Back in play, Touch Singapore launches modified 4v4 League after one-year hiatus

SINGAPORE – When the National Touch League ended prematurely last February due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Che Goh was disappointed as she had trained hard for the season.

After a year-long hiatus, the touch football player will finally be able to get back into action with the launch of Touch Singapore’s 4v4 Singlife Touch League on Saturday (Feb 20). The league will held behind closed doors every Saturday at Tanglin Rugby Club’s fields at Turf City between Feb 20 and Apr 17.

The 26-year-old, who plays for local club Udon, said: “After the competition details were released, I was quite excited because I really missed playing the game. Even if it is in a different format, I hope to get out of my comfort zone and do my best.”

In keeping with Covid-19 safety protocols limiting participants to a maximum of eight, the tournament will be played in a 4v4 format instead of the usual 6v6. Matches will be played on a smaller pitch and consist of four six-minute quarters instead of 20-minute halves.

Touch Singapore is hopeful that it can replicate the same format for future leagues and at the grassroots level if the initiative is a success.

Its media director Rachel Tang said that the organisation is focused on “bringing the community back together and letting players get the practice in on a competitive level”.

Before the pandemic, over 100 teams of 14 to 20 players each competed in its leagues, which were held twice a year in February and June.

The new league will see 148 teams competing across 11 divisions and matches will be played in a round robin format. The top 20 teams will take part in the finals on Apr 17.

Touch Singapore’s coaches director Khairullah Abdul Razak said that the 4v4 matches will be more intense and will help players develop skills like spatial awareness and game strategy.

He added: “It allows the players to learn how to pace themselves. As there is no substitution allowed, they will have to learn when to slow things down or speed things up.”

Gideon Loh, coach of club Todaks, noted that the modified format may be good for younger players as they are able to get more game time and exposure.

“Usual 6-a-side games are more structured as there are specialised roles that each player can take,” he said. “However, for a 4v4, everyone has to be involved in the game. This gives younger players more opportunities to play and showcase what they have practised in training.”

Only eight people are allowed on the field for each match and the number of referees has been cut from three to one.

Udon club player Crystal Hong noted that the sole referee may be a concern as he or she will have to work harder to keep their eye on the game.

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She said: “As the game can be quite fast, it will be hard for only one referee to see if the touch is being made first or if the ball reaches the ground first. There is also the fact that the referees will not be able to discuss (whether or not to make) the call.”

But players like Hong are just happy to be back on the field. “Being able to play in a competitive league is a huge thing for us already, especially with the ongoing Covid situation, said the 24-year-old. “We are just hoping to have fun and gain experience that we can apply in future bigger leagues.”

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