Why It Didn't Work Out in Singapore (2012)

I initially wrote this article back in September of 2012. That's how long ago it has been since I was there. It was an experience that didn't go well, and I was too young and inexperienced to spot the signs. There's many ironies to this. One being that I loved Singapore. It's just that the job was a scam. Many coaches who have been abroad have suffered in such ways. The prominence of the internet has made it easier to do your research, and we are well positioned at BFCN to be an intermediary and a consul. We can help, we can support, and we can guide. We're in the process of building something you can trust as coaches.


Some names have been left out, but it's still the same story. I've also put some of the red flags in italics. There's loads of them. I was twenty-three, and had just finished working in Canada for Challenger Sports. I had a girlfriend back in Calgary, and had been back in England only five days before heading to Singapore. Calgary is seven hours behind London, Singapore is seven hours ahead of London. So here goes. Enjoy. And if ever you need some guidance for jobs abroad, BFCN is here to help.

 

The job was described to me as an initial three months on unpaid probation in Singapore, before a review, and then paid employment, basically working as regional manager in a country within South East Asia. Not only would I be coaching male and female players of all ages, but I would be coaching the coaches and devising standardised session plans for all of the coaches here. I was told I would need to invent a curriculum for the prestigious academy setup they have here. This is all challenging and exciting stuff.


I would also have a chance to write content for coaching courses, deliver and present these courses, and work alongside the FA tutors when they came out to deliver FA Level One and Level Two coaching courses. The name [PROMINENT COACH EDUCATOR] is one that means a lot to coaches in the UK, as he is highly respected and well regarded within the industry. I went to one of his workshops last year, and he was great. [PROMINENT COACH EDUCATOR] name is plastered all over the website, and the boss in Singapore talked about him a lot. I couldn’t wait to start working with this guy. [WEST HAM AND ENGLAND LEGEND] is also supposed to be involved somehow.

The chances for development and growth as a coach seem too good to pass up. Coaching regularly, different ages and abilities, working with [PROMINENT COACH EDUCATOR], and also writing and delivering an academy curriculum and coaching courses? Wow! This sounds too good to be true.


Another draw of the job was the travelling to exotic locations. I had only ever heard good things about Singapore, and its proximity to other countries means island hopping is a must. I will DEFINITELY get the chance to work in Malaysia, and I will DEFINITELY get the chance to work in Indonesia. If all goes well and I stay until April, then I could be sent off to Australia. I have wanted to go to Australia for years! I’m going to work really hard to ensure that this becomes a reality.

The guy who ran the company used fake images to add legitimacy to his site. He made up excerpts from an Asian version of World Soccer Magazine to make it look more believable. I should have spotted his inability to spell "Asian."


One drawback was that before leaving for Canada, I had interviewed and been accepted to coach at [DECENT LEVEL WOMEN'S TEAM]. The opportunity there was great, working with a decent team and good players, and being around good coaches. I declined about a month ago when I decided Singapore was the place to be. I wanted to work with [SEMI PRO CLUB] as well, so I would be working with good standard adults and good standard kids. This would mean I could achieve my aim of UEFA B License certification, and being handed the FA Youth Award. Both fantastic qualifications that it would be brilliant for someone my age to have.

I asked if there would be a possibility for one of the many FA tutors, possibly even [PROMINENT COACH EDUCATOR], to assess me while in Singapore. Of course. They come here all the time. Just book a session with one, and they will have you assessed right here in Singapore. Excellent. Passing both those courses, and working abroad at the same time? Nothing will stop me achieving that!


My First Aid needs renewing, but that’s easy to arrange in Singapore. I’m sure due to the company’s links with the Singapore FA and Singapore Premier League teams, arranging this will be no problem whatsoever.


This sounds amazing, and I don’t mind doing it for free for three months, especially as everything is taken care of. The apartment won’t quite be luxury, but I will have my own room. Food will be provided, and transport will be paid for. Not bad. I only need money for going out, but who needs to go out when I will have access to a pool and a gym? There’s non-stop football on TV, and I’ll also be playing football regularly! These three months are going to fly by!


On top of that, I’m going to be regularly writing for the website, and there’s even the possibility of becoming a radio commentator in Malaysia. ESS are the BEST coaching company in Singapore. They have links to professional teams here, and advise the Singapore Football Association on decisions regarding youth development. And they want me to come out, live in paradise, and become an integral part of it? I should have left Canada sooner!


