this would be the beginning of a possibly-exciting and productive footballing career.
In another departure from the usual, the repast would be very brief, with Eren Serpin
and company urgently wanting to return to the business of winning more trophies. "There's no time to rest, and even if there was, it's no time to!"