Below are three personal accounts of what it's like to play in - and be part of - the Cosmoleague.
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COSMO – The Cosmopolitan League Still Going Strong
From an SCC perspective
By Graham Dickson
17 June 2019
Some 44 years ago in 1975 – that’s a full decade before the first MRT station in Singapore was completed – two members of the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) Soccer Section started the legendary Cosmopolitan Football League, or Cosmo league, as the founding fathers, which is still going strong today as a well-organized, respected and competitive Soccer League with its own sparkle.
In the search for an appropriate name for the League that would reflect the make-up of the participating teams and players, names such as “European Cup”, “Singapore Cup”, “Caucasians Trophy”, and “Off-Season Cup” became close contenders, but the Founding Fathers opted for “Cosmopolitan League” as a fitting name, with the ‘cosmopolitan’ flavor of the league stemming from the participating teams that organized themselves by nationality.
The concept of Cosmo league, or Cosmo as it is affectionately known, is aimed at providing friendly ‘formal’ soccer to expatriate players who are keen to play but were not necessarily members of clubs or organizations. As the League’s website www.cosmoleague.com conveys, Cosmo league is “all about a diverse group of people with a common interest, coming together not for profit but for camaraderie, to pursue their passion and compete. Its either that, or they want an excuse to get out of the house on a Saturday afternoon.”
At its onset, from the SCCs’ perspective the Cosmopolitan League filled an off-season ‘gap’ that was left by the departed British Forces who had provided regular Saturday afternoon soccer for many of the SCC’s section players throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s. In fact, many of the League’s games were played at some of the old playing fields that the Forces had previously used. The team now has its own home ground at Dempsey Fields, an SCC establishment, with a structured and professional approach to match-days.
The League’s initial teams comprising the very first “league” in 1975 included the Club’s 1st XI, the Scandinavian Society ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams, a German XI, UWC/ISI, an SCC 2nd XI, a Swiss Club side, and a Dutch Club side, sponsored by The East Asiatic Company, an old and established trading house in Singapore. The SCC was in part included in the League to help grow its size and enable more games for other participants, and of course since Cosmo was largely an SCC ‘brainchild’.
The League grew in size over its early years but has always remained a friendly organization with its ups-and-downs as talented and committed individuals came and went. Depending on who ‘ran the League to a large extent determined how successful it was in any one year.
According to Urs Brutsch, who arrived to Singapore in 1986 and plays with the recently amalgamated German/Swiss FC, “the Cosmo league of 1986 has little in common with the League today. In 1986 the League was not as well organized, and more often than not either one of the teams or the referee - or both - were missing!” This had long been one of the League’s ‘charms’ over its 43 years of existence.
Urs believes that the League has come a long way from a casual League to a well-organized and competitive operation today. There are now 11 regular teams participating each year, three officials for every game, and the quality of football is arguably much better today than it was a decade or two ago. A regular and well-organized Committee sets the competition rules, and organizes all fixtures, pitches and referees for all games. The Committee, currently led by President Graham Dickson, promotes the League through its website www.cosmoleague.com . The newly appointed Committee is working hard to take the league to another level and build relationships with other Cosmo type leagues in Asia. Tony Moore, Vice President and Treasurer has made a significant contribution and without his dedication there would be no Cosmo League. Tony played for several years for Casuals FC and now contributes in an administrative capacity as VP and Treasurer but also as a Referee. Michael Jorgensen as President and recently as fixtures and pitches Secretary has handed over hIs responsibilities to Take of Nippon F.C. Rob Hunt organizes the referees and Rules and Regulations and Mark Addy handles all disciplinary matters. Jonathan Cloak manages the input to the website which is now updated weekly. Remy Tache is the pioneer of the current Cosmo League website and deserves our plaudits for a superb product. Ciarin McGoldrick and Brad are helping the committee this season.
The commitment of the various team managers as well as the passion of their players are reflected in the weekly match reports, which display both the character and humor of their authors. For many of the participants their interest in the League sustains long after their departure from Singapore’s shores as frequent visits to the website to view the results and the current league table and their following of their team’s pursuit of league and cup glory bears strong evidence.
