The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is surprised -- or in football parlance, caught offside -- by the statement that qualifying for the 2034 World Cup is not a goal set by the government.
The statement was made by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng in Parliament on Friday, March 6.
Baey told Parliament during the MCCY budget debate that the government does not intervene to manage national sports associations such as the FAS.
Baey said: "Goal 2034 is a goal set by FAS. It's not a goal set by the government."
He said the role of the government is to support sports associations.
FAS issues late night statement
The FAS executive committee (exco) expressed its surprise in an uncharacteristic late night statement on the same day.
FAS said it would seek clarification from the ministry on its position "at the earliest opportunity" and "ascertain if this represents MCCY's position".
"Goal 2034 is necessarily a longer-term aspiration," FAS said in its statement.
"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."
"If Goal 2034 is not a goal which the country can support, then it would be very difficult for it to succeed," FAS said.
The exco explained that Goal 2034 is a "bold and ambitious project" that the FAS felt could "galvanise our entire football ecosystem", even though it was not easy to achieve.
Baey was asked about the 2034 World Cup qualification by Aljunied GRC MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap and Potong Pasir SMC MP Sitoh Yih Pin on whether the government supported it.
Baey said MCCY had discussions with the FAS and had "given some inputs" about the "mid-term and long-term development plans for youth in order to achieve Goal 2034".
The FAS exco consists of president Lim Kia Tong, deputy president Bernard Tan, and vice-presidents Edwin Tong, S. Thavaneson, Teo Hock Seng and Razali Saad.
Tong mooted the Goal 2034 idea in August 2019.
He 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.
Tong is also Senior Minister of State for law and health.
Tong's announcement of Goal 2034 sparked a debate about what was even possible in Singapore sports.
This discussion naturally brought up the long-dead Goal 2010, which was mooted in 1998, but ultimately led to abject failure.
Top photo via FAS Facebook & gov.sg YouTube