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The Tao Li way to foreign sports talent
Wed, Jan 07, 2009
my paper

I AM a fervent follower of the local sports scene who strongly believes that the current Foreign Sports Talent (FST) Scheme needs some fine-tuning.

In sports such as table tennis and badminton, the respective associations field teams made up wholly of FSTs. In football, teams with a majority of FSTs are fielded.

Fielding such teams does not benefit local-born sportsmen and sportswomen. It also makes one wonder if sports associations are merely paying lip service to their claim that it is important to develop local talents.

Most FSTs were handpicked by Singapore sports associations when they had reached their teenage years or were older, when their sporting potential was quite obvious. Singapore is therefore accused by other countries of "buying success", which gives little credence to the claim that Singapore "groomed them into champions".

Sports associations are implementing the FST Scheme inappropriately. They should instead follow the examples set by the swimming and bowling associations - which select and groom only Singapore-born athletes - which do
not rely heavily on FSTs.

A 20-per-cent cap on the number of FSTs should also be implemented for all national teams.

The national women's swim team, where Tao Li is the sole FST, is a prime example of how the scheme should work.

She serves as a guide and spur for local female swimmers. This thus fulfils an important aim of the scheme, which is to benefit local-born athletes.

That aside, Tao Li was brought to Singapore at a relatively young age, and has assimilated well into Singapore society.

Consequently, most citizens accept her as one of them. Sadly, the same cannot be said of many other FSTs. Bowling also deserves a note of praise. Despite not having any FSTs, world-champion bowlers like Remy Ong and, more recently, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan, have made their mark.

Mr Calvin Ng


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