The winners of the Cosmo league’s inaugural match were none other than the SCC’s talented players of the SCC 1st XI, which marked an auspicious start and a feat that the SCC have repeated many more times: in 1983 when the Padantiques team also finished in third spot ; in 2002 with a side managed by Graham Dickson and captained by Keith Pope ; in the 2003/04 season with a side managed by Phil Cockerill and Graham Dickson and captained by Kieran Angellini Hurll and James Whiteley ; and for the majority of the seasons from 2008 to 2018 led by Owen Monaghan and more recently Anthony Houlahan. Casuals, Hotspurs and more recently TGA Rangers have enjoyed league champion status. TGA Rangers won the League this past season and deservedly so as they were by far the best side with a quality striker, Mike Sharples. Olympique Gaulloises won the Cosmo Cup at Our Tampines Hub in a match streamed live by 1 Play Sports which is something the League wants to do more of this season. Congratulations to both these teams.
After the first title win in 1983 the SCC team was withdrawn from the League as it was regarded as too strong a side at the time, and it was felt that a ‘selection’ of second and third team players should be given the opportunity to represent the SCC. Later on, the SCC Padangtiques team was also invited to join, who had had a particularly good side in the late 1970's and early 1980’s. The 1st XI was invited back again some years later once the Casuals and British Hotspurs started to dominate the Cosmo league.
In 2000, Graham took over the Cosmo side of the SCC, successfully driving its rise from a bottom-three side and recruiting additional quality players. Incidentally Graham could not comprehend why the SCC was near the bottom of the Cosmo league yet had a Thursday night first team full of quality SCC players and members who played against the SCC in the Cosmo league games. This had to be changed - and it was. Keith Pope, an excellent player who is being sorely missed by the SCC, made significant contributions to both title successes by scoring 29 goals during the 2001/02 season and 25 goals in the 2003/04 season. Kieran Angellini-Hurll, James Whiteley and Michael Drake made key contributions to the SCC as part of the Cosmo league. Ray Lee also made a significant contribution both as a player and captain during this time.
In 2004/05, with Graham as Manager and James Whiteley as captain, the team were League Runners-Up and won the coveted Cosmopolitan Cup Final beating Brewerkz 2-1 with goals from Keong and Kieran.
Michael Drake and Graham managed the team for the 2005/06 season and led the side to League Runners-Up and another Cosmopolitan Cup Final success with 2-0 over Pulau Ubin, sporting goals from Tyler Drake and Mike Byrne.
The SCC came second again in 2006/07 with the title going down to the very last match. While missing the title in the Final game was a disappointment, the commitment of the squad that had suffered injuries and absences during the run-in was truly commendable.
The season 2007/08 saw the SCC once more finish as runners-up in the League, but it did proudly win the Cosmopolitan Cup Final 4-0 v Hotspurs on the Padang. This also saw the start of Owen “Benitez” Monaghan’s reign as coach, who had done a superb job for the SCC running both Cosmo and NFL teams. As part of his stint he recruited a substantial cadre of quality players such as Steve Angelov, Adam Bowden, Danny Townsend, Scott Anderson, JP Mccarvel, JP Bruneau, Steve Rogers, Andrew Hutcheon, Dom Lane, Henry Turner, Martin Goerojo, Marcus Davies, Kian-Ann Ong, Rob Gulston, Azran Yossi, Barry Teasedale, Neil Pedley, Shyam Young, Simon Wilson, David Alonso, Scott Wells, Mehdi Souiade, Simon Tan, Nahar Daud,Kim Leng Tan, Tommy Smith and JD Donovan. Some of these players have moved on, with best wishes for their personal and soccer ventures.
