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Grace Fu talks about “opportunities” for young sportsmen but government actions show a complete lack of support

by Kwok Fangjie

On Saturday (30 Mar), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu posted an Instagram photo of herself watching a football match between Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers. The caption read “Opportunities for many young players” before including the hashtags #Singaporepremiumleague.

After the mistake was pointed out and ridiculed by netizens, the Minister made corrections to her post. Netizen Ngan Solo pointed out that “even Primary 1 kids know how to spell premier league leh” while Ken Tan questioned the quality of today’s leadership, “Imagine we have Minister like this? Hopeless this country.”

If one were to reflect on Minister Fu’s words that there are opportunities for young sports people, then the reality may prove to be altogether different.

Lack of funding for local athletes but generous support for those under the  Foreign Sports Talent scheme

Sprinter Dipna Lim Prasad made a Facebook post last year talking about her aspirations to take part in the 2018 Asian Games. Talking about the challenges, she mentioned that “securing funding is a constant challenge for every athlete in Singapore” and the heavy opportunity costs she has personally incurred to take part in her passion.

This was similarly echoed by nation rower Saiyidah Aisyah, who was aiming to qualify in the 2016 Rio Olympic games but did not receive any funding from the Race to Row (R2R) initiative before having to resort to crowd-funding. This affected her to the point that she did not have enough money to pay for her own groceries.

Despite the lack of funding for local athletes, the government seems has not shied away from the controversial Foreign Sports Talent scheme which Athletics chief  Loh Lin Kok described as a ‘failure’ after a list of incidents including athletes who went back after disagreements over salary issues and others embroiled in a court case over unfair dismissal.

National Service Deferment and refusal for live telecast for the Olympics – until Schooling’s Gold

The issue of national service deferment was raised by Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah since 2011 but was met with limited response then. The tone seems to have changed after Schooling won his Singapore’s first Olympic Gold medal and deferments were subsequently granted to him and fellow swimmer Quah Zheng Wen.

Then, Minister Fu said in Parliament that it was "unwise”for the government to underwrite any amount demanded by rights owners when it came to live broadcasting. Later, they managed to secure an 11th hour deal and the Olympics were eventually telecasted live. However, the damage was done as netizens called her and former President Tony Tan for milking Schooling’s later success.

Limited Spending by FAS as compared to its large revenues?

Another controversy was drawn when the Football Association of Singapore – which drew controversy for being too government controlled – spent a mere $250,000 developing the sport despite taking in a revenue of almost $35.8 million while salaries of key management personnel were in excess of $1.6m.

All talk and no action?

So, both the ground sentiments and budget from the sporting authorities seem to portray a different picture altogether from Minister Fu’s Instagram picture and claims that there are opportunities for young sportsmen.

What do you think?