Early this morning Singapore time (12 Jul), Croatia, a country of 4.2 million, beat England 2-1 to reach the World Cup final. Croatia would be facing France this Sunday to vie for the World Cup Championship 2018.
Singapore with a population of 5.6 million, on the other hand, did not qualify to play in any of the World Cup tournaments.
Former PM Goh Chok Tong is the architect of Singapore's "foreign talent" policy
During the 1998 National Day Rally some 20 years ago, then PM Goh Chok Tong, the architect of Singapore's "foreign talent" policy, told Singaporeans the need for Singapore to bring in "international talents".
"To compete successfully in the future, to build the best home for Singaporeans, we must tap the best talent from around the world," he said.
Using Microsoft as an example, Goh explained, "Microsoft is the archetypal knowledge company. Its capital is the brainpower of its people. Bill Gates was here recently. He told us that each year Microsoft gave awards to its most outstanding employees, and he would meet them personally. He noticed that their names are mostly unpronounceable, because so many were Eastern Europeans or Asians."
"Microsoft has systematically scouted for and attracted the cleverest software programmers from all around the world. They made Microsoft into the world-class company it is," he said.
"So if our companies want to be as successful as Microsoft, then they too must make talent a burning corporate priority. When they hire, they must go for the best person, whether Singaporean or foreign."
Goh to import "talented" new citizens to help Singapore get into World Cup final
He then turned his attention to World Cup, as back in 1998, France beat Brazil to become the world football champion.
Goh continued, "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," Goh said.
"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."
So, after watching the French victory in 1998, Goh told Singaporeans that he would bring in top football talent and make them new citizens of Singapore, so that they could also help Singapore to enter the World Cup.
"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 (World Cup) finals. In fact we intend to do just this, to bring in sports talent," he said.
Singapore's new citizen footballers
So, where are the new citizens who were given Singapore citizenship and are supposed to help Singapore get into the World Cup final?
Here are some of the "talented" foreign footballers given Singapore citizenship to play for Singapore:
Mirko Grabovac is a Croatian former professional football player. He was given Singapore citizenship in 2002 in order to play for the Singapore national football team before renouncing it in 2008.
Egmar Gonçalves a Brazilian player was given Singapore citizenship in 2002 to play for Singapore. He is said to have failed to make any impact for Singapore at international level and was one of the unsuccessful players in the foreign talent scheme endorsed by the FAS.
Agu Casmir, a Nigerian, was offered Singapore citizenship in 2004 to play for Singapore. It was then reported in the media in 2006 that he had left for Canada and had no intention of further pursuing a career in football. Subsequently, he came back wanting to play football again in Singapore. The FAS also suspended him from the national squad for a year and fined him $20,000, for secretly signing up with an Indonesian football club without FAS' knowledge.
Itimi Dickson, a Nigerian, was given Singapore citizenship in 2004. He was once given a 6-month ban from representing Singapore when he was absent from training with the national team. He has since retired.
There were a few more foreign footballers who were given Singapore citizenship but in any case, Singapore is no where near playing in the World Cup. This was the outcome of Goh's "foreign talent" policy, which is supposed to help Singapore compete on the world stage.