Wanted: True Blue Singaporean Sportsmen

It was disappointing to read that more foreign-born footballers may be brought into the Singapore national team, and even more upsetting to learn that Mirko Grabovac and Egmar Goncalves have returned to their countries of origin after renouncing their Singapore citizenships (“Up to 3 foreign footballers ‘may don S’pore jersey’”; last Wednesday).

These revelations from our national football team stand in stark contrast to what we have just seen in table tennis.

Even though the national table-tennis team has recruited several foreign-born national players, it was heartening to read that the Singapore Table Tennis Association has collaborated with Indonesian billionaire Tahir to introduce a trust fund to encourage Singapore-born talent to pursue their sports dreams, without having to worry about money for education (“Tertiary education trust fund for local-born paddlers”; last Tuesday).

It is a move that other national sports associations should try emulating.

For instance, the funds that have been set aside to search for foreign-born athletes and give them citizenship could be more sustainably spent on nurturing local talent.

Sure, this will likely take more time, but let us not be too desperate for fame and glory.

If it takes longer for Singapore to win the World Cup, so be it. It is sad and ironic when the successes of our sportsmen create division in the very country they are playing for, as we have seen in the public debate that resulted from China-born Feng Tianwei’s Olympic medals and Li Jiawei’s departure from Singapore.

Christopher Chong

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