Do Singaporeans know what they want for sports?

In my earlier post, I asked readers to see if the anti-FTW arguments are hypocritical. As expected, I was flamed for the post.

Indeed when you read the comments, the anti-FTW arguments thus far betray a larger problem regarding Singaporean’s attitudes towards sports excellence. This episode has also shown how rabid some of the anti-foreigner attitudes have become. Let us examine some of the arguments thus far:

1. Why are we spending so much on medals?

Every country has to spend a lot to win medals. Or did you think that people like Michael Phelps woke up one day, went a few laps around the pool, and magically gained the power go earn 18 Olympic golds? A sophisticated and expensive national training program has to be put in place to support the training and logistics of national athletes. Sports is one of those things where you get what you pay for.

2. What’s the point of chasing medals then?

This question is not unique to Singapore. Have you wondered why other countries chase medals? Medals do not buy immediate  economic benefits. There are people who will question the value of spending millions on something intangible like sports excellence. Why not spend the money on more tangible benefits like housing and healthcare instead?

The answers are probably three-fold:

1. It is the duty of a government to give its aspiring sportsmen a chance to compete on the global arena.

2. “Because we can”. Many people compete in sports do so even if they know they do not have a chance of winning. But they do it anyway because it is a race against oneself. Why can’t a country do the same?

3. Because the one thing medals can buy is national pride, which I will touch on later.

If you feel that feel that the govt should be diverting most of our money towards more tangible stuff instead of promoting sports excellence, be honest about it. And if many people feel that way, then I am concerned for the state of this country. It will be a sign that citizens have focused so much on the material things in life that they are willing to forsake the intangibles like sports.

3. There’s no pride when our medals are bought by money. 

Let’s respond with a few questions: “Are you willing to pay to train locals into Olympic champions? Are you willing to rewards  locals who become Olympic champions with millions of dollars?”

As pointed our in my earlier post, 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. And it makes sense to have prize money given out for medals, since it recognises good performance that can only come about via hard work and sacrifice.

In any case, there’s a pretty good chance that our foreign imports are not more expensive than our local players. After all, there’s no compelling reason to pay them a base salary that is more than a local since they are separately rewarded for good competition performance via bonuses. This means that Feng Tian Wei, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu were really born-and-bred in Singapore, they will likely still command the same salary.

4. We used to have locals winning medals for us. There’s no pride in having a foreigner win medals for Singapore.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that Singapore could not have won the Malaysian Cup in the 1990s if it weren’t for our foreign imports. Foreigners have worked with locals to help us win medals. If we were proud of those past achievements, we shouldn’t brush aside the contributions of these foreigners.

The criticism that our table tennis team consist of 100% foreigners is valid. But what if the foreigner willingly comes to Singapore on her own, because of her desire to represent this country. Should we not welcome such people with open arms, given that we too were mostly descended from immigrants searching for a better life?

Limpeh mentioned this story in his blog: “…I want to talk about Oksana Chusovitina. She is an amazing woman – she is the oldest gymnast at the 2012 Olympics, competing at the age of 37 and still making the finals for vault, the apparatus where she won the silver medal in 2008 Beijing. She took part in her first Olympics in 1992 with the CIS team, winning one gold medal then. She then represented Uzbekistan for the next 3 Olympics before moving to Germany to seek medical treatment for her son who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia at the age of 3. In order to repay the Germans for treating her son’s illness, she has competed for Germany since 2006. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she won a silver medal for Germany – their first in women’s gymnastics for post-reunification Germany.”

What many people fail to realise is that in order to groom local talent, you need both strong local sportsmen and a strong national training system. Without one or the other, there will be no results. People should realise that winning a medal is not the achievement of effort from the sportsman alone. There is an entire team behind the sportsman who are part of the training and logistics program. In Singapore’s case, our table tennis coach may be from China, but majority of the supporting team and associations are local. When FTW first came to Singapore, she was ranked 73th in the world. Her effort, combined with the expertise and support from our national traning program, helped her get the Olympic bronze. This is also testament to the strength of the training and support team.

