Monthly Archives: September 2009

The US pulls out of YOG’s swimming competition; and may skip shooting and cycling too

It looks like the US will not be sending its top youth swimmers, cyclists and shooters to next year’s Youth Olympic Games.

According to a report in the news website reachforthewall.com, USA Swimming has decided to sit out the YOG, preferring to send its swimmers to meets to qualify for the senior and junior Pan Pacific Championships next year.

USA Swimming said it volunteered to pull out. However, no snub was intended. 

They decided not to go because of the cap of eight swimmes (four boys and four girls) imposed on each participating country.  They also felt that the YOG was more a ‘world-peace and educational programme’ than it is about ‘high-level compettion’.

The US Olympic Council also revealed that some other national bodies will not be competing at the YOG including cycling and shooting.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Here is the report from reachforthewall.com:

US swimmers to sit out  inaugural Youth Olympics

By Amy Shipley

USA Swimming is devoting unprecedented resources to its youth national team, but you won’t see a single U.S. swimmer in Singapore next August for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, a grand, global event designed to mimic the real Olympic Games for boys between ages 16-18 and girls 15-17.

With the expectation that the first Youth Games would be more about promoting friendship and peace than real competition, and knowing the U.S. Olympic Committee would not be able to send athletes in every sport because of caps on delegation size, USA Swimming offered to sit out the global event, USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said.

“The Youth Olympics … is really set up more as a world-youth peace and educational program than it is as a high-level competition,” Wielgus said. “We went to the USOC and said we would volunteer not to go … We’ve invested heavily in our youth team. We have a four-year plan for our youth team program, and this meet is not part of that plan.”

No snub, Wielgus said, was intended.

Wielgus said USA Swimming would direct its elite youngsters to seek qualification for either the senior Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., in August, or the junior Pan Pacs in Maui, Hawaii. Many youth team members are also expected to compete in the Mel Zajac Jr. Swim Meet next May in Vancouver, B.C.

Even if USA Swimming wanted to participate in the event conceived by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, it would be allowed to send only four boys and four girls in swimming as per rules limiting entrants.

And the USOC, which sent more than 600 participants to the Beijing Summer Games,  is limited to sending a total of about 100 competitors — 70 individual athletes along with two teams.

Cycling and shooting have also decided not to attend.

“We will have some [national governing bodies] that will not be represented, swimming being one of them,” USOC spokesperson Lindsay DeWall said in an e-mail.  “In order to make these difficult decisions, our Sport Partnerships Division worked with each NGB, focusing on their pipeline development. This provided us with greater insight as to which NGBs the [Youth Olympic Games] are more important than others. ”

Last year, USA Swimming allocated $2 million its youth program through 2012 and hired a full-time youth team coach, Jack Roach, to try to increase high-level training and competitive opportunities for its up-and-coming stars.

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The sad and appalling state of local hockey umpiring

Background:

The column below was written by Santokh Singh, a former sports correspondent with The Straits Times, and now a news editor with The New Paper. The column lamented the state of local hockey umpiring and the personal anecdotes that he provided were a real eye-opener.

I was really disturbed not just by his examples of farcical umpiring but also of his description of the eagerness of older players to inimidate and injure upcoming younger players during league matches.

Subsequently, a long-time observer of local hockey wrote in to unveil even more ills about the local hockey scene.

Particulalry telling was his remark that previous Singapore Hockey Federation office -bearers could always be seen at local matches every weekend, and as such, could notice problems at the grassroots level and address them – unlike the current office-bearers who hardly seem to be around.

It just makes you wonder: if we can successfully co-host the Junior Hockey World Cup, then why are umpiring standards at local grassroots level so appallingly farcical?

Or does this reveal something about us? That we care only about succesfully pulling off big marquee events, but don’t bother about the state of things at ground level because there’s no glory to be found there?

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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The column:

Don’t use tournaments as training ground for rookie umpires

(The New Paper, 7 Sept 2009)

By Santokh Singh

IT was with some interest that I read The Straits Times report on parents’ involvement with their children’s sports.

The report had coaches and teachers saying that some Singapore parents get too involved, to the point of confusing the kids with instructions from the sidelines that contradict the coaches or teachers.

