Building the First Building Block

I lost count how many times I watched our Singapore football team losing a crucial game to a Thailand team. We just lost another chance to have a go at the SEA games gold medal after the Thais knocked the Singapore Under-23s out of with single goal. Be it the national or any other age levels, we have never come into a match as favourites against the Thais and I used to wonder why when I was teen.

In 1998, Goh Chok Tong, then the Prime Minister of Singapore, were so inspired by France's unexpected victory against the Ronaldo-led Brazil team brimming with geniuses in each position that he set Goal 2010 to get Singapore into the World Cup Finals in 2010 shortly after his speech during the 1998 NDP:

"Look at the French World Cup football team. In the final against Brazil, I picked Zidane as the most outstanding French player. He is of Algerian descent. Of the 22-players, more than half did not look "French". They looked Argentinian, Armenian, Basque, Caribbean, Ghanaian, New Caledonian. Some were born in France, but of immigrant parents. Others are first generation French citizens. When they went up to receive their medals, President Chirac embraced all of them as Frenchmen. He sent a strong political signal for multi-racialism and against xenophobia: that in France, so long as you contribute to the French cause, it does not matter what colour your skin is or where you were born. 
Last year I told you Singapore would never have a chance in the World Cup, because the rules require all players to be citizens. But after watching the French victory, I have changed my mind. Maybe if we change our immigration criteria to bring in top football talent and make them citizens, then one day we too can get into the finals. In fact we intend to do just this, to bring in sports talent."

Does the strong political signal PM Goh received to liberally embrace foreigners came good? As we know it, we didn't make it to the World Cup Finals in 2010, didn't even come close to a whiff in fact. I didn't bring this up to sneer at our politicians. In all honesty, I was very excited when PM Goh announced Goal 2010. When we were young, we often lament how poorly supported we were in the sports we were crazy over. As a result, Singapore has never been a traditional world-beater in any sports. What I meant was, there hasn't been a sport in every Singaporean's blood like the way the Brazilians seem to be born with a tiny football rolling out of their mother's womb together. So when our favourite sport came to the attention of our government, we were delighted. With money pumped in, we would finally go on to achieve greater heights. Or so we thought, or so we are taught how things are supposed to work in Singapore. We didn't. Goal 2010 was a flop.

Fast forward to 2013, how Saiyidah Aisyah our own Singaporean daughter debunked the myth and reminded us passion is the first ingredient to success.

If any politician wants to set another lofty sporting goal, perhaps winning the first Football Gold medal in a SEA game is worthy enough. Forget about beating the world, let's look at how to beat the Thais first - Every. Single. Time - before we even look further. To build a culture of doing anything very, very well, we have to start from the beginning. That applies to any success in other aspects, not pertaining to football only. Our politicians wanted instant success and we did manage to buy some in table tennis but it didn't spark off the interests and passion it was supposed to. If you want to know what kind of passion I was referring, spare a few minutes to look at this video clip. It won't be a wasted few minutes, I assure you.

Just look at what we are up against. Bear in mind, Panyee FC is just a single football club in South Thailand. Imagine what kind of team the Thais can assemble with the pool of football talents all over the country. Then consider Thailand isn't even an Asia beater among the Koreans and Japanese, who aren't anywhere near world beaters among the Brazilians, Germans and Italians. If you look into sporting success, it is always created from a single building block. After years, decades and even centuries of constant refining, good practices become a culture then a tradition. The instant success our government planned for not just football but in every aspect of our life works exactly the opposite way. We may hit gold once or twice but it goes downhill from there because there isn't a foundation to support our over-achievements or how Lee Kuan Yew previously out it, "Punching above our weight."

Assuming Goh Chok Tong continued to watch football since, he might have already realise his 1998 French team theory was proven wrong if he witnessed how the Spanish national team dominated Europe twice in 2008 and 2012, winning the World Cup in style in South Africa 2010, in the finals that Singapore was "supposed" to participate in. If Emeritus Goh had put on his glasses, he would have noticed the full Spanish squad would have looked "very Spanish" indeed.

The Spanish victories didn't come by luck had little to do with buying instant success. One only had to take a closer look at La Masia de Can Planes and La Fábrica to have a glimpse of their formula of success, to invest in the young, their very own young. If the French victory was a good reason enough to start our government's obsession with Foreign Talents, what make the multiple Spanish victories unworthy to reverse it?


  1. Fantastic FC youtube story

    Thanks for posting!

  2. I am not that into sport and I find all these trophy chasing stuff a bit crazy.