The recruitment of foreign players has given our national training program a chance to improve itself, such that it is one day ready to train our local talents in our Singapore sports school into world class athletes. After all, if our training program can’t even improve a “World 73th” into a bronze medalist, what can such a program do for an unknown local? The presence of foreigners as sparring partners will also give locals more opportunities to hone their skills at home.

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About sgthinker

I'm a 40-year old Singaporean male, and this blog pens down my thoughts and feelings about Singapore's political happenings, government policies and society trends. I hope this blog will provide a moderate voice in the growing online debate about the state of Singapore's society. Some of the posts here won't be solely written by me, since there will be times when other writers are more eloquent at expressing their views, in which case I'll share their insights (along with my comments). The content on this blog is owned by me.If you wish to share or reproduce the content, please attribute it to this blog.
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20 Responses to Do Singaporeans know what they want for sports?

  1. raymond says:

    I have to say I here, that being an avid sports fan, I am distressed by the methods used by some associations in bringing sporting glory to the country. Let me use 2 sports in particular, soccer and table tennis.

    In soccer, one of our greatest ever goalscorers, Alexander Duric, first came to Singapore to play in the S-League. He decided he liked the country enough and wanted to stay here with his family, and requested HIMSELF, for citizenship. In fact, this is the case with most of the foreign born players like Mustafic Fahruddin and Daniel Bennett who have made Singapore their home. To me, even if their efforts only bring in regional glory, I am proud to support them.

    On to table tennis. Jing Jun Hong was the first foreign born player we had, she married a local association official, settled here, and was then allowed to play for the national team. Not so different from our footballers here. But then we see the OTHER methods used by the table tennis association. Courting Chinese youngsters (many of whom have never heard much of, or visited Singapore), inviting them to give up the country of their birth for a shot at sporting glory so long as they adopt Singapore as their “new country” and help us win medals. Having “accelerated” citizenship programs so that someone who was still living in China 18 months before can suddenly win a bronze medal at the Olympics for Singapore.

    I have nothing against the dedication and work ethic of all these sportsmen and women. But compare the 2 examples, and you’ll know what the issue is here. Are we a country, or are we a football club buying players?

  2. Sadly, depite being ‘flamed’ the author did not understand the essence of the unhappiness of his critics.

    It’s not about how much was spent to win medals, or that the sports talent scheme does not discriminate… And one can’t compare the foreigners in the semipro league of the 90’s with the foreigners of today. Why can’t he see that?

    • sgthinker says:

      Could it be because the critics wish to be unhappy? I’ve already acknowledged that there is some difference between the 90s and today.

    • This is Anfield says:

      Why must the views of others be imposed on the author? If you dislike what you read, then why bother with it? If you cannot accept what others are saying, leave.

      • That’s for the author, not for you. As far as the author is concerned, it is about whether he wants to simply dismiss the views of his critics as ‘xenophobic’ or whether he wants to understand why they are pissed off. I hope the latter, because if it’s the former, then he does not deserve to be called ‘thinker’, much less ‘sg thinker’.

      • Here says:

        If the Thinker just simply inform Singapore daily,then lot of chaps wouldn’t be here,I saw it there and I am here,of couse I do not share his view.

      • This is Anfield says:

        I see. So anyone who expresses a contrary view to yours deserves to be slammed, even to the extent of the name of his blog? That’s so funny, because it’s just like Man United supporters always coming to the Kop blogsites to continuously proclaim how deluded we, how we are living in the past yada yada yada. Why are they so interested in what Liverpool supporters think, say and do, instead of focusing on their own team? It’s so similar here, isn’t it?

      • Sorry says:

        No,this is in reply on why we bother to come,I agree with you it is wrong to score the writer,I support 100% that the writer has his right to say his view,sorry for misunderstanding.

      • Contrary views are fine. But lack of understanding, or unwillingness to understand, does not bode well. It’s what caused PAP to lose the 2011 election. They thought they were right, they thought their critics and the people were wrong to feel the way they did. They even thought people should repent for their actions. They refused to understand the views of the people until the last few days. Look what happened.

