Are you great at football? Are you foreign? The FAS wants you.
Finding foreign talent for the football field.
Singapore has been ranked by FIFA at 169, out of 211 member nations. Our beloved country is officially worse at football than such sporting luminaries as:
And to our eternal shame, even our Northern neighbours are better than us at kicking the round thing into the net.
To improve these dire conditions, the Football Association of Singapore wants to resurrect an old idea.
According to FAS president Lim Kia Tong during a roundtable organised by the Straits Times:
“The sentiment is the naturalisation of certain players should be re-activated. If you look at the success of previous AFF (Asean Football Federation) Cups, we had players who were naturalised to help us win those titles.”
Come we teach you how to sing Majulah Singapura
First dreamed up in 1993 and adopted by the FAS in 2000, the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme offered foreign-born athletes Singaporean citizenship in return for playing for the national team. Since 2002, nine players have become Singaporeans as part of this scheme.
- Egmar Goncalves (Brazil)
- Mirko Grabovac (Croatia)
- Daniel Bennett (England)
- Agu Casmir (Nigeria)
- Itimi Dickson (Nigeria)
- Shi Jiayi (China)
- Mustafic Fahrudin (Serbia)
- Precious Emuejeraye (Nigeria)
- Qiu Li (China)
The results were a mixed bag. Some embraced their new home. Others left Singapore to play for foreign clubs when their S-League careers fizzled out. Still others renounced their new citizenship to return to their families.
The list also doesn’t include perhaps the greatest foreign-born footballer of all, Aleksandar Duric of Bosnia. He liked the idea of playing here so much he voluntarily became a citizen.
On the whole, the scheme has perhaps been more miss than hit. While Singapore have won the AFF Championship (aka the Tiger Cup or the Suzuki Cup) three times since the scheme began, we failed to win a bigger prize like the Asian Cup or qualified for the World Cup.
Support, not replace
The FAS took pains to emphasise that the approach must include the following:
- Potential talent must complement the team by strengthening the positions we’re weak in.
- They must be better than a local boy.
According to FAS Deputy President Bernard Tan, they’re looking at two or three talented players, particularly those who have spent a long time already playing in Singapore. Jordan Webb is one of those candidates, the Canadian winger who plays for the Warriors.
A better way?
During the Euro 2016 tournament, the tiny little island nation (sound familiar?) of Iceland managed to knock out Hodgson’s Heroes of England in a terrific 2-1 victory. Iceland has a population of just 330,000, yet they made it as far as the quarter-finals.
How did they do it? According to this article by the Guardian, Iceland’s success can be attributed to three things:
1. Quality coaches
One out of every 825 people in Iceland are qualified football coaches, with 400 holding at least a UEFA B license. This means that developing youngsters are guaranteed professional standards of coaching.
2. Good facilities
Iceland invested heavily in proper training and playing facilities. In a country known for its freezing weather, it has an abundance of indoor football pitches with undersoil heating, ensuring that kids always have a place to play.
3. Cooperation with schools
The Iceland FA has bought land near most schools, turning them into pitches and training facilities. It encourages young kids to play and get involved in the game.
Show us the money
Iceland’s initiatives were clearly beneficial, but they also cost quite a bit of money. FAS’ annual budget for the financial year ending in March 2016 was S$35.8 million.
It seems like a lot, but that amount wouldn’t be enough to afford one third of Paul Pogba these days.
Offering red passports to foreign players might bring us some short term glory, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to make up for the fundamental flaws in the system.
Well, not unless you can convince this guy to move to Toa Payoh and start eating nasi lemak.
At the very least, we might be able to move ahead of Malaysia in the rankings.
Here are some equally interesting but totally unrelated stories:
Top image from S League