Remember Goal 2010?
It was an objective set by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1998 for the Singapore national team to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
In his 1998 National Day rally, Goh pointed to then-World Cup Winners France’s multinationalism as a possible blueprint for Singapore.
“Last year I told you Singapore would never have a chance in the World Cup because the rules require all players to be citizens. But after watching the French victory, I have changed my mind.”
Well, as you know, Singapore did not make it to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Nor 2014. Nor 2018.
But we might just do it in 2034.
The later the better
In an interview with The Straits Times, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Vice-President Edwin Tong said that qualifying for the 2034 FIFA is a “realistic goal”.
“2034 is 15 years away… so you’re looking at boys today who are maybe eight, nine to 14, 15 and if you can cultivate the programme that has that endgame in mind, it will do us a lot of good.”
In reference to the failed 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Tong said “If we’re worried about trying to set up a goal and failing, we’ll never get there. So we have to be realistic about our prospects; we’re not aiming for the next 10 years, but set ourselves a 15-year horizon”.
Echoing Tong’s point, Goh Chok Tong said in a 2001 speech: “Even if we do not succeed in 2010, in the process, we will raise the standard of the game in Singapore. And we can try again in 2014. Eventually, we will get there.”
Will we though? It seems like the strategy is to set a goal so far into the future that Singaporeans will completely forget about it.
But is Tong’s 2034 goal entirely unrealistic?
Currently, only 32 teams can qualify for the World Cup, with only 4 to 5 slots for Asian countries.
But this format will change in 2026, where the number of teams will increase to 48, including 8 slots for Asian national teams.
These four extra slots could offer countries like Singapore an opportunity to play at the most prestigious national football competition.
“We can look at that as a goal. So it’s not unrealistic, but it’s also not easy,” Tong said.
But hey, maybe we should win Thailand first #justsaying
Another possible route to the World Cup would be hosting.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced a few months ago that a few Southeast Asian countries will jointly bid to host the World Cup in 2034. This includes Singapore.
If you don’t already know, countries that host the World Cup automatically qualify for the competition. So, if the bid is successful, Singapore could find itself in the World Cup without actually having qualified for it.
Maybe that should be the 2034 goal.
As a passionate football fanatic, I’d like nothing more than to see a team full of Iced-milo-drinking, Chicken-rice-eating, Singlish-speaking men play against some of the biggest names in football.
I hope that we’ll achieve our 2034 goal, but bated my breath is not.
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