Lions' 2034 World Cup target a pipe dream?

Singapore football fans showing their support for the Lions during the Singapore-Japan Group E World Cup qualifier.
Singapore football fans showing their support for the Lions during the Singapore-Japan Group E World Cup qualifier.PHOTO: ST FILE

It was projected by former Football Association of Singapore(FAS) president Mah Bow Tan in 1998 that the Lions would play in the World Cup in 2010. That came to nought.

In 2017, deputy president of FAS Bernard Tan spelt out his perspective of Singapore football (What it will take to make Singapore football great again, July 14, 2017).

He delved into the complexity of the modern game, including its faster pace, the advancement of technical and tactical skills, and fitness of players, the need for intense competitions to develop players with exposure to top talent at international level, and the need for a good professional league.

This led to much expectation that these perspectives would translate into positive outcomes for the development of Singapore football.

It is now 2019, and sadly our football is still floundering at the Fifa World Cup ranking of 162nd - one of the lowest this century.

Current FAS vice-president Edwin Tong has now audaciously announced that a realistic goal of the Lions will be the 2034 World Cup (2034 World Cup a realistic goal: FAS, Aug 19). He bases his optimism on the increase of Asian places in the World Cup from 4.5 to 8 from 2026.

We have not achieved any promising results at regional age-group levels, and we have not got past the elementary Asean stage to date. Our professional Premier League is just going through the motions, with no sign of becoming a thriving league that attracts the masses and our youth to take up the game professionally.

A goal has to be driven by a consistent supporting infrastructure, action programmes that include grassroots, youth and schools' football development, a flourishing national league, and a committed FAS and stakeholders.

Much of this has been consistently espoused by departing foreign technical advisers and our FAS chiefs, time and again.

And the refrain still goes on with ambitious pronouncements and perspectives from our custodians of football at the FAS.

What we need to know now is: What is the present state of the art in all the FAS initiatives and programmes that are working towards the 2034 World Cup target that makes it realistic?

Perhaps then there could be a public assessment whether this goal is an achievable target for Singapore or a figment of imagination. Let us walk the talk.

George Pasqual

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Lions' 2034 World Cup target a pipe dream?'. Print Edition | Subscribe