The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is the governing body of football in Singapore. It was founded in 1952. Prior to that, the Singapore Amateur Football Association, founded in 1892, was the governing body for football in Singapore. The Singapore Amateur Football Association lays claim to being the oldest Football Association in Asia.
Pre-War to 1970s
The Singapore Amateur Football Association had participated in the Malayan (Malaysian) Cup since its inauguration in 1921 with a representative side. During the pre-war years, Singapore and Selangor FA were a dominant force and fierce rivals, winning the Cup 19 times between them. The post war years were also dominated by Singapore and Selangor up till 1970, where Selangor emerged as the dominant force in the Malaysia Cup with eleven Cup wins, compared to two victories by Singapore. However, the excitement of Cup during the 70's attracted a full house at every Cup match played at the National Stadium. Fans often nicknamed the Singapore team "The Lions" since this period.
Due to changes in the Malaysia Cup format in 1982, all teams participating in the Malaysia Cup now had to qualify by finishing within the top 8 positions in the Malaysian Semi-Pro League, instead of gaining direct entry to the Cup as before. The Lions had participated in the Malaysian Semi-Pro League since its inauguration.
During this period Pahang, Kuala Lumpur, Kedah and Johor had emerged as serious contenders to the cup besides Selangor. However, the Lions were not serious challengers in both the League or the Cup. They had only won the League once in 1985, failed to qualify for the Malaysian Cup on many occasions or being knocked out of the Cup in the early stages. This was not helped by the fact that other teams within the League (KL, Pahang and Kedah) managed to sign key Singapore players like Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab, K Kannan and V. Sundramoorthy to boost their teams.
The emergence of several young players like Nazri Nasir, Hasnim Haron, D. Tokijan, Borhan Abu Samah and the potent partnership and free scoring of both Australian imports Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards resulted to a strong finishing in the league and cup, by finishing runners up to Selangor in the Semi-Pro League 1 and runners up in the Cup final in 1990. However, if luck had been on the Lions' side, the team could have easily captured either the double or one of the trophies on offer.
Many fans expected the team to build on the success of 1990 in the following season but the failure to retain the services of players like Borhan Abu Samah, Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards proved to be costly. The team did not qualify for the Malaysian Cup and was fighting to avoid relegation to Semi-Pro League 2 in 1991. Worse was to follow when the team was finally relegated to Semi-Pro League 2 after a very inconsistent and poor performances throughout the 1992 season.
Relegation proved to be the turning point for the Lions with a complete shake up of the team in 1993. Top local and key import players like Fandi, Malek, Kannan, Sundram, Jang Jung, Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards, who were then playing for Malaysian teams all returning to help the Lions in their mission to regain their status in Semi-Pro League 1 and at the same time, mount a serious challenge to the Cup through qualification by finishing as one of the top two teams in League 2. This team, dubbed as the "Dream Team" did achieve its primary targets of promotion to Semi-Pro League 1 and mount a serious challenge to the Cup. However, the trophies still eluded them as this team finished second to Selangor in League 2 and runners up again to Kedah in the Cup.
Despite failure at the last hurdle in 1993, the Lions retained the services of key players like Abbas, Jang Jung, Malek and at the same time, introduced up and coming players like Steven Tan, Lee Man Hon and V Selvaraj for the following season.
With the right mix of experienced pros, young players and expert tactician in former Aston Villa/New Zealand defender Douglas Moore, this team won the M-League and Cup double in 1994. The league was won after a long and hard battle with Kedah FA where both teams swapped top positions throughout the season with the key moment was the 2:0 win against Kedah FA in Kallang that finally sealed the title for the Lions. The Malaysia Cup was won with an emphatic 4:0 victory over Pahang FA at Shah Alam Stadium , with Abbas Saad scoring a hat-trick and Fandi rounding off the score.
However, at the height of winning the Cup, FAS had decided to withdraw the Lions from Malaysian competitions after the 1994 season following a dispute with the Football Association of Malaysia over gate receipts and concentrate its efforts on the development of local football. The end product was the formation of S.League .
The Lions had four traditional rivals in Selangor FA, Kedah FA, Pahang FA and Johor FA during its participation in the Malaysian League and Cup competitions. Players and fans of these teams look forward to these clashes whenever the fixtures are announced. Attendance to these matches are always a sell out with fans queuing outside the stadium way before the sale of these tickets commenced.
Due to geographical reasons, other Malaysian Teams do consider the Lions as a rival and would fancy getting a good result when the Lions are in town. Since the formation of S-League, these rivalries were not replicated between Malaysian Super League and S-League teams.