Featured News SEA Games: Singapore’s soccer spirit is still badly broken

SEA Games: Singapore’s soccer spirit is still badly broken

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Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

Let’s be brutally frank. Sports fans in Singapore are excited only if our sportsmen do well in these premium events – athletics, swimming, soccer, badminton and table tennis.  Anything else, any other configuration involving elitist, community-confined and obscure sports will have limited interest.  I am afraid Singapore will not excite its fans in the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia in the premium sports. If our sportsmen can prove me wrong, I will be very, very happy.

Even the usually rah-rah mainstream media have not been that rah rah this time around. The Strait Times has this much, or little, to say: 

“Who will shine on South-east Asia’s biggest stage? With 558 athletes competing in 30 sports, we hone in on three of Singapore’s best prospects at the SEA Games in Cambodia from May 5 to 17.

“In the pool, the Republic will be looking to swimmer Teong Tzen Wei to set pulses racing. The region’s fastest man in the water will be looking to retain his 50-metre freestyle title, and the four-gold sprint king has never failed to win a medal at each of the SEA Games he has competed in.

“On land, Singapore’s sprint queen will be going for golds. The 26-year-old comes into the competition in sizzling form, having smashed three national records in the last month. With two golds in the 200m in the 2015 and 2021 editions, Shanti Pereira is aiming for the 100m and 200m double this time to stamp her mark in the regional event.

“On the mat, expect some hard-hitting action from Sheik Farhan. Having won gold in 2017 and 2022, the three-time world champion will be looking for a three-peat in Cambodia.” (By the way, Farhan’s sport is silat)

That’s it, for the SEA Game?

Let’s talk about swimming. Teong Tzen Wei captured the silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the 50m butterfly. In September 2022, he admitted to having taken “controlled drugs” while abroad for which offence he has already served a month’s suspension. I think he will put all that behind and do Singapore proud. 

He should step up to fill in part of the big vacuum unfortunately and disappointingly left behind by Singapore’s golden Olympian Joseph Schooling who admitted to taking cannabis abroad. If I remember correctly, Ang Peng Siong, our last most successful swimmer at the Olympics, pushed himself to fly the Singapore flag.  

Wikipedia: “Ang represented Singapore at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where he won the ‘B’ consolation final in the 100m freestyle. (He was not able to compete in his pet event, the 50m freestyle, as it was not an Olympic event until 1988.)

“In eight (repeat, eight) competitions at the SEA Games from 1977 to 1993, Ang won a total of 20 gold medals. He held the Asian record in the 50 metres freestyle up until 1996. His time of 22.69 seconds stood as a Singapore national record for 33 years until Joseph Schooling broke it at the 2015 SEA Games.”

Now that’s a serious champion who has my total respect.

So does Shanti Pereira, Singapore’s most exciting sprint queen in recent times.  She just pushes herself and does her thing. We want this type of champion or sportsperson. 

I can’t say the same about Singapore’s soccer team. This is a loser team (lost to Thailand and Vietnam in Cambodia). Something was broken when we left the Malaysia Cup. The spirit to fight or excel is still missing. The Phnom Penh SEA Games has cruelly exposed once more the depth to which Singapore soccer has sunken.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.  

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg 

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