Having watched my kids over the past decade, I have seen the best and the worst. And I have tried my best to stay out of my kids’ lives when they are on the field.

But I am beginning to wonder if that is the right approach.

Especially in a sport like hockey, where there is a risk of serious injury when the basic equipment, the hockey stick, can become a dangerous weapon in the hands of unscrupulous characters.

Characters who, in the name of the game, are out to maim rather than entertain.

It is one sport where umpires have to be fully equipped, not only with the rules of the game, but also the confidence to implement them. It is their duty to protect the players and ensure the beauty of the game is enjoyed by all, players and spectators alike.

My sons, now aged 16 and 15, have been fortunate to be trained by some really good coaches, some of whom have trained international teams. Both boys have come a long way in representing their club in the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) Leagues.

 And I had no complaints, or fears for their safety while playing, until recently.

 It started with rumblings on the standard of umpiring at schools’ matches.

 There was a claim that the umpires provided by the SHF for a crucial primary schools’ national match arrived more than an hour late and were not properly attired.

 While one of them blew the whistle in his school uniform (yes, a secondary school student umpired the match), the other, believed to be a more qualified umpire, did her job in a mufti blouse, skirt and slippers! Yes, slippers.

 As one school’s coach put it: ‘It just goes to show how seriously we are taking the game here. We are probably the only country in the world where this happens at an important schools’ national match.

 ‘I have seen umpires coming late so often and then taking a really light attitude, not focusing on the match and not willing to listen and learn.

 ‘Whatever the coaches and teachers teach is being undone on the pitch.’

 But what I witnessed at one of my son’s SHF League matches recently takes the cake.

One umpire was quite obviously a newcomer to the sport. It looked like he was umpiring his first game. And this was in a League match, where young 15-year-olds were up against experienced 30- to 40-year-olds, some of whom seemed hell bent on sending the youngsters to hospital.

Besides the verbal threats being dished out, the swinging of the sticks made my hair stand. And I was some 15m away, in the gallery. I genuinely feared for the kids.

Most of the time, the umpire at one end had to guide the other on the rules of the match, even stopping the game on several occasions to share pointers.

And when he awarded a penalty stroke, he was surprised to find out that his counterpart did not come over to assist him. He had to stop the penalty flicker, call over the umpire and tell him where to stand and what to look out for in the goalkeeper – absolutely appalling for an SHF-sanctioned match.

The comments from the coaches of both teams were telling.

‘It is an accident waiting to happen. I am glad you are here to see for yourself,’ said one.

Added the other cynically: ‘You should have been here yesterday. The umpire was pointing for free hits and penalty corners without blowing his whistle.’

When I asked the more experienced umpire for his views, he said more could be done but asked for some understanding.

‘He is new and learning,’ he said, ‘We all have to start somewhere.’

Okay, but please do not use our children as guinea pigs, especially not in experiments which involve their safety.

The clubs put in a lot of effort in training these players and they pay good money to the federation to enjoy their matches, not come away shivering in fear and not wanting to continue playing the game, as was the case with one of the boys in my son’s team.

Hockey will be the biggest loser if that happens.

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The letter:

Hockey Federation should fix problem

(The New Paper, 19 Sept 2009)

I REFER to the article ‘Don’t use tournaments as training ground for rookie umpires’ by Mr Santokh Singh (The New Paper on Sunday, 6 Sep).

I feel vindicated by the article as I have in the past lamented the shortfall in competency of the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) umpires and the dangers that are posed to the players, especially the younger ones.

I have sounded the alarm at SHF annual general meetings (AGM) and also when I got the chance to share my thoughts with hockey officials. But my words seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Hopefully now, with the article, the SHF will pull up their socks and prevent players from getting injured.

At the last SHF AGM held in June 2009, it was reported that discipline on the field of play is under control. But there are numerous injuries that have gone unrecorded.

Speak to all the participating SHF League officials and coaches and you will know the real state of Singapore hockey.

There are team officials who have written to the SHF regarding the state of umpiring of their games and, instead of getting the umpiring committee to address the issues raised, the SHF seems to be saying that it will take a serious view of players’ behaviour towards umpires.