There will be a good coach from Japan coming to stay with us for a while, as well as a coach from [SPANISH LA LIGA TEAM], who will deliver a few courses. I will get the chance to work with them, and even help deliver this course. And then [CHELSEA ACADEMY COACH] (one of my former assessors), the man who once had [FORMER ENGLAND CAPTAIN] as a young player, will be coming out to stay. Think of the minds! Think of the learning opportunities! Think of the stories!

Before the job starts, I’m being asked to come up with ideas for courses, as well as make football related homework for kids. It sounds like fun. People in Singapore are very education oriented, and the parents want the kids to learn more than just how to kick a ball. I went away and put considerable time and effort into this. I think it’s a bit odd I’m being asked to do this while I’m still working for Challenger, but then I need to impress my new boss to make sure I can do my best throughout this fantastic opportunity.


Regular contact on Skype is keeping me keen. I can’t wait to get out there and get stuck in to Singapore. Now I’m being asked if I can come out earlier, but I politely inform the boss my contract with Challenger doesn't finish until the end of August. I can’t rearrange my fight to Singapore with British Airways without costing lots of money. Plus I wanted to see family and friends. But there’s a session with an adult team, and they really want me. It’s a shame I can’t get there earlier and get started with them.


I had to cut the hellos and goodbyes short with family, friends, and the cat. I was home Monday and off again Friday. But my family and friends could easily come visit me in Singapore. If there’s room in the apartment, they can come stay for free. The flight was delayed by an hour or so, trouble with the plane’s electrics at Heathrow. I hope that doesn’t reflect badly on me. I don’t want to keep my new boss waiting!


A long sleep on the plane and some good movies, and before you know it, I can see lots of ships and islands out the window. Here I am, finally, in South East Asia. It’s new, magical and mystical. And it’s all for me. I arrive at the airport, and after saying I have arrived, I receive a text saying ’10 mins late’. He’s going to be ten minutes late? Not bad. Perhaps he had checked out my flight time and saw the hour delay, so set off an hour later. Then I receive another text, this time saying twenty minutes. He must be a really busy and important guy, or the traffic is bad.


Around forty five minutes later, the boss arrives. He thought I was at Terminal 3 rather than Terminal 1, showing that he hadn’t actually looked up my flight details, and that he was just very late. He told me on Skype that he doesn’t tolerate lateness, but we all say things we don’t mean. Let’s go to Burger King! Actually, no. Let’s not. Let’s just get a taxi back instead (he kept changing his mind on what he wanted to do). No car? No worries. I’ve met plenty of nice people that don’t drive. Whilst waiting for a taxi, much like a lawyer chasing an ambulance, he handed a business card to a mother who was with her two sons. Smooth.


Thinking back to an earlier conversation on Skype, I might have to share my room with another coach for a while, then it will be mine. He is leaving soon, so no big deal. In the taxi I was told that my room in fact has two coaches in there. I’m trying to figure out if there will be room for me in my own room. I’m allowed to put my stuff in there, and we can roll a mattress out on the floor for me for the first week. I told them that I snore really loud and that I would be a burden on the others. I’ll just sleep on the sofa. I spent every subsequent night on that sofa.


[I went from having my own room, to sharing a room, to sleeping on the sofa]

We arrive at the apartment. No sign of the pool or gym yet, but they must be close. Oh, by the way, he has a doctor from Pakistan staying in one of the rooms for free, because he is a nice guy, and this doctor had no money and no friends. Is that my room? Could that have been my room? The most interaction I had with this doctor was saying good morning at around half six when he used to get up every morning and walk past the sofa, to go into the bathroom and violently hack his lungs up for twenty minutes. You think a doctor might know a bit more about bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.


[Not only did I not have my own room, but we had another man staying in our three bedroom apartment. Three coaches, one boss, and a lodger]

The apartment itself was on the 8th floor. Not that I am an expert like on CSI, but the bars on the doors and windows did alarm me a bit. Who is he trying to keep out? More like who is he trying to keep in? A warm welcome to a new place is always full of… stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Footballs, bibs, cones, pumps, t-shirts. I’m living in a Challenger rental car. It’s only temporary. The storage place across town… across town? We store our equipment across town? Doesn’t that mean getting up at five, travelling a long way, then hauling lots of crap to a session before hauling it all back again, via a connecting series of buses, trains and taxis? I’m not here to strategically plan a supply raid.


[Turns out, for a nine o'clock session, we needed to leave at six, take the metro to the other side of the city, then haul the equipment back onto the metro, and then to our session. And then back again after we'd finished]

Forget this. I just want to get settled in. Don’t leave the lights on, and you can only have air conditioning on at night. It must be turned off at eight in the morning, or else it costs too much. He’s running a business. It’s only natural to be concerned about money. How about my induction? Where is the grand tour of Sembawang? Well, this is the mall, and he takes me out to the food court to have what everybody knows is my favourite, Chinese food /sarcasm. All the while, he is telling me that he hopes they can live up to my expectations. My expectations? Like I’m some incredible coach that they are lucky to have. I was half expecting him to go under the table for me like Michelle did for Jim in American Pie. At least I feel valued.


