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11-08-2003, 04:39 AM #1
NEWS : Sports foreign talent scheme under review
Backing for PR, citizenship put on hold, says ministry
By Peh Shing Huei
NATIONAL sports associations intending to import talented foreigners have put plans on hold, following a surprise move by the sports ministry.
There will be no approval for citizenship, permanent residence or employment passes for foreign-born sports talent until further notice - not until after this month, at least.
Responding to a query from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Community Development and Sports (MCDS) said yesterday it wants to complete a review of the Foreign Sports Talent scheme, the main avenue through which associations attract foreigners.
The scheme was endorsed by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong five years ago.
The ministry said in its brief e-mail: 'MCDS and the Singapore Sports Council target to complete the review of the policy on foreign athletes by end-November.
'During this review, we are holding off supporting foreign athlete applications so that we can have a fair and transparent approval process for all future applications.'
The sports fraternity was surprised because last month alone, the ministry backed 12 foreign athletes' applications for citizenship after initially rejecting nine of them.
The 12 aree two shot-putters, six basketballers, a table tennis player, a footballer, a water polo player and a chess grandmaster.
Their wait for citizenship ranged from under two years for footballer Agu Casmir, who came from Nigeria, to five years for China-born table tennis player Xu Yan.
The sports associations have balked at the long wait for citizenship, because the athletes cannot participate in major international events.
There is also the risk of athletes being poached by other countries or returning home, as was the case with China hammer thrower Wang Dan.
Said Singapore Amateur Athletic Association president Loh Lin Kok: 'Last month, they were suddenly giving citizenships to everybody. And now they're changing their minds?'
The ministry declined to reveal the number of athletes affected by the temporary freeze.
But The Straits Times learnt that the Singapore Table Tennis Association has had three applications for PR and four for employment passes rejected.
The Singapore Badminton Association's bid for an employment pass for a female shuttler has also been denied.
The Football Association of Singapore is also known to be on the lookout for more foreign talent.
Said Mr Loh: 'Athletics can easily accommodate more foreign talent. But I'm frightened. I don't know when they will change their minds again.'
Since its 1993 launch under the Project Rainbow name, the foreign talent scheme has reaped results.
For example, at last year's Commonwealth Games, foreign talent helped clinch all of Singapore's 12 medals - the Republic's best showing in the Games.
Some in the sports fraternity are concerned the ministry review may bring bad news, as in some curtailing of the talent to be imported.
One sports official said: 'Please just tell us 'yes' or 'no' to foreign talent. We're confused.'
However, Netball Singapore president Ivy Singh-Lim is not worried about fewer foreigners being allowed in, if it comes to that.
She said: 'I'm not against foreigners, but what's the point of imported glory?' she asked.
11-08-2003, 04:39 AM #2
This will change things for Singapore badminton squad!
11-09-2003, 07:32 PM #3
She said: 'I'm not against foreigners, but what's the point of imported glory?'
Actually this is very true.
11-09-2003, 08:58 PM #4
Because hopefully, the rise in standards will encourage more people to stick with that sport. Then young S'poreans will have role models to look up to.
Longer term, those players hopefully will become coaches and strengthen the network for that sport. Maybe yes, imported glory at the beginning, but for small countries, building up an organisation of quality is needed to unearth talent with role models for them to look to (similar to Danish system) for the future.
I could be wrong though...
What I see is this. The move could be due to review because S'pore having only a small population, cannot hope to support a wide range sports (limited population). Therefore a team sport like football in which 11 players are needed, would take a heck of an effort and time to become world class.
Therefore, it would make sense to concentrate on resources and infrastructure development on individual sports, like TT and badminton, which are already popular in that country AND the goals of producing a top class player are reachable in a relatively short space of time.
These sports also have team events (like TC/UC/SC) (actually I do not know about TT) which will contribute to a Nation's sense of pride and support (unlike shotputting, hammer throwing).So politically, the nation will feel more as one for itself.
I would not be surprised if S'pore made a bid for the TC/UC/SC in the future when they have got a team capable of making the final rounds.
Am I making sense or just being a bit crazy?
11-09-2003, 09:02 PM #5
According to my arguments above, then netball will be one of the losers because of needing a team of players.
6 imported players would be needed to win a game.
Badminton only need to import 1 player!!
11-09-2003, 10:04 PM #6
Cheung , your statement is valid. It does make sense. Small country like Spore does need foreign expertise on it.
11-09-2003, 11:07 PM #7
Thank you Cheung for your thoughts on the rationale of Singapore's policy on importing foreign sports talent. To a large extent, I think you are correct, probably the experience in HongKong is somewhat similar.
To start off with, Singapore is a small country with limited resources. Sports have never really featured so prominently until a decade or so ago. Hitherto, academic studies was paramount as getting paper qualifications means a better livelihood for the future. Sports did not pay as well and a sportsman's career is relatively short.
But now that Singapore has acquired First World economic status (based on per capita income), it can look to other areas which can help to gel the nation and make it proud. But with a short history, including sports, to transform the local standards to world class standards will take a long time. So one option is to import foreign talent to help us expedite the process. The other is to provide the carrot by giving out cash incentives accordingly to the level of achievement, culminating to S$1 million for a gold medal at the Olympics.
In badminton, the rationale is to recruit talented teens especially from countries such as China and Indonesia, who can assimilate easier into our culture and way of life, to be trained by imported coaches as well. Older foreign talents are also recruited to train and spar with the national squad. In the process, it is hoped that more locals will take up the sport professionally and don Singapore colours at international events. To be able to do this, they must ultimately become PRs (Permanent Residents) or Singapore Citizens for world-recognized competitions such as the Thomas Cup and the Olympic Games. All other sports are recruiting foreign talent on a similar basis, but most of them recruit adults rather than teenagers with the exception of a few sports such as table-tennis, which probably brought the most glory to Singapore at international events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Southeast Asian Games.
But as Cheung has suggested, with limited resources, Singapore cannot go on recruiting foreigners and give them Singapore Citizenship for each and every sport. There comes a time when we will have to review the situation and this is what the Sports Council is now doing. Certain sports which Singapore thinks it has a chance to be successful at both the regional and international levels, will naturally be given priority. Thankfully, badminton is one of them and with well-laid out plans by the SBA and the inauguration of the Sports School with badminton as one of the selected sports, badminton in Singapore should gain more generous support.
But even in badminton, Singapore has given out a number of citizenships yet it has not reached the desired levels of attainment at regional and world tournament. So a rethink on this subject is necessary. But, even then, Singapore badminton can look forward to a brighter future and parents are now keener to let their children become professional sports people. The SARS experience and other destructive events affecting the world economy and causing widespread unemployment have somewhat changed peoples' attitude towards life and jobs
The pros and cons of recruiting foreign talent have been hotly debated in this forum before and I shall not add more to this. Suffice it to say, not a few of us and our forefathers are migrants to foreign lands for a better future. If we susequently became successful in our chosen areas of endeavour, are we not bringing credit and glory to our adopted countries? Should we exclude sports, badminton?
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