The SCC has recently had a trailblazing series of seasons, winning the Cosmopolitan League and Cup Double in most of the past ten years with the exception of the league 2 years ago which was won by an excellent TGA Rangers. Several teams have been on the receiving end of a few thrashings in Cup Finals in recent years too. This reflects superb efforts by coach Monaghan and sides captained by Adam Bowden and Scott Starr assisted by David Alonso, and outstanding performance by the SCC players including coach Hutcheon who is a key member of the squad. Some of the players mentioned above remain, with quality additions including James Kilbee, Jamie Saarloos, John Norfolk, John Spackmann, A J Cyrile, Heiko Moeller, Matt Sutton, Anthony Moulin, Naoto, Josh Douglas, Greg Walasek, Neil Kee, Martin Rigby, Richard Pugh, Ronnie Smollett, Matt Zatto, Matt Hulen, Phil Mace, Dary Stone, Jahan Rezai, Ross Gregory, Christopher Day, Sam Balls, Dan Hammond, Duncan McDonald, Dan Huke, Ross Logie, Ross Preston, Matt Hulen, Tim Walter, Ross Plain, Liam Shotton, Ben King, Amos Boon, Alex Duric, Kike, Dom O’Shea, Dom Lane, Martin Lavoo, Dan Rowlands, Anthony Garreau, Jack Cullinane, Matt Zatto, Mike Hemingway and Chris Day.
Graham has continued to support the team over the past years and developed a bond with the Managers of the SCC Firsts which has been mutually satisfying. He continues to play a role similar to an Ian Fleming mystery novel no pun intended. He remembers fondly picking up the team kit and transporting all around the island, washing kit on some occasions and getting players to games in his car but those were the fun days. He remembers signing two players he saw playing on the beach in Sentosa as SCC were short on the day. He regularly had connections on new players and always wanted a stronger side season by season.
As part of its continued support of the expatriate community in Singapore, the SCC is proud of both being a founding member of the Cosmo league and for having participated in it since its conception in 1975. Unfortunately, SCC Firsts will withdraw from the Cosmo League effective immediately. Issues they have with SCC Club Management were not able to be resolved which is sad. These are private matters that will remain so and the Cosmo League Management team respects their wishes. A new team called Singapore Football Club consisting of largely SCC Firsts players and Management will replace them for the season 2019/20. We wish all teams participating in our League the very best and lets keep the competetiveness strong recognising true sportsmanship at all times.
Me and the Cosmoleague - by Urs Brutsch, 2000:
In the Summer of 1986, I was asked by my employer whether I would like to go to Singapore for one year. When the Head of the Singapore office was in Switzerland and interviewed me, one of my most important questions was whether I could continue to play football there. He replied that there was a Swiss team which was playing in some sort of a league.
When I set foot on Singapore territory in early December 1986, one of my colleagues at the office "dragged" me to the Swiss Club on my second day. At the end of the first week, I got my first dose of Cosmo League football: I vividly remember my first game against the Dutch. It was played at the F&N pitch off River Valley Road. The site has long been transformed into yet another condominium.
What I remember is two things: we lost 5:2 and I was running out of fuel after 20 minutes. While I was reasonably fit when I arrived, the heat and the humidity took their toll and I learnt quickly that you have to pace yourself here if you want to survive a full game. Full games luckily only lasted 2 x 35 minutes back then!
The Cosmo League of 1986 has not much in common with the Cosmo League of 1999. The league was rather poorly organised and more often than not either one of the teams or the Referee or both were missing. Games were then played mostly at the Dieppe barracks of the NZ armed forces in Upper Thomson Road.
I also remember very well when the Cosmo League Selection was regularly asked to play against the Singapore National team. On one occasion we narrowly lost 2:1 at Jalan Besar stadium and on another occasion we lost 4:1. This was the game where Singapore introduced its new signings Alistair Edwards and Abbas Saad to the local scene. That was also the game where I beat Singapore legend David Lee with the consolation goal.
As far as I can remember back, the League was dominated by three teams: the Hotspurs, the Casuals and the Swiss. These are at least in my recollection the teams that won the League since the late 1980s. The exception was the Lions in 1997/98.
The Cosmo League has come a long way: from a truly casual soccer league to a well organized and competitive league. The level of football played in the Cosmo League is substantially higher today than 10 years ago. I guess I am not just saying that because I get older and the other players seem to get younger and fitter. I am into my 14th year in the Cosmo League and I probably have never enjoyed it more than today!