Football: Standards will be raised with Singapore's Goal 2034 World Cup dream, says ESM Goh

(From left) Lina Chiam, Ang Peng Siong, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and his wife greet one another as they arrive to the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund Charity Gala Dinner at Tang Marriott Plaza on Aug 22, 2019.
(From left) Lina Chiam, Ang Peng Siong, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and his wife greet one another as they arrive to the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund Charity Gala Dinner at Tang Marriott Plaza on Aug 22, 2019.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong may have joked on Thursday night (Aug 22) about the "foolish" goal set by Football Association of Singapore(FAS) vice-president Edwin Tong to qualify the national team for the 2034 World Cup, but he was serious when it came to throwing his support behind the ambitious target.

Mr Goh, who was guest of honour at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner, told the audience at Tang Marriott Plaza that he had set three targets for Singapore when he was Prime Minister.

They were for Team Singapore to win an Olympic gold in sailing by 2008, qualify for the World Cup in 2010 and to qualify for badminton's Thomas Cup final in 2012.

In 1998, Mr Goh had sparked the dream of Goal 2010, after he suggested at the National Day Rally that Singapore could naturalise foreign talent to reinforce the Lions and qualify for football's showcase tournament.

He said in his speech on Thursday night: "While we did not succeed (in achieving the three goals), we must always dare to try. We must never give up chasing our dreams, both individually and as a nation.

"Today, we might not be at the very top but we are producing globally competitive athletes in sports such as swimming, sailing, table tennis, bowling and silat."

He added, to applause and laughter from the crowd: "My colleague Edwin Tong is foolish enough to set a goal for Singapore to qualify for the World Cup 2034.

"But that's the spirit, you must have something in mind and even if you don't qualify, the standard will be raised. Good luck to you, Edwin!"

 
 

On Saturday, Mr Tong revealed to The Straits Times that the FAS had set an ambitious goal for Singapore's footballers to compete at the 2034 World Cup, adding that it was a "realistic" goal to achieve in 15 years' time.

While the plans are still being finalised, he cited grassroots football, youth development, schools and facilities as key to helping the FAS achieve its target.

While some members of the football fraternity welcomed the news, the FAS' lofty dream has also been met with derision and scepticism from fans and the public, particularly those who remember the failed project that was Goal 2010.

While the Lions were ranked 81st in the Fifa rankings in 1998 when Mr Goh first spoke about the World Cup, the national football team are now 162nd in the world and 34th among the Asian Football Confederation teams.

Mr Tong took heart from the support shown by Mr Goh and remained undaunted by the monumental task ahead.

He said with a chuckle: "I would say that it is encouraging but I always wanted this effort to be a galvanising effort to bring people behind it, the country and all the stakeholders behind it, so I am heartened by it (Mr Goh's words)."


Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong shakes hands with Mr Chiam See Tong at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund Charity Gala Dinner at Tang Marriott Plaza on Aug 22, 2019. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The gala dinner saw the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund raising $160,000 to help under-resourced athletes. The event was attended by co-patrons Mr Chiam and his wife Lina, as well as Paralympic champion swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, para swimmer Theresa Goh, corporate leaders and members of the sports fraternity.