Why is S'pore so far from World Cup goal?

Iceland qualifying for the World Cup finals in Russia next year is a fantastic achievement for a small country with a population of just around 350,000 (Tiny Iceland make history, but Reykjaviktory is no fluke; Oct 11).

In the late 1990s, the Singapore football authorities set a goal to get a team to the World Cup finals by 2010.

Now, not only are we disappointingly far from this target, but the standard of Singapore football also has not improved after all these years.

The Singapore team is currently ranked 162 by Fifa, way below its highest ranking of 75 in 1993.

At the recent SEA Games, the Singapore football team did not even make the semi-final stage.

Clearly, the team has not progressed.

Theoretically, with a population of more than five million, Singapore should have a good chance of gathering a good enough team to at least qualify for the Asian Cup finals. But it has not qualified even for this.

There has to be an in-depth analysis on why football standards here have not been raised, but have, in fact, regressed, despite football being the most popular team sport here.

Is it the poor state of affairs in our only professional league?

Is it the lack of physique and quality in the players selected for the national team?

Are there not enough players playing in top overseas leagues to bring back practical experience and nous?

I am sure all Singaporeans hope to see our national team qualify for the World Cup finals in our lifetime.

But, for now, it looks like just a distant dream.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Why is S'pore so far from World Cup goal?'. Print Edition | Subscribe