Fantasy Football Titan is proud to present “Till I die …”, a series of interviews which with football fans of Premier League teams from this part of the world.
We will catch up with these fans to try and understand how they fell in love with their clubs. We will also try and gather the latest scoops in and around these clubs via their most ardent of fans.
We were delighted to get to speak to Singapore-based Ariff Ahmad in the first interview of our series.
Ariff is the founder of the Official Middlesbrough FC Singapore Fan Club. He set the club up back in 2004 and membership has grown to around 40 since. The club organises gatherings for all Boro fans on match days and earlier on May 7, they gathered at Boomerang Bistro & Bar at Boat Quay to witness their club hold Brighton Hove & Albion to finish second and earn promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2009.
Currently, Ariff is also assisting the set-up of official Boro fan clubs in Thailand and Hong Kong.
FF Titan: First of all many thanks for spending time with us, Ariff. Can you share with us your journey to becoming a Middlesbrough fan?
Ariff: When I was a kid in the 1990’s, I followed Manchester United because other clubs did not get much coverage. Then when my idol Bryan Robson moved to Middlesbrough in 1994, I read up about them and decided to make the switch. I have not looked back since.
What I love about Boro is how personal the club is. The club chairman is Steve Gibson, a local businessman who is a massive fan himself. I have had the opportunity to meet up with him a couple of times when he was here in Singapore. He is a friendly guy who really cares about the well-being of the club , the fans and the community.
FF Titan: Describe to us what the last season was like for you.
Ariff: It was tough. We had to cut back budgets since our relegation (in 2009) and it is not easy to bounce back from the Championship. Over the past few seasons we had come very close to promotion but had always failed at the last few hurdles (Boro lost the play-off finals in 2015). In the end when we clinched the automatic promotion spot, I felt a strong sense of relief knowing that the team had worked very hard for it. It feels good to be back in the Premier League.
FF Titan: Share with us who were the players who stood out for you last season.
Ariff: I think the center-back pairing of Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson (nephew of club chairman Steve) really stood out for me. The manager (Aitor) Karanka is someone who builds on a solid back line so it is key that Ayala and Gibson had performed consistently. Defensive midfielder Adam Clayton also enjoyed a good season playing in front of the back four.
FF Titan: Will the trio still be at the club when the season starts?
Ariff: Of course! I am confident that they will stay now that we are in the Premier League.
FF Titan: Next, do let us know who you will like to see the club sign over the summer
Ariff: I read that we are targeting (Mathieu) Flamini and (Álvaro) Arbeloa, both whom are available on free. They will be good additions to our squad. I also read somewhere that there is interest in (James) Morrison. He will be a good buy for us as he came through the ranks of our youth team.
To me, it doesn’t really matter who we sign, as long as they can help to bolster the squad.
I do hope that we can sign a talent like (Gaizka) Mendieta as I really like his style of play. We have scouts across Europe and strong connections to Real Madrid so hopefully we can unearth such a talent.
FF Titan: Lastly, make a prediction for us?
Ariff: I am an optimist. I think we can finish seventh and qualify for the Europa League. I read that our Chairman intends to spend some of the money (coming from promotion) to upgrade the Riverside Stadium so that’s a good thing for us as well.
The Official Middlesbrough FC Singapore Fan Club maintains a blog where they provide frequent updates on their events. Ariff can be contacted via his email. He also maintains a Facebook and Twitter account.
All pictures are reproduced with permission.
Editor’s Note: Fantasy Football Titan is looking for more fans out there who supports the smaller teams in the Premier League. If you are keen to be interviewed by us, do contact us via our social media platforms.
FF Titans provide #FPL and #UCL Fantasy content. Member of the Scout International Network.