Does the state of football in Singapore mirror the state of leadership?

Does the state of football in Singapore mirror the state of leadership?

by Augustine Low

Mah Bow Tan, former PAP Minister and President of the Football Association of Singapore, once set a target for the Singapore football team to reach the World Cup finals by 2010 just as how Goh Chok Tong targeted a Swiss standard of living for Singapore by 1999.

But both were ill-fated and ill-conceived targets that never came close to fruition.

Every four years, when the World Cup comes around, we are reminded of “Goal 2010” – the target set by Mah in 1998. “It will be the first step in a journey of a thousand miles towards Goal 2010,” he proudly declared.

We not only have not had a sniff of making it to the World Cup finals, but our national football team slumped to a humiliating lowest-ever FIFA world ranking of 173 last year. Currently, the ranking is a dismal 169.

Size is not an excuse. This year, Iceland – a country with a population of about 300,000 (similar to Bedok) – qualified for the World Cup finals.

There has been absolutely no talk of a revised Goal 2010 – our politicians and football head honchos have seemingly given up for good that glorious promise of “a journey of a thousand miles.”

As for achieving the Swiss standard of living, promised by Goh Chok Tong in 1984 when he was Prime Minister, he seemed to be the only one who felt the target was met. In 2009, he proudly announced that “our achievements surpassed our expectations,” claiming that the target had long been met.

Singaporeans could say that Goh got it totally wrong – what Singapore managed to achieve was the Swiss cost of living!

For Goal 2010, Singapore changed immigration criteria to bring in top football talents who were given citizenship. But these foreign talents did nothing to bring about football glory – instead, they got paid handsomely and when their playing careers were over, they renounced citizenship and returned to their homeland. Some even got nabbed for match-fixing.

So much for banking on foreign talents to bring Singapore glory!

Which just goes to show that dispensing the cash does not guarantee success.

Isn’t there a parallel of sorts with the state of the current leadership?

Ministerial and Civil Service salaries have been benchmarked against the top private sector earners since 1994. For a quarter century now, our politicians and top civil servants have been the world’s highest paid by a long, long mile.

Does that make our leadership the top ranked in the world?

Let’s just say that our football team is now ranked 169 in the world.

If there is a ranking for leadership, where would ours come in?

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