In light of the current saga involving the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), and the arrest of Zainuddin Nordin, the last Government-appointed president of the association, it is timely to revisit Sylvia Lim’s rally speech during the 2015 General Election.
Ms Lim, who is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC and chairman of the opposition Workers’ Party, spoke of how the ruling People’s Action Party “infiltrates every aspect of life” here in Singapore, including sports.
“The PAP wants Singaporeans to be dependent on them. But there is more than enough talent in the private sector to drive things,” Ms Lim said in her speech in Jalan Besar. “In fact, Singapore may be able to achieve better results if the PAP would get out of certain areas.”
She then cited the example of the FAS and how it had been headed by political appointees who were invariably PAP MPs, even as the standards and performance of Singapore football “nosedived”.
Here is the extract of her speech (watch from 4.20 minutes onwards):
Thirdly, the WP differs from the PAP because we do not think that the government should infiltrate every aspect of life. The PAP obviously thinks that they should control everything.
The PAP places government representatives in all areas of Singapore life, including sports, business and professional groups.
The PAP wants Singaporeans to be dependent on them. But there is more than enough talent in the private sector to drive things. In fact, Singapore may be able to achieve better results if the PAP would get out of certain areas.
Let’s take sports. Since we are in Jalan Besar GRC, let’s talk about football!
In the early days of Singapore’s nationhood, the Singapore football team was a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. Can you imagine that in 1966, Singapore was 4th in the Asian Games, behind only Burma, Iran and Japan? 4th in the whole of Asia, not just South East Asia!
In the 1970s, the whole nation was rivetted behind our “Boys in Blue” in their quest to win the Malaysia Cup. Everyone had football fever, not just the usual soccer fans, but even grandmothers and housewives too. I remember as a young child, diligently cutting out newspaper articles and pictures of our footballers, and keeping my own scrap book. We fought so hard and mightily, and had bitter disappointments. But finally, in 1977, Singapore beat Penang 3-2 to become Malaysia Cup champions. And I am so proud that the man who headed home the winning goal is here with us tonight, as my personal driver!
In those days, the Football Association of Singapore was headed by people who were not politicians. They were passionate about the game, and relied on their own networks to bring in coaches and technical expertise. They even poured in their own money at times to achieve their dreams.
Where is Singapore soccer today?
According to the rankings by football’s world governing body, FIFA, Singapore dropped from no. 70 in the world in 1993 to a new low this year of 157. We are classified by FIFA as one of the “worst movers” down the rankings. What went wrong?
The FAS Constitution states that all council members shall first be appointed by a government minister before being confirmed by election. For the last 20 years, the Minister has placed a PAP MP in charge of the football association. Looking at how our rankings have nose-dived over the last 20 years, is this policy working? The Sports Minister should be committing hara kiri!
I am not belittling the efforts of our current footballers and coaches. It’s the structure I’m questioning.
Now FIFA has been critically looking at the structure of FAS, as it believes officials of football associations should be freely elected. Just 2 days ago, on September 1st, FIFA told our FAS to put their internal elections on hold over possible government interference.
It is embarrassing that it takes an international body to highlight a problem that has been simmering for so long. It is time for Singaporeans to take charge of what we care about. Let our passion take us to greatness. We have done it before, and we can do it again!
Power has made the PAP more and more arrogant. They think they can tell us who should represent us – not just in Parliament, but also in sports, and even in business groups and the professions. They want to control every aspect of life. If we become totally dependent on the PAP, how can Singapore be a dynamic nation?
This election, we must bring the power back to the people. Send a strong message to the PAP that Singaporeans want to be free from their arrogance, their control, and their threats.