Sunday, March 26, 2006

Foreign Sports Talent Scheme

The table tennis team has done Singapore proud by winning 4 gold medals at the Commonwealth. Our sports officials are jubilant. The Straits Times sports editor declares “This is a vindication of the Foreign Sports Talent scheme”.

Nowadays, I don’t follow the sports news very closely. But, recent events in Melbourne have attracted my interest. Especially, I note the dismal performance of the Netball team in comparison with the peddlers. So I would like to share some thoughts. But it’s personal and should not be taken too seriously as I haven’t been following the debate about the FSTS closely.

I don’t like to pour cold water, but I must confess I have not been terribly excited by the excellent performance of the table tennis team because I understand a large number of them are not native Singaporeans. I must admit I could be behind time in this aspect.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I casually asked my family members what they thought of the FSTS, and these are their views.

1) My Kayaker Son. (He is captain of the ACS (I) kayaking team and fighting fish enthusiast)

He thinks that if the foreign athletes were brought in when they were still of school-going age, and educated in our schools, then it was alright. Otherwise, it would be like going to Thailand to buy the best fight fishes and entering them in a local competition and winning all the top prizes – it would not be very fair. If you bought the good quality fish fries and raised them up yourself then it is still acceptable.

2) My youngest daughter who hates sports. She thinks it’s alright. “After all Singapore likes to win wat”.

3) My teacher wife.

But then what about the local athletes like your kor-kor (elder brother). They train so hard and make many sacrifices to reach the top. What if the government says, our kayakers simply have no hope to compete against the Australians. Let’s bring in some foreign talents to represent Singapore. Wouldn’t that be very cruel to our own Singaporeans?

Incidentally, I am also somewhat puzzled by the remarks of one sport official who was interviewed on television last night. He said something to this effect. “Nowadays, our athletes are more competitive and compete to win.”

I find myself asking; “You mean the previous athletes like Patricia Chan and Water Polo teams were not ‘competitive’?”


Victor said...

The same question about who really won the medals and the glory was also asked when Edwin Siew and Khoo Siew Chiow summitted Everest in 1998. They were then Malaysians and Singapore permanent residents. (Both have since taken up Singapore citizenship.)

I think your quote in the 2nd last paragraph “Nowadays, our athletes are more competitive and compete to win” should be equally apt if directed at the powers that be.

Anonymous said...

I think the Foreign Talent scheme is an inevitable thing, e.g. you see foreign talent playing table tennis for Australia, New Zealand, several European countries etc. Anyway, we have relied on FOREIGN coaches for a long time, including in water polo, track & field, football, etc. We also have expat teachers, pilots, and what not, so it's not really a new thing.

However, the important thing is that money and effort MUST be poured into developing LOCAL talent, too. I'm not sure if there is enough money and effort going into that. Don't really keep up with the news there.

For example, surely the achievements of the shooting team are worth making a big thing about, since most of the medal winners are LOCAL talent (no doubt with the help of their foreign coach)?

That quote is indeed strange. Perhaps the official in question was caught off-guard and muttered something he didn't think through properly. As often happens to people when they are not 'prepared' for certain questions.

Chris Sim said...

This is really about the import of foreign talent. It's just not in sport, it happens in the corporate world as well. A lot of IT professionals working in Singapore are from India, and some China. Our pool of native talents is small. But there's hope yet for local talent to be nurtured, now with the setup of the Singapore Sports School. Who knows, 30 years from now, other countries might be "importing" our talented sportsmen.

Lam Chun See said...

I don't quite agree with the comparison with corporate world. There it is strictly biz decision; cost-benefit analysis can be applied.

Sports is more complex and involves pride and "duty-honour-country" that sort of thing. I suspect the older generation's views differ from those of the younger.

By the way, I am not 100% sure about what I heard the sport official say. I couldn't find it in the papers to confirm. Maybe I heard wrong.

Anonymous said...

You are right that foreign sports talent is different from foriegn talent in other areas. I was actually just thinking of foreign talent in general contributing to S'pore, but I guess the big difference is the sports ones actually take on citizenship.

Francis Ho said...

I suppose this is another 'typical' sporean shortcut and efficient way to tackle this problem. I don't mean this in a degoratory manner. With a small population the talent pool is naturally smaller. Simple fact.

So its just a matter of how 'nationalistic' these 'former foreigners' n the 'native' sporeans feel about this matter.

Anonymous said...

In this case, why don't we buy over the entire Brazilian team and make all of them singaporeans, and represent us in the World Cup? We could still make it by 2010 in that case? We can win the WorldCup but I for sure will not be proud of it.

Victor said...

Buy over the whole Brazilian team? Maybe just before the next election sometime near 2010? This time gahmen oredi spent too much money on the progress package, growth dividends and workfare bonus liao.

Anonymous said...

Just take Soccer as an example, from a game of passion, still passion now, but has turned into big business - betting, endorsement of products, player's transfer, contracts, media, soccer holiday exhibition matches, TV rights, and a host of others - even game fixings. In short, sports as a business is the norm for this modern progressive society. Everyone should not raise their eyebrows when rewards are given to the winners.

Henry Leong said...

I agreed with you , good football player also have good juggling skills.

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