Kallang roars again!

I’m glad I attended Saturday night’s thrilling Asean Football Championship match between Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium, which Singapore won on 5-4 on penalties (1-1 after extra time). My friends and I sure got our $6 worth! It cost only $1 per goal and a few more for the lozenges for my sore throat which I got from cheering the Lions and taunting the Malaysian fans seated near my section. (Just kidding, I didn’t really need the lozenges.)

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

It was probably the first time since the Malaysia Cup days that the National Stadium has been filled to such capacity with a sea of red, cheering on our national team. The atmosphere in the gallery was electric. As I entered the gates, a battalion of Malaysian fans decked in yellow and carrying Malaysian flags was provocatively marching around the perimeter of the stadium. I could just imagine what it was like when Northern Irish Protestants would march through Catholic residential areas and spark riots, and vice versa. Singaporean fans were sufficiently provoked to heap loads of vitriolic insults on the Malaysians, although there was little risk of any physical violence breaking out.

Looking at the young crowd around me, it dawned on me that at least half the fans had never seen the Lions in action during the Malaysia Cup, as they were too young when Singapore pulled out of the tournament. Their cheers were loud, but uncoordinated. Nevertheless, it was great being able to cheer for our team side-by-side with Singaporeans of all races, and “high fiving” complete strangers after our goals.

Football is able to arouse patriotic emotions and gel the people like nothing else apart from war itself. It is the only time you see “apathetic” young Singaporeans singing the national anthem with such gusto.

While I appreciate the money and resources being pumped into sports like sailing and shooting to win us an Olympic gold medal, I hope more effort can be made to raise the standard of football in this country. If the goal of sports (from a national development perspective) is to rally the country together, then football really has no rivals. Think about it: Would you rather cheer for the Lions as they score against Malaysia in the Asean Football Championship semi-finals, or read in the papers about how our sailors have won an Olympic medal in the Beijing Olympics? Now imagine the Singapore football team beating China or Japan at some Asian football championships or — I dare say — the World Cup!

I mean no disrespect to our sailors and shooters. I have no doubt that they have worked incredibly hard to achieve their Olympic-class standards. But the fact that these are not spectator sports means that the impact of their wins will pale in comparison to football trophies.

Although the Lions are far from achieving the standards required to compete at the international stage, football development funds should not be redirected to other non-spectator sports that are more likely to win us an Olympic medal — unless of course winning an Olympic medal is more important because it fulfils the key performance indicators (KPIs) of some sports officials in Singapore.

Let’s rally behind the Lions as they play in the championship match against Thailand tomorrow!

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

5 thoughts on “Kallang roars again!”

  1. let me tell you my experience – i was a volunteer Liaison Officer at the ’93 SEA Games in Singapore. There is no other ecstatic feeling than the pride of singing Majulah Singapura at the top of your voice, after one of your sportsmen/women have won a Gold medal. and i did this standing smack in the middle of another country’s team area (i was accompanying that country’s official, and our sportslady just beat the shit out of that country’s participant). i can tell you i actually had tears in my eyes.

    i believe football receives the largest amount of funding from the Govt. It is also well-sponsored.
    we can talk for weeks on why we wont get any success in football.

    But sailing and shooting are our best bets of winning Olympics gold. so why not focus on them?

    Nothing, and i mean nothing, will ever beat the feeling of singing/hearing Majulah Singapura at the Olympics.

    (Unless our sportsperson is a localised foreign talent, and cant sing the National Anthem at all – but thats another discussion altogether!)

    Aygee

  2. Well said Gerald. Team sports do evoke a greater sense of feeling and are just easier to identify with. But the realist in me must point out the odds of the Lions winning a big competition even with massive amts of money pumped in versus a sailor or tennis player winning are sadly much lower.

  3. hi Aygee and anonymous,

    I will definitely be moved to tears if/when Majulah Singapura is played at the Olympics, whether or not it is won by a native born S’porean.

    But what is the purpose of sporting achievement? Is it to bring glory to the country and, in particular, its Govt? China, the former USSR and East Germany pumped so much resources into sports for this reason. Or is it to foster a common rallying point for its citizens of all ethnicities, languages and socio-economic backgrounds?

    I guess the answer is “both”. But which is more important for today’s Singapore? Will sporting achievement help us to flex our muscles in the int’l arena better? (Unlikely since even if we have the quality, we don’t have the quantity of world class sportsmen/women to make much impact.)

    So I feel that on a national level, Singapore sports should serve more to promote national unity.

    For this reason, I think govt and schools should invest more in spectator sports (note: not only team sports) rather than just those sports that will get us the “easy” golds. It’s kinda like choosing your courses in university. DO you choose classes to get an easy ‘A’, or classes that will enrich your educational experience but may be harder score in?

    The govt is already focusing on badminton and table tennis because of its potential. Football is a unique case: because it is the most popular spectator sport, there should be more support for it despite its limited success.

    Having said that, I do not believe that we can improve the standard of football in Singapore just by throwing money at it. More should be done to broaden its participation rate in schools (which are the main nurturing grounds for sportsmen). Football seems to be the game that “elites” like to watch on TV but not play. All our top schools have dropped their football programmes in favour of more elite sports like rugby and water polo. Why? Because they are solely focused on achieving school glory, and they don’t want to “lau kui” by losing to neighbourhood schools. It’s a vicious cycle that has resulted in a poor image for football, and a smaller pool of talent for our national coaches to choose from.

  4. Hi Gerald,
    It is always nice to watch your team win. But let’s put it in the right perspective. Beating M’sia is good ( very good) but M’sia is not England or Brazil. Ha ha

    I remember many moons and ( many hairs) ago, I used to join the throngs at the National Stadium to watch Sg in the M’sia Cup where we beat the sh#t out of minnows like Perlis/Sarawak and fight tooth and nail with perenial rivals like Selangor and Penang.

    If you think last weekend was good, you should have been there to watch the late Mohktar , spiderman Arumugam ( also deceased) and the Datuk Soh Chin Aun.

    Unforgettable! unfortunately the politicians screw us up ( again) and we got kicked out of M’sia ( again)!

    What the sailors and bowlers have done is way more than winning at a regional tournament. Let’s give them the praise they deserve.

    Good luck, Sg – The Thais are very formidable. Don’t bet your house on Sg winning. We don’t need more homeless people on our void decks!

    Ha ha ha!

    Dr.Huang

  5. Dr Huang, if they do bet their house on Singapore, and they lose, then…gasp…Dr Maliki was right! People do choose to be homeless! ;-)

    aygee

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