One of the most memorable times in the history of Singapore sports was probably during the 1990s Malaysian Cup. I still remember those days when the Kallang stadium roared with every goal scored by the Singapore Lions. I remember participating in the Kallang wave. Soccer players like Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy and Malek Awab were household names. Even when I was nowhere near a TV to watch our Lions play, I would turn on the radio to make sure I could hear the live commentary.
Every single soul I know fondly remember those days of yore. Soccer was the common theme that bound us as a country. We rallied behind our Lions in every single match-up. It was Singapore vs the rest of the world (or Malaysia). We were proud of our sporting victories.
Yet today, the tide has changed. When Feng Tian Wei won the bronze medal for the table tennis singles category, she is only partially celebrated. Indeed, she is derided by a number of online critics as being an imported medal bought by cash. She is scorned while Tan Howe Liang’s 1960s silver medal in weightlifting is praised. The anti-foreigner attitude reeks once again.
Dear critics, are you hypocrites?
This painful episode shows that there is almost nothing Singapore can do to satisfy its online critics. For every criticism hurled at FTW, the same critics stay strangely silent on the past fruits arising from foreign-imported sports talent. For every complaint about how FTW is not a true Singaporean and is only in it for the money, the same critics are silent about how a local athlete should be treated. Only when we individually examine these criticisms do we see how hypocritical they are:
1. FTW is a foreigner, and not a “true-blue” Singaporean. This medal doesn’t belong to Singapore.
Singapore’s sporting achievements have always involved foreigners, including our prized achievements of the past. Here’s a few examples:
- Abbas Saad – Born in Lebanon. Represented Singapore in soccer. Played for Australia thereafter.
- Alistair Edwards -Born in Australia. Represented Singapore in soccer. Played for Australia thereafter.
- Jang Jung -Born in South Korea. Represented Singapore in soccer. Famous for sweeper position.
- Tan Howe Liang – Born in China. Represented Singapore in Weightlifting.
- Ronald Susilo – Born in Indonesia. Represented Singapore in Badminton.
If FTW’s bronze medal is not well-deserved for Singapore because she is a foreigner, then we should also label our past medals (in weightlifting and soccer) as “bought via foreigners”. No need to practice double-standards.
And if you’re not happy about FTW being recruited to help Singapore win medals, then what could she have done to make you happy? Would your attitude change if she volunteered to join Singapore before our recruiters found her? Or is she automatically dammed because of her country of birth?
2. FTW is in it for the money.
Let’s be very clear about one thing – there’s nothing wrong with rewarding effort with money. Unless of course, you are saying that people who spend their youth sacrificing almost everything to train themselves should not be paid properly. in which case you are a colossal idiot. And you are the reason why Singaporeans do not see sports as a career.
The post-peak life of an athlete is not smooth-sailing. Tan Howe Liang is reportedly spending “some of his post-glory years as a caretaker in the national stadium. He was last reported to be earning his keep as a gym supervisor at the Singapore Sports Council, struggling to pay medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife, a little known fact overshadowed by his past Olympic success.”
You see people begrudging FTW for being paid a huge bonus for her bronze. But the same people don’t appear to be calling for THL to be paid a reasonable pension for his historical contribution to Singapore. Let’s face it – some of these critics are just complaining because they can. .
3. She will just return to China when its over.
With critics like this, anyone will consider leaving Singapore. Maybe she will return to China, or maybe she will like it in Singapore and decide to stay and settle down. That’s ultimately her choice as a human being. But if you intend to shackle or taunt her to stay in this country, then you are a hypocritical pig who preaches freedom of speech but practices something else altogether when it comes to freedom of movement. And it will be because of people spouting hate-speech like you that make her leave anyway. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shame on you.
Seriously. This is getting ridiculous. You want her to stay? Then show her the respect and care that she deserves. Otherwise, you are really saying that you want her to go.
And if you want her to go, why are you complaining? From a purely economical standpoint, if an athlete gives your country the best years of her life and leaves thereafter, that’s actually a good thing. The athlete can no longer add a burden to the system when she retires and goes into old age.
The world of sports has already embraced the concept of foreigners for many years. Look at the top teams in the Premier League and count how many foreigners are in these teams. Do the fans care that most players in Manchester United are not born in Manchester, UK? No? Then why should you?
4. PAP is pursuing medals by paying foreigners. Where’s our local talent?
In case you are thinking that there is some PAP conspiracy to ensure all our sportsman are foreigners, you are either crazy or deluded:
- The reward program by the Singapore National Olympic Council does not discriminate against Singaporeans. If you are born-and-bred here, you still get the same rewards as the foreign talent.
- The Singapore Sports School is specially created to let local talent pursue a career in sports.
The only thing that the PAP has not done is to implement a “China-style” rigorous training program that requires kids to train insane hours from the age of 4. And for good reason too. I’ll be very worried should this day come about.
The reality is that Singapore’s local population is only about 4 million. China’s population is 1.344billion. That’s 336 times more than us. If we have one Fandi Ahmad, China has 336 Fandi Ahmads. It is a wonder that we have any sporting talent at all that can compete on the global arena.
To make things worse, Singaporeans are already becoming “strawberries”. LIFT said it right when he wrote that Singaporeans cannot “chi-ku” (eat bitter). Few parents want to see their kids suffer through adversity for some sporting achievement. They rather see their kids suffer through countless hours of tuition. And our society will continue to be go down this path until we, as a collective society, agree to properly compensate the effort that sportsmen must make to achieve their medals.