All the other coaches, by the way, are incoherent degenerate morons that have been plucked straight from the council estate. They’ve been crying out for someone like me to come in and really shape things up. Why would you hire these idiots in the first place? Not my place to judge a company hiring policy. It’s my job to make these guys better coaches.


[Honest to God, he spent this dinner, just the two of us, bigging me up, and slagging off the other employees.]

That men’s team I was told about that wanted me out earlier had decided they didn’t want us to work with them anymore. Because I couldn’t get out there earlier, the boss had to send the other two coaches to do what was my session. They messed it up big time. Now they didn’t want us back. Of course this wouldn’t have happened if I had come out earlier though. (READ THAT PARAGRAPH AGAIN!) That was my chance of completing the UEFA B gone for the time being.


I met the two other coaches that were staying with me very briefly on the first night there. They’re in my room, and they’re both incompetent morons (as I was told by my boss). How is that supposed to shape my first impression of them? They seemed okay, but I was still suspicious. Some thick people are clever at hiding it. We were going to have a meeting, but that never happened. Time to make friends with the sofa.


It’s time for a shower. I’ve been travelling for ages, it’s hot and sticky, and I probably smell really bad. The shower was the bathroom. The toilet and sink were not separated from the shower by doors or windows. One has to shower really close in the corner, and hope to not spray the towels. By the way, this is taking ages to warm up. Twenty minutes of fiddling with the tap and putting my hand under the water, I then realised that despite the optimistic red and blue colouring on the faucet, hot water was only a myth.


Waking up, I thought what do I know about Singapore? What do I know about Sembawang? How about my boss or the other coaches? Are there any rules to the apartment? Is there anything I shouldn’t do in public that might cause offence or get me arrested? They say Singapore is a FINE city. I spent most of the first forty eight hours on that sofa, waiting for someone to do something with me, show me where to go, tell me what’s cool in Singapore.


On the Sunday morning, the boss asked me out to watch some of the locals play a game of football at the beautiful astroturf that was just outside our building. What a great chance to experience the weather, see the facilities and get an idea of the skill level that I will be working with. Not long before leaving, the other two coaches tell me that they are going out into the city and invite me to come. I would love to go explore and see things, but I’m going to be watching the matches down here with the boss. I couldn’t ask these guys to wait for me, so I told them to go without me. The boss and I walked down there, meeting a parrot along the way. All in all, we watched about ten minutes of football, then he handed out some business cards, and we went back inside. When we got in, the other guys had gone, and I was left alone in the apartment, on my second day, for about six hours. Fun fun fun.

We had no Level Three coaches. We were all Level One or Two.


All Sunday night I couldn’t sleep. Jet lag, idleness, and trying to adjust from a fourteen hour shift from Canada, as well as the comfy sofa, probably all contributing to this. Eventually around nine or ten the next morning, I managed to get a couple of hours. Maybe it will be alright once I get into my routine of work and play. A structure to life should do the trick, though it will take a couple of days. Now I’m off to go do my first session, and I had to meet the boss somewhere in the city. This is my first time out venturing in Singapore alone and I have no real idea what I’m doing, but I’m a big boy that has travelled the world, I’m more than capable.


I still have no real idea about the session, how it is going to run, what exactly I need to do, but I’m good enough to adapt and to make it on the spot, so that doesn’t faze me. Though I must admit that I was a little concerned about the lack of organisation. I meet the boss in town and we are travelling together. If I had known we had so far to go and so much time on the journey, I would have brought a means of entertainment along with me to keep my mind stimulated. Now along the many bus and train journeys to our destination, I’m beginning to feel a bit of a rumble in my stomach. Not good. Uncool. It’s my first day. I spent the session on the toilet, and when I wasn’t unloading my guts, I was waiting in the cool and the shade near the toilet. What a great start. After a couple of squirts in the thunderbox I was beginning to feel a lot better, but I needed food, water and Imodium.

To his credit, the boss did seem very concerned. We had three other coaches there, so me not taking part was no big deal. On the way back, he suddenly decided that he had to go to a meeting. We discussed the options about getting me home from a part of the city that I had never seen before, and I told him I could figure it out okay. I wanted to explore downtown, and I could smell a Wendy’s. Sitting there eating my Baconator, I decided that I really liked Singapore. It’s warm, clean, friendly, and I am a giant among the native population. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? I looked around the shops and got a feel for the place. I found the House of Condom, and decided that there are more condoms in the front window that a man can use in his whole life.


