SINGAPORE, 27 MARCH 2018The 2018 Singapore Premier League season kicks off this Saturday with the Great Eastern Community Shield showdown between Albirex Niigata FC (S) and Tampines Rovers FC at 5.30pm at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. We take a walk through history of the Shield as part of the build-up…

What The Great Eastern Community Shield, formerly known as the Charity Shield, is the curtain-raiser to the domestic football season. The match also doubles up as the first league fixture for the all-new Singapore Premier League.

This year’s clash will feature Quadruple winners Albirex Niigata FC (S), who are looking to retain their title, against traditional powerhouses Tampines Rovers FC.

This will be the White Swans’ third showing at the Community Shield, and the Stags’ sixth appearance. Tampines Rovers holds the record for the winning the Community Shield the most number of times with four triumphs.

Looking back First contested in 2008, the Shield has been won by six different teams. Singapore Armed Forces FC (SAF FC, now Warriors FC) beat Home United on penalties to win the first edition, before a Foreign Players outfit beat a Local Players side to win the 2009 title.

In 2010, SAF FC and Swedish side AIK Solna played out a 1-1 draw in a match that served as a fund-raiser for ex-Singapore international Dollah Kassim, who was then in a coma. AIK, who won their domestic top flight the year before, were on a tour of the Far East. The title was shared and a cheque of $82,000 handed over to Dollah’s family to help with medical expenses.

Tampines would win the next four Shields, seeing off Etoile FC (2011), Home United (2012, 2014) and Warriors FC (2013) before Warriors beat Balestier Khalsa FC in 2015.

The last two titles (2016, 2017) have been won by Albirex, who are seeking a third straight triumph this year.

Albirex Niigata FC lowdown.. The satellite side of Albirex Niigata of Japan, the White Swans are based in Jurong East Stadium and competed in their first league season in 2004. They won their first trophy, the League Cup, in 2011 and have established themselves as a dominant force in the past two years after winning all four trophies on offer in 2016 and 2017.

Albirex have always comprised solely of players from Japan, with the majority of the squad being refreshed at the start of every season. However, that has changed in the new Singapore Premier League season this year with the addition of two locals: playmaker Adam Swandi and goalkeeper Shahul Rayyan.

Head Coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga has stayed on for a second year and the astute tactician will be a formidable opponent to reckon with once again.

Tampines Rovers FC background.. Founded in 1945, the Stags are perennial title contenders and have won the league five times, including for three straight years from 2011 to 2013.

They finished second last year in the league and will hope to end Albirex’s dominance in the upcoming Singapore Premier League season. The club also has three Singapore Cup titles to its name, as well as one League Cup trophy. Their squad boasts a number of past and present Singapore internationals and they have an ongoing rivalry with fellow eastern side Geylang International FC.

Tampines are based at Our Tampines Hub, where they moved back to in July last year. Helmed by German Juergen Raab, they will aim to end a three-year trophy drought.