      • sgthinker says:

        “But lack of understanding, or unwillingness to understand, does not bode well.”
        I agree this does not bode well, and I hope you heed your own words well too. How can we become an inclusive society when we keep focusing on the differences that separate us?

      • Let’s not start on inclusive society… That is a loaded phrase. Pap wants to get its way and still call itself inclusive. I’m still looking for the guy in pap who really understands what inclusive means and can deliver. So let’s not go there, shall we?

      • sgthinker says:

        “Inclusive” is not a PAP-only term. The WP supported this year’s budget because it had inclusive elements. SDP used inclusiveness as its guiding principle when publishing its 2012 shadow budget. NSP uses “inclusive” in its core value. It is a common theme amongst the political parties for good reason.

        But if you wish to stop there, so be it. Nobody can force you to talk about inclusiveness if you don’t want to. Just like nobody can force anyone to adopt inclusiveness against their will.

    • Inclusive says:

      A good point made in Sammyboy.
      “How long more before such suspicious and oppressive instincts of PAP can be replaced by intelligent engagement? The promise of a consultative and inclusive leadership is empty, as long as vertiges of inordinate distrust and fears (fear of the people’s voice, fear of an erosion in absolute power, fear of the truth) remain.
      Such behaviour is both deplorable and pitiable at the same time…smh”

  3. Remy says:

    We know nothing about the intention of the ping-pong foreign imported team members that are here to play for us. Are they here for the money or the chance to be the next millionaire? Are they here for an opportunity to stand on the world stage? Are they here to sink their root? I seriously do not know.

    On the surface, the intention of the PAP is for the foreign import athlete to be here to get at least a bronze for Singapore and Singapore’s name on the world stage. Face it. Most Singaporeans see it this way. What is there for us to rejoyce when we manage to secure 2 medals? 2 bronzes medals, seriously nothing much to be happy about. I would not and would urge my fellow Singaporeans not to penalise the foreign import athlete. As we do not know the foreign import athletes’ intention, in my view let’s take it as a pure trade between PAP and the foreign imported players.
    I
    would hope to see at least one local born Singaporean to be in the ping-pong team in the next Olympic. At least, I would be a little motivated to watch the ping pong match. I hope our tax payer money (million dollars medal rewards) is next rewarded to our local born athlele.

    Give more opportunity to the local born, I would say. Do not flood the the any field with foreign talent just like what the local population has experience in the last 12 yrs. Foreign Talent is definately NOT the only way.

    If the current incumbant is not capable to bring the local population to a higher height, I believe many Singaporeans would like to see what other party can give. Use local, brand local. In my view, I have hear enough talk of foreign talent.

    • Jackson says:

      Remy, I would like to ask you a question. If Isabelle Li goes to the 2016 Olympics and get thrashed beyond recognition, would you still be proud of her endeavour, ie, die but die trying, or would you, like some armchair critics, lament the fact that Singapore would never do well in sports and we are wasting taxpayers’ money?

      • Remy says:

        Let’s cheer for Singapore’s local best.

      • How to win says:

        The only way for a sportsman to improve is to participate in competition,that is why maximum effort mut be made to send them for international competitions,win or lose.

  4. This is Anfield says:

    I think the problem with the foreign sports talent scheme is that it makes sports associations go for the quick and immediate solution. In the larger context, this is reflective of the general ‘practice’ of Singapore society nowadays. If there is a task which is tedious, laborious, time-consuming and is not really a core business, outsource to someone else. The trouble with outsourcing is, that over time, you lose whatever competency in that area to the vendor, ie, the other party, and thus, you become dependent. Teach a person to fish, and he won’t go hungry. The trouble now is that because fishing has become so tedious, we rather pay someone else for his catch. In time, we will have forgotten how to fish.

  5. Pingback: Daily SG: 10 Aug 2012 | The Singapore Daily

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