That night after getting in, one of the other coaches I was staying with invited me to go workout. There was a play area gym set nearby. The only good thing was the bar from which one could execute chin-ups. It was there that he asked me what I thought so far and if I was enjoying it. I told him that it appeared to be okay, though I had a few concerns about the disorganisation, the constant changing of minds, how we are sometimes left to fend four ourselves, that I didn’t believe some of the promises were going to be kept, and that I had no induction whatsoever. He told me he wasn’t enjoying it, wanted to go home, and had arranged his flight for the following weekend. The boss had promised him a few things that clearly weren’t going to happen, and that they had had one or two fall outs. Did I mention that you weren’t supposed to fraternise with the other coaches? The boss doesn’t like it. News to me!


Now it’s Tuesday, and I have hardly slept at all again. Today I’m going to be working with a coach that I have been told is a complete moron, is an idiot, and needs spoon feeding for his coaching. I need to write sessions for this guy to deliver because he is such a doughnut. I had to meet him in town at a train station. No idea what he looks like, no number to contact. Fortunately he is waiting for me as I get off the train. He can recognise me in my uniform. We’re walking out and we bump into two of the coaches from yesterday. One is from Liverpool and one is from Wales. They were both leaving very soon and were enjoying their last few days on the island. They ask me what I think, and I say that I am enjoying it, and then we say our goodbyes.


The trip to this session was far longer than the one yesterday as we are going from the complete North to the complete South of Singapore. Buses, trains, and even a marathon eventually get us to our destination, but not after stopping past the office where we meet the two ladies who do our registration, kit orders, and handle the money. Apparently I need to learn how to fill out registration forms properly because everyone else around is an idiot. I don’t really want to do any admin work – I’m a coach. I don’t want to ever work in an office. I don’t mind ticking names off a sheet as they show up, but I suppose it is only ten minutes. I can handle that.

We were there for about an hour and a half before eventually leaving and moving on to our session. Our destination was an accommodation that was exquisite. The people who lived there were all significantly richer than thou. The place was lovely. The pitch itself was a small five a side pitch on a bumpy patch of grass in between two houses. Not what I was expecting.


I watched this guy coach and even joined in a bit. I’ve got to say that he is one of the best coaches I have seen that works with such young kids. Usually coaches struggle with toddlers and those up to around six years old, but this guy was able to talk to them, communicate effectively, had great use of the whistle, played fun games that were also good for learning, and did it all with a big smile on his face. In what way does this guy need help?


After a couple of hours coaching (plus the ninety minute meeting and the hour travelling), I’m starting to run out of Oreos and water. I assumed we were only going to be a couple of hours. He told me that we still had ages to go. Oh. Thanks Boss. Don’t tell me stuff. That’s cool. I just put it down to experience and said that I won’t make the same mistake next week.


Halfway through our long trek back across the country, we meet the two coaches from earlier. I got the feeling that they deliberately intercepted us on our journey. They seemed like they had a purpose and invited us back to their condo where they were staying, paid for by the company. I was a bit hungry so only wanted to stay a short while. The four of us walked to their apartment complex and my jaw hit the ground. Security, lights, palm trees, beautiful swimming pool. It looked like the kind of place you see in brochures, yet they were complaining about it. I couldn’t understand why. I was told that I may be moved there from the boss, and now I wanted it so badly. They didn’t take us to their apartment, but instead to another pool on the roof. It was secluded and relaxing, and just amazing.


These two coaches talked with the two of us for hours, and what they told me confirmed even more of my suspicions. They told us that they spend all their time up here on the roof by the pool because it is so bad inside their apartment. How? Look at this place. Well, they share a room. Not so bad though, until you find that it has about three or four bedrooms. Each one has several people or a family living in it. One of them even has a baby in there. They’re packed in like sardines with people they don’t know, and with whom they don’t share a language. Can you imagine what that will be like?

Bollocks from the website.


As for the coaching side of things, they told me that they were made the same promises, they were painted the same happy picture about how brilliant working for this company will be. None of what they were told came true, and that they are never coming back. They asked me about my experience and qualifications, and when I told them, one of them said, his exact words “You’ve got a degree and you’re on your B License, get the fuck out of here. You’re only going to go backwards”. He explained that he is a level two coach, and that the sessions we will be teaching will hardly even be level one sessions. He said the kids are not very good, not their fault, but they do not need coaches that are as good as us.


