- IHG 2022/23 football finals rounded up with Hall 3 securing the top spot, and Tamarind Hall clinching second place.
- Tamarind’s Wolves making it to the podium marks a change of fate for non-numbered Halls.
- Captains of the two halls said that a consistent training schedule and team spirit was the key to their success.
Text by Lauren Chian
Photo courtesy of Tamarind Hall
For the first time ever, a non-numbered Hall made it to the football finals, knocking out established sports Halls like Hall 6 and 16 along the way.
While the 6-year-old Hall lost 3-0 to defending champions Hall 3 in the final on Feb 8, Tamarind’s Wolves taking the second-place result marks a change of fate for non-numbered Halls, that also include Tanjong and Binjai.
Launched after 2017, these Halls are among the newest in NTU and are known to have faced difficulties in their early years in recruiting talent and gaining ground in competitions, as compared to more established Halls.
Meanwhile, established Halls with a strong track record tend to attract more sporting talent to give them an edge in competitions, as compared to new Halls with empty trophy cabinets.
Soapbox spoke with the captains of both teams on the things their teams did right this season, which helped them climb up the podium.
A strict and consistent training schedule
With a lack of team members and a sporting history, Tamarind football captain Ervin Ang Jing Xuan, 23, initially doubted the team’s ability to put up a good show.
Tamarind Hall had not been famous for sports as most talented players would join other Halls such as Hall 3, 6 and 16, which were known for their strong sporting track record.
Having had a small team of about six players at the start, Tamarind Hall did not conduct try-outs within their team due to a lack of back-up players.
The call for players was sent out in Week One of school, and amassed more than 25 players in two weeks, although only 10 players were shortlisted for the IHG team in the end.
Ervin was thankful that a number of new members who were committed to the team convened at a timely period before IHG.
A few months before the games, he contacted an external coach, Mr Walter Wong, in his 30s, who trained a group of players from the London School of Economics. Coach Wong created a strict training regime for them, which included two-hour practice sessions every Friday evening since August last year.
Ervin added that the team did not believe in punishing players for turning up late for sessions. Instead, he reinforced the importance of upholding punctuality for each training session and the team made an effort to commit to it.
Tamarind Hall also started their pre-match drills one hour before each game during IHG. In comparison, other halls would begin their drills 15-30 minutes before a game.
The training was tough but fulfilling, said Tanmay Chavan, a player in Tamarind’s team, who found it challenging at first getting used to the ‘organised routine’ demanded in the leadup to IHG. He also had a difficult time figuring out what role suited best for him as a player as he had experimented with different roles during training.
Eventually, he found his footing as a striker for the team and emerged as the top goal scorer, with 14 goals achieved across all tournaments.
Tanmay added that his biggest takeaway was learning to be patient and resilient in trusting the process. “As long as you trust the work you’re doing and the people you’re doing, anything is possible,” he said.
“It was definitely a challenge getting used to the multiple training sessions and organised routine set by a coach. However, our team’s efforts yielded impressive results,” said the 23-year-old, who is a final-year Business student.
For Hall 3, the key difference in their preparation this season was that they made training more regular, said Hall 3 football captain Ng Shang Yu, 24.
Shang Yu, who is a third-year communications student and Hall 3’s president, said: “Historically we don’t train a lot but relied on talented players to achieve our results. In previous years, the weaker boys would stop coming to training while the stronger better players would typically train with the school team or their outside teams.”
This season, he made it a point to get his team members to come down and train regularly once a week to instil an attitude of discipline.
Hall 3 footballer Brandon Scott Pereira, 22, said the consistent training and active participation was instrumental in improving their tactics.
“Many of the football talents, which Hall 3 had relied on in the past, had graduated and this impacted the team,” Brandon, a second-year Sports Science and Management student said.
Shang Yu added that this year it was more of a concerted effort. Regardless of skill level, all the boys came down consistently.
Building team spirit through bonding activities
Building team spirit was also essential to the teams getting to the top, said the two captains.
The Tamarind football team organised weekly dinners after practices, helping to forge friendships, which helped them to play better.
Tanmay said: “We made training more fun. It helped that we got along really well and our players decided to come to training a lot more as we looked forward to seeing each other. Having a bit of banter, catching up over pizzas built a strong team.”
The Hall 3 team would record each match they played during their training sessions, and sit down after every match to analyse them. Brandon added that the analysis helped the team mates identify and reaffirm each other about the tactics they were doing right on the field.
Brandon looked forward to training as he and other players with lesser-experience could improve and work towards the collective goals they set for themselves.
Ambitions for new halls
Tamarind Hall making it to the IHG finals is a big deal for new halls which are not recognised for their sports capabilities, Ervin said.
He hopes the results will help Tamarind Hall establish itself as a powerhouse for football in NTU and draw new players.
For Tanmay, the best thing about making it to the finals was that it was unexpected and broke stereotypes about new named halls.
“I’m glad we’re the first to break the dominance of numbered halls in sports. Now, we can prove that you don’t need to be a ‘sports hall’ to win,” he said.
Correction notice: A previous version of the story misspelt Brandon Scott Pereira’s last name as “Pererira”, and misquoted Ng Shang Yu’s quote. The story has been updated to reflect the changes.