SINGAPORE - The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has expressed its surprise at a statement made by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng in Parliament about the Government's position on the former's plan to have a team qualify for the World Cup in 2034.
On Friday (March 6), Mr Baey told the House during a debate on his ministry's budget that while the role of the Government is to support national sports associations like the FAS, he added: "Goal 2034 is a goal set by FAS. It's not a goal set by the Government."
The statement caught the FAS executive committee (exco) by surprise and it said it would seek clarification from the ministry on its position "at the earliest opportunity".
In a statement issued late on Friday night, it said: "Goal 2034 is necessarily a longer-term aspiration.
"It is a goal which the FAS is happy to lead, but it must be a goal of the country, and all its stakeholders. This gives us the best chance of succeeding.
"In that vein, it is surprising to hear SPS Baey say in Parliament that Goal 2034 is not a goal of the Government, and that is it only a goal of the FAS. That was not our understanding."
Adding that it would need to "ascertain if this represents MCCY's position", it noted: "If Goal 2034 is not a goal which the country can support, then it would be very difficult for it to succeed."
The exco explained that Goal 2034 is a "bold and ambitious project" that was not easy to achieve, but one that the FAS felt could "galvanise our entire football ecosystem".
The FAS exco comprises president Lim Kia Tong, deputy president Bernard Tan, and vice-presidents Edwin Tong, S. Thavaneson, Teo Hock Seng and Razali Saad.
Mr Baey made his statement while responding to questions from Aljunied GRC MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap and Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin on whether the Government supported Goal 2034.
He also said that the ministry has had discussions with the FAS and had "given some inputs that they may want to look at their mid-term and long-term development plans for youth in order to achieve Goal 2034".
"I understand the FAS has taken the feedback and they are in the midst of talking to other stakeholders to further refine this vision," said Mr Baey, adding that the ministry was looking forward to the FAS sharing its plans "on how it will achieve or aim to achieve Goal 2034".
Goal 2034 was first reported in August last year, when Mr Tong, who is also Senior Minister of State (Law and Health), revealed that the FAS had set a goal for the national team to qualify for the world's biggest tournament in 2034.
Calling it a "realistic" ambition, he said then that the plan would be used to "focus and shape everything" that the FAS and its stakeholders do and stressed that grassroots football, youth development, infrastructure and schools would be key.
The national football team are currently ranked 157th in the world and reached a nadir in 2017, when they dropped to their lowest all-time ranking of 172nd. The Lions have also exited the regional biennial Asean Championship at the group stage for three consecutive editions, having previously won four titles in eight editions from 1998 to 2012.
Mr Tong's announcement of Goal 2034 sparked a debate on the project's feasibility, with many drawing comparisons to Goal 2010, a similar plan to qualify for the World Cup that was mooted in 1998 but ultimately failed.