We all came to Singapore to become better coaches. We thought we would be learning from [PROMINENT COACH EDUCATOR], we thought we would be teaching a good standard of player, we thought we would design sessions, write coaching courses, and deliver them with FA tutors. We thought we would improve as coaches, and become a big player in a great company. They told me to get out as quick as I can.


One thing I found rather interesting was that out of those two coaches, one of them was being paid $500 per month. The rest of us were on probation, and working for free. I had a lot to think about, and I was very hungry. I ended up in a McDonald’s considering my options. I was now fairly certain that I was going to leave early and not stay the three months. I had thought about staying for a month, about going to Australia, and maybe trying to complete a coaching course while there. Since I’m over this side of the world, why not try to make the most of it?


Sitting there, chewing on my double quarter pounder, two of the other coaches came in. It was now fairly late, but still busy. I continued from my conversation on Monday night with one of the coaches, and the new Japanese coach was listening intently. Where had I been? I was honest, and told them everything the other two coaches told me. The Japanese coach couldn’t believe it. He told us that he was paying $1000 per month to live in the apartment and learn about coaching. He was going to learn from us and gain the company’s own version of a Level One coaching certificate. He was in fact sleeping on the sofa adjacent to mine, and watching Level Two coaches execute basic sessions. He had been thoroughly duped into coming to Singapore. Talking to these guys, I lost all motivation and desire to stay working for this company. I had to leave as soon as possible.


So now the operation began. I’m supposed to be here for three months, working for free and living in crap. Cold showers, no food, travelling hours per day by public transport to get to sessions. There was clearly no chance of me finishing my qualifications like I had been promised. I wasn’t going to get to work with the men’s team like I was told, there were no links with the Singapore FA, and there were no links with any professional teams. The prestigious academy programme was not working with advanced kids, but in fact a money making scheme. The other coaches were leaving, so I was going to be on my own a lot more. I would very soon run out of money, and not be able to do the wonderful excursions that I planned to do. I felt lied to and cheated. I felt like an idiot.


I returned to the apartment and immediately looked up hotels, flights, and anything else I could think of. Should I stay for a week or so and make the most out of my first ever trip to Asia? I couldn’t afford it, and if I stayed any longer, it would be harder to find a job when I returned home. I got in contact with my parents via Skype and Facebook, and we got planning. I booked a hotel, and now just needed to somehow pack my stuff and leave.

Stolen straight from the Coerver coaching DVD - Make Your Move. He gave us all Coerver stuff and passed it off as his own. Claimed that they were a partner of his, when in reality, all he had was a couple of DVDs. I told one of the coaches I was staying with that I was off, but I didn’t want the other two to know. The more people that know, the more likely it might slip. The less people know, the more convincing the lie. But how was I going to escape? I needed to pack three months worth of clothes, shoes and football boots, and get out unnoticed. I didn’t sleep at all that night, thinking over and over again about how I could leave.

The boss quite often goes out for food, but then that might only be ten minutes, and what about the awkward situation of when he bumps into me as I’m leaving with my bags packed? Maybe I should be honest and tell him I’m not enjoying it and need to leave. Perhaps I could lie and say that there has been a family tragedy, but then I’m not a convincing liar.


Due to lack of sleep and food, added to the hot and humid climate, I looked like a mess. I looked ill. Given a few hours of sleep and a meal, I would have been fine again. This appeared to work to my advantage as the boss was starting to think that I wasn’t very well. I decided to play on this. Maybe I could tell him that I’m too ill to go to today’s session and then sneak out while he is gone. That might be an awkward conversation to have, but then I am not under contract. I am here voluntarily. I can leave when I want. At the request of the boss, I went to lie down on one of the beds. This was my first bed in Singapore. The coaches who didn’t know were concerned, but through a series of whispers, I explained to them that I was leaving. I had a hotel booked for the night, and a plane for the next day. Excellent. They were thrilled. I told them just to go along with it. They didn’t know I was leaving, and as far as they were concerned, I just looked a bit ill.

There were still around three or four hours left until the session. What was I going to do until then? The boss talked about the academy programme, and told me his plan for my session. I was brought in to take control of this academy, but I don’t care anymore. Let’s spend a whole hour teaching them a basic skill. That’s money well spent. I’m thinking of having my own kids as soon as possible, just to be able to send them to this academy and hand my money over!

It’s now close to two o’clock. I had managed to sleep for a couple hours, but I needed to keep up the illusion. I laid in bed in a pathetic position, doing my best to look like a rotting carcass. If the boss comes in to check on me, at least it will look authentic. In fact, he left. He