A big year for football's cupid, and S'pore sport

He will probably not appreciate the spotlight, but I'd say Bernard Tan is one of the most important people in Singapore sport in 2015.

Along with Edwin Tong, he became Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president in 2013, and the two men are working on a blueprint for the country to bid for the 2019 or 2021 Under-17 World Cup.

Tan, president of the commercial business group ST Kinetics, is also working hard on a plan to grow the base of football-playing youngsters in primary schools.

It is hardly glamorous stuff, but he knows the formula is simple: the more youngsters playing football means the bigger the talent pool, and the better the quality of the national teams at the various age-group levels right up to the seniors.

It applies to every sport.

Quite simply, Tan wants Singapore to return to the days when kids could be spotted playing football even in small grass spaces, on void decks and basketball courts, and when thousands turned up for amateur matches at the Padang, or simple stadiums.

He wants Singaporeans to fall in love with football all over again.

Former Asian sailing champion Dr Benedict Tan is worried that more and more Singaporeans have fallen out of love with sport.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the Nominated MP said the paper chase and schools' obsession with winning meant too few of our young are given the chance to play sport and develop an affinity for football or tennis or badminton or sailing.

The doctor felt the battle for recreational space also restricted Singaporeans from playing sport.

While it was heartening to hear Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, reveal that the number of Singaporeans participating in sport has grown over the last couple of years, when Messrs Bernard and Ben Tan both cite worrying trends in schools, then there clearly are issues to address.

They are serious men who have identified problems and they want to fix it because they want Singapore sport to thrive because know how important it is to the well- being of the country.

I know both men and they hate to fail.

In an interview with The New Paper last October, Bernard cited a survey of 100 primary schools conducted by Sport Singapore's Football Task Force, where it was found that out of 47 per cent of kids who wanted to play football, only 5.9 per cent actually did.

This is a big year for this football-crazy nation as Bernard strives to instal a plan that will begin to positively alter that shocking statistic.

This is a big year for Singapore sport because the South-east Asia Games returns to our shores after 22 years.

Sports Minister Wong said yesterday said it is another tool in the mission to revive Singapore's sports culture.

That means the plan to whip up a fervour in the country cannot be seasonal, meant only for the duration of the Games from June 5 to 16.

From the various promotional activities in the build-up to the SEA Games to the opening ceremony, to ensuring Singaporeans turn up in droves for the athletic contests in June, it must stick in the hearts and minds of the people.

Whole generations have missed out on the SEA Games and the organisers have a tremendous chance to wow, and inspire.

While football's Cupid Bernard Tan goes to work.


This article was first published on January 20, 2015.
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