Still a lot of kick in S'pore football

I AGREE fully that the success of our athletes at the recent SEA Games should be measured beyond the number of medals won ("Values to learn from successful SEA Games" by Mr Ch'ng Teck Heong; Thursday).

Indeed, sport helps to inculcate positive character traits and lifelong values, including discipline and respect - and there are many examples of exemplary athletes, including bowling queen Grace Young, soccer legend Fandi Ahmad and swimming sensation Joscelin Yeo.

While I am disappointed that our national footballers did not progress to the semi-final of the football competition, I would not rate the team's participation at the SEA Games negatively, for several reasons.

First, football continues to be the sport which brings thousands of fans from various cultures together.

As we celebrate the nation's golden jubilee this year, we acknowledge that the challenges we will face over the next few decades will be more complex.

Hence, it is crucial that Singaporeans come together as one - regardless of their backgrounds. As evident from the full-house turnouts at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the role of football in community bonding cannot be overestimated.

Second, the Under-23 team's participation at previous editions of the SEA Games has significantly helped to prepare our young players for major competitions at the senior men's level. For instance, the national team which put up a brave and determined performance to hold mighty Japan to a draw in Saitama on Tuesday included several players who had played in at least the past two SEA Games, such as Izwan Mahbud, Hariss Harun, Hafiz Abu Sujad and Zulfahmi Arifin.

Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to field our players in the SEA Games as part of our overall strategy in both football development and in using sport to bring the nation together.

I share Mr A. Thiyaga Raju's optimism on the future of Singapore football ("Good long-term plan for developing S'pore football"; June 10).

Like him, I ask that we give the Football Association of Singapore time and support as they embark on a new youth development plan which will ultimately be linked to the performance of the national teams after the next few years.

Tan Heng Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'Still a lot of kick in S'pore football'. Print Edition | Subscribe