The recently concluded 28th SEA Games was a thrilling two weeks of record-breaking performances, sportsmanship and friendships forged.
The remarkable performance of Singapore's athletes - winning a record 84 gold medals and 259 in total - was matched by the slick and state-of-the-art Games the hosts put on, and the turnout of the locals at various events.
Unfortunately, the behaviour of a few, especially when the Singapore Under-23 football team lost to their Indonesian counterparts 1-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium, was an ugly mark.
Tan Chuan-Jin, president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Minister for Family and Social Development, was saddened by the display of some fans, who directed abuse at Singapore coach Aide Iskandar, even singling out his family, along with a couple of players.
"It got a bit ugly," he said, in his post -SEA Games wrap-up posted on SNOC's Facebook page.
"We need to learn to become better supporters."
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, former Singapore star Steven Tan (above) said: "Fan support is important. As players, they should know where the fine line is between constructive criticism and abuse."
Tan, a member of the 1994 M-League double-winning team, said: "If it's abuse, they should just get it over and done with and not let it affect them.
"It is part and parcel of the game to receive both support and criticism. A bit of criticism is good.
"As players, they should know where the fine line is between constructive criticism and abuse, and improve from there."
Of course, if results are not forthcoming, every athlete and coach faces the prospect of a backlash, be it in a team or an individual sport. "It comes with the territory," said former national swimmer Mark Chay.
"But they need to be able to handle it, and to take it in their stride. There will always be great days and not-so-great days for everybody, but they can't let that affect them."
Chay cited an experience during the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, while Singapore and Malaysia were in the middle of a water dispute.
"When the Singaporean contingent came in, the Malaysian fans booed us. But we still had to go out there and perform."
Today, when social media is an increasingly popular medium of communication, negative opinions are amplified, and it takes a while for them to subside.
"The negative social media presence is admittedly worse now than when I was active, but athletes also have so much more support," said Chay, 33.
"The athletes are young, and this is a great learning process. If they want to play at this level, then it is a good mental preparation for the future."
Former national footballer Rafi Ali, another member of the 1994 team, says football is unique as it raises passion to a new level.
"It's the beauty of the game, and you can't change either the support or the criticism," said Rafi.
"What fans could do is to remember that the players are human too, and therefore have feelings. They have worked so hard and they don't want bad results, either."
This article was first published on June 23, 2015.
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