1996-2003: The SIFL years in Tianma

A brief history of the Shanghai International Football League [ SIFL ]

Football began modestly in Shanghai with weekly indoor games. Players from various countries met on Wednesday evening to play for fun. In 1994 a group of players decided to organize monthly tournaments on a more competitive basis. This group consisted of Jan Berges, Brian Mc Closkey, Bokke Veltkamp, Ian Jameson & Tom Bus. The first tournaments were contested by teams from Holland, England, Africa, Germany, Denmark & Russia. With the popularity of these tournaments growing and the number of competitors increasing, Jan Berges decided to organize a league running over a whole year. This became the Shanghai International Football League [ SIFL ] and the committee consisted of the members mentioned above.

The first championship consisted of ten teams from England, Russia, Belgium, Holland, Japan, Africa, Denmark, and Germany. Then, the committee decided to add a knock-out cup competition as well as tournaments at the beginning and the end of the championship. At the end of each championship year, after the final day tournament, there was an awards dinner attended by around 250 people.

By 1997 there were 12 teams and the committee established a newsletter (Mei Wenti) to keep the members updated on the scores and events in the local community.

Over the years the committee endeavored to improve the playing conditions and the standard of refereeing. In the meantime, the quality of football improved and there were a number of very competitive teams.

The Shanghai Lions within SIFL

During their 8 seasons in the SIFL before joining the Shanghai Premier League [ SPL ] in 2003, the Lions dominated the league and won the championship a total of 4 times (1996/97, 1998/99, 99/00 & 2001/02) and finished 2nd on the other 4 occasions. The Lions also won the SIFL cup twice and the Heibigushi cup once. In addition, the Lions won a total of 9 of the one-day tournaments during their participation in the SIFL.

During that period, Aziz Mrabet was probably the player who had the strongest influence on the team on and off the pitch.