Singapore Might Finally Realise Its Dream Of Playing In The FIFA World Cup
Despite our national football team’s recent struggles that include falling to No. 157 in the world rankings, Singapore’s dream of playing in the World Cup dream may come true sooner than we think.
But purists may be disappointed to find out that we may be qualifying via the backdoor — by importing the tournament here with our fellow Asean nations.
According to a Channel NewsAsia report, the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) is “set to lead a consortium of South East Asian countries in an ambitious bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup”.
And Singapore has been touted by Mr James Walton, Sports Business Group Leader at Deloitte Singapore & South-East Asia, as one of the more attractive cities to host the tournament
Said Mr Walton in an interview with Today:
If you were trying to make an attractive bid that appeals to all the sponsors, international travellers and has the necessary amenities, you’d be looking at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok as the kind of major hub cities you’d be trying to play football in.
And if Singapore is one of the hosts of the tournament, it could mean that our national team will have an automatic spot in the group stage without having to qualify, similar to the privilege that previous World Cup hosts have enjoyed.
While seeing Singapore at the FIFA World Cup is the dream for all football fans, we feel that Singapore is not ready to make her entrance into the global tournament.
Here are 5 reasons why Singapore should not host the competition:
1. We Stink
Let’s face it. We suck at the sport. This is not to say that we are unable to produce talented players, but we are unable to properly groom these raw diamonds into world stars.
So far our only notable international contribution to the sport is, ahem, notorious match-fixer Wilson Raj.
He is believed to have rigged up to 100 matches around the world, and is now under house arrest in Hungary while aiding the authorities in an investigation into football corruption.
2. No Loyalty To The Lions
Maybe because we stink, or maybe because Singaporeans are typically obsessed with success and superior teams from overseas, but we’re just not terribly patriotic when it comes to our national team.
Just look at the scene at the National Stadium when visiting teams like Argentina or Liverpool play our national team — Singaporeans turn up en masse, but clad in the replica jerseys of our opponents.
This was what the stands looked like during the recent Singapore vs Argentina match on June 13. See the non-Argentine-looking people wearing Argentina jersey amid the red Manchester United/Arsenal jerseys?
Yup, even our “Singapore” red jerseys are actually the jerseys of successful English clubs.
So much so that our local players like Noh Alam Shah and Ridhuan Muhammad chose to move overseas to play for clubs that have more local support.
If we can’t even support our national team during a friendly match with one “better” team, how will we be able to support the Lions when they will face 3 “better” teams in the group stage of the World Cup? Especially when an expected thrashing is imminent?
3. Disastrous Local Football Scene
A farcical Football Association of Singapore election marred by a suspected misuse of club funds that led to arrests and police raids.
Poor performances from former world-class players slumming it in the S-League.
Poor attendance, lack of public interest and waning sponsorships for league matches.
The list of embarrassments for our local football scene goes on.
And with no one who seems able to remedy the mess, enter the football manager wannabes.
This unique group of people are so confident of their analytical skills that they often correct even FIFA-certified coaches.
Sometimes they tend to get a little out of hand, too.
The mood has become so cancerous, we wouldn’t blame people for just wanting to avoid the S-League altogether.
When Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup, much column space was devoted to the fact that Qatar isn’t a footballing nation with a strong domestic league.
Similarly, without a strong local league in Singapore, how can we claim to be a nation that deserves to host World Cup matches?
4. Lack Of World-Class Venues
Imagine the 2034 World Cup commentators saying: “It’s Germany versus England at the Toa Payoh Stadium. The stadium is completely full, and 3,000 fans are incessantly cheering their teams on.”
If we want to set the record for lowest match attendance at a World Cup, just host a game at a Singapore stadium.
Wait, what about our $1.3 billion National Stadium, that can hold 55,000 people?
It looks nice, but unfortunately falls below the international standard, and the massive sum spent does not reflect the quality of the pitch.
Teams who have played here, including Brazil and Juventus, have complained about the poor pitch quality.
Maybe it’s because to recoup this massive investment, our National Stadium also has to hold concerts — artists like Madonna, Mariah Carey, Stefanie Sun and Jay Chou have held concerts at the National Stadium, with more acts like Justin Bieber to set to perform there.
Surely that isn’t an ideal situation for holding World Cup football matches there — we wouldn’t want Balloon D’or-winning football stars injuring themselves due to a pitch that has been trod on by numerous concert-goers.
Co-hosting the World Cup would mean money must be spent to improve the current poor conditions.
5. Sharing The Spotlight
The World Cup was last hosted by more than one country in 2002, when Japan and South Korea shared the spotlight equally by holding the opening match in South Korea and the final in Japan.
Sharing the spotlight might prove more complex in the case of South-east Asia since the PSSI intends for a few countries to join its World Cup bid.
Who will get to host the opening match, and the finals?
And there are various geopolitical intricacies to navigate between Asean countries, who don’t exactly have a history of getting along famously.
Does Singapore really want to get in the mix of all that? And are we willing to share the spotlight with the countries in our neighbourhood, many of which regard Singapore as just a little red dot that is annoyingly also more “first-world” than any of them?
We think that the only thing Indonesia would not mind sharing is their haze.
Build The Grassroots Instead
Before Singapore agrees to any plan to host the World Cup, we should think about it carefully first.
Hosting the World Cup in Singapore would benefit Singapore from an economic point of view. However, we think it would only be a short-lived benefit as the roots of Singapore’s dismal reputation as a footballing nation would not be addressed.
It would be better to spend money on building up the sport from the grassroots via by changing the way in which we groom young talent.
With a good development plan in place, we can be assured that young gems will be offered the support and opportunities to become world-class stars.
This would be a better way to establish Singapore on the global soccer map rather than a glitzy tournament, as well as rekindle the kind of support that Singapore was famous for during the Malaysia Cup Era.