SINGAPORE - Days after confusion arose over the status of Singapore’s ambitious bid to have a team qualify for the 2034 World Cup, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Football Association of Singapore (FAS) issued a joint statement on Tuesday (March 10) calling on stakeholders to support it as a “national project”.
"Goal 2034 is a long-term aspiration, and a statement of the ambition and the desire of the FAS to develop Singapore football to greater heights, and make Singapore proud," said the statement.
"MCCY welcomes and supports FAS' drive for excellence. FAS had briefed MCCY and key stakeholders last year about its plans for Goal 2034, and FAS has been refining its plans based on the feedback."
This comes on the back of a statement made by MCCY Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng in Parliament last Friday regarding the Government's position on Goal 2034.
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."
He was 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.
This evoked a response from the FAS executive committee, which said in a statement on the same night that it found Mr Baey's comment "surprising" as "that was not our understanding". The national sports association said that it would seek clarification from the ministry on its position "at the earliest opportunity".
In Tuesday's joint statement, MCCY and FAS said: "FAS and MCCY will continue to meet to discuss the Goal 2034 project, to establish greater clarity and alignment on the plan.
"FAS has also been engaging other stakeholders, including the Singapore National Olympic Council, to further refine its vision and plans for Goal 2034.
"FAS and MCCY would like to see many stakeholders - including all Singaporeans who enjoy football - jointly own and support Goal 2034, and work towards this vision together as a national project."
Goal 2034 was first reported by The Straits Times in August last year, when FAS vice-president Edwin Tong, who is also Senior Minister of State for 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.