2034 World Cup a 'realistic' goal for S'pore football: FAS VP Edwin Tong

That's 15 years away.

Belmont Lay | August 18, 2019, 07:12 PM

Singapore, ranked 162 on Fifa world rankings, wants to qualify for the 2034 World Cup.

It would be a "realistic" goal for Singapore, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Vice-President Edwin Tong said in an interview with The Straits Times published on Sunday, Aug. 18.

"We've always wanted to be somewhere on the world stage, so we need to start," said Tong, who is also the Senior Minister of State for Health and Law.

And the plan to get there starts today.

Tong said: "2034 is 15 years away... so you're looking at boys today who are maybe eight, nine to 14, 15 and if you can cultivate the programme that has that endgame in mind, it will do us a lot of good."

Confident Singapore can make it

Despite Singapore's failed attempt at World Cup 2010 qualification, and how the team did not manage a win for a 12-month stretch at one point from 2016 to 2017, Tong expressed confidence over the latest push.

Tong said: "If we're worried about trying to set up a goal and failing, we'll never get there. So we have to be realistic about our prospects; we're not aiming for the next 10 years, but set ourselves a 15-year horizon"

His confidence is not entirely misplaced as the format for the World Cup is set to change in the future, with more teams participating.

Banking on new format

The expanded 48-team format to be implemented from World Cup 2026 will aid in Singapore's qualification -- as this indicates a higher chance of qualifying.

This is so as the number of places for Asian countries will almost double to eight, Tong noted.

"There are a bit more opportunities... The obvious powerhouses, Korea, Japan, Australia, maybe some of the Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the next tier you have Uzbekistan, Central Asians, and of course Southeast Asians," ST quoted Tong as saying.

"We can look at that as a goal. So it's not unrealistic, but it's also not easy," Tong added.

National Service might change

Tong also talked about the impact of National Service on the 2034 target.

He said: "Inevitably we have to work out what to do with National Service (NS), how we can align NS, which is important, with the needs of football."

One way, Tong said, was a "relook" into former club models.

The Singapore Armed Forces Sports Associations (SAFSA) and Home United allowed full-time national servicemen to train and play competitive matches.

Football on nation's psyche

Football on the world stage would be a boost for Singapore.

This was highlighted by Tong as he said seeing Singapore's representation the biggest stage "will mean a lot to Singaporeans and sports fans" and "give the country a lift".

Goal 2010 failed

The first time Singapore set a target to play at the World Cup was in 1998.

Singapore said it was aiming to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said the initiative, dubbed "Goal 2010", was “bold and ambitious”.

Nothing came out of it as 2010 came and went.

In October 2017, Singapore achieved its worst-ever Fifa ranking of 173.

Co-hosting World Cup 2034?

Previously, there was talk among Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in co-hosting the World Cup in 2034.

And if Singapore also gets involved, it could mean automatic qualification.