Singapore’s effort to qualify for the 2034 World Cup—a project dubbed Goal 2034—is not a success unless it leads to tangible improvements in the country’s football ecosystem, said Culture, Community, and Youth Minister Edwin Tong.
Back in 2019 when he was the vice president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), Mr Tong had revealed the ambitious plan to qualify for the biggest international football event, which was presented over two decade after Singapore’s previous plan to qualify for the 2010 World Cup failed.
The failure of that first plan, introduced back in 1998 further fuels scepticism for the Goal 2034 Project.
Even so, Mr Tong says that qualifying for the World Cup isn’t the only measure of success for the project.
“Goal 2034 is something that is going to be at the forefront of attention in the immediate future, partly because the FAS elections are coming up soon, so that will inevitably become a topic of discussion,” said the Minister when speaking to reporters on Tuesday (19 January).
“But also because when we look at Goal 2034, I know I wore two hats, first at FAS and now at MCCY, but I see this as a broad-based objective, a broad-based goal,” he added.
Mr Tong stressed that there is a long term objective to this goal that goes beyond just qualifying for the World Cup in 2034, saying that even if that doesn’t happen, he wants to at least see improvements to the sports within the country.
He elaborated: “Our training facilities, training regimen, quality of athletes, the base of players that we have, the programmes we have in school, in the grassroots, in our CCs (community centres), all should be enhanced, the quality of coaches coming through.
“If we can’t improve on all this, but yet we somehow qualify, I would not see that as success… The point I’m making today is that we got to look beyond qualification. It’s got to be an objective that is grounded in longer-term sustainability.
“If we qualify in ’34, we want to make sure we continue to do so in ’38, ’42 and so on.
“If we don’t qualify in ’34, then we must be in a far better position in ’38 thereafter. The only way to do this is we build from the ground up.”
Former sports correspondent for TODAY, Jose Raymond said that GOAL 3034 shouldn’t be the “be all and end all”. Instead, it should be a project that aims to get football in Singapore back on its feet.
Speaking to TOC, Mr Raymond said that a goal such as this could end up being worse for the sport locally if it fails.
“Unfortunately, having a target like Goal 2034 which steers the public to think that we will actually make it to the World Cup may be detrimental to the sport when it fails to get anywhere close,” he explained.
“In that respect, it is understandable that the narrative for the project is shifting.”
Scepticism of the project prevails online as netizens think it is too lofty a goal and that Singapore should start by aiming a little lower and qualify for regional sporting events first, such as the SEA Games.
One person asked for specifics of how the government plans on achieving this goal.
Others suggested that more fundamental, ground-level issues need to be fixed before the country aims for this lofty target.
This includes gauging the cost of booking of football fields, and seeing how some people have taken to booking out fields and reselling those bookings at a higher price.
A couple of people think that Goal 2034 should be shelved entirely and that Singapore should focus instead on building other sports that show promise in Singapore.