Unlike previous senior SHF office-bearers who made it a point, weekend after weekend, to be present at the games venues, the present office-bearers seem hardly to be seen.

If the office-bearers are present at the stadium, the problems will not go unnoticed.

I hope the SHF will take these views seriously and act to prevent any casualty in our hockey games.

FROM READER TENG KWANG SIANG 

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The Singapore football fan is speaking up and backing Noh Alam Shah’s blast against the S-League

The letters:

Interestingly, there has been a steady stream of letters to The Straits Times following national skipper Noh Alam Shah’s tirade against the S-League. And most of them do agree with the points he raised about the local domestic football tournament.

Pity then that most of them ended up in the forum section of the online edition of The Straits Times, instead of the print version.

I am highlighting three such letters because I felt that they best elaborate on Alam Shah’s frustrations about playing in the S-League. Maybe Football Association of Singapore president Zainuddin Nordin does not need to ask Alam Shah to show cause for his remarks. He only needs to read all these letters to have a better idea of why the Singapore football fan is rejecting his country’s own league.

Wake up, guys. The public have spoken. Seriously, it’s about time you guys  have a good listen instead of always being on the defensive against criticism. 

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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S-League turning into community league

(The Straits Times, Forum, 14 Sept 2009)

I FULLY support Noh Alam Shah and other S-League players who have seized an opportunity to further their careers overseas. I do not think anyone can accuse them of being disloyal to local football as they have played in the S-League for almost their entire careers, and have always played for the national team when called upon.

Although Alam Shah’s comments on the S-League and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) were very direct, he raised some valid points which I hope the FAS will address.

Direction of S-League: Where is the S-League going? After more than 10 years of the S-League, crowd turnouts are at an all-time low (or near that). Fan interest is waning, and the S-League resembles more a community league than a professional one. Is the FAS really happy with the way things are going? If our national players leave, I think fan turnout for each game will be only in the hundreds.

Players’ careers: How much can a player really improve in the S-League? As a player, you want to test yourself against the best. The Indonesian Super League is able to attract better players simply because of the large budget it has. Good players are offered better pay packets and benefits. A footballer has a limited shelf life, so he has to make the most of his abilities to secure the best for himself and his family. What will the S-League and FAS do to retain their best players, now that they have a serious and attractive rival competing with them on their doorstep?

Living in the past: If we keep gloating about how we are one of the top 10 leagues in Asia, we will get nowhere. Why cannot we strive to be one of the top five leagues in Asia? Even the Vietnam League has caught up with the S-League.

I think ‘poaching’ our star players by other neighbouring leagues is actually a good thing. Competition is always good. Our players will improve their skill levels, and it may finally wake the S-League and the FAS from their slumber.

Lim Teck Meng

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5 reasons Noh Alam Shah is right in criticising S-League 

(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 16 Sept 2009)

I READ with interest the recent comments about the S-League by Noh Alam Shah and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president’s reply asking him to back his claims.

A keen sportsman myself, I was tired of watching very rich and spoiled English Premier League players, so I turned to the S-League four years ago hoping to see good competition and sportsmanship. Never mind that the standard would be lower, but at least it was a league that I hoped was going somewhere.

Unfortunately, I grew more disillusioned as time went by. I am no fan of Alam Shah but frankly, he is absolutely right, and good on him for having the courage to speak out. It is a shame that the FAS president and management seem to be too arrogant or blind to the stagnation of the S-League.

Poor attendance is the result of several factors:

1) Non-competitive teams: The disparity between top and bottom teams is too wide. Tangible support needs to go to the lower teams or their disillusioned supporters will never return.

2) Low standard of players: This is to be expected in a young league in a small country. It can improve only if Singapore is willing to spend money and manage the league professionally. Foreign players and coaches should be of a much higher skill level (and paid accordingly) to bring up the local talent. Second-rate foreign players and coaches are a waste of time.

3) Lack of other entertainment: It need not be fancy, but at least have something pre-match and at half-time. I would rather listen to aspiring Singapore Idols and local musicians than twiddle my thumbs at the break and I’m sure these artists would do it free for the exposure.

4) Poor refereeing: Referees do try their best and one good thing about the S-League is that it’s relatively corruption-free. Unfortunately, these brave men need to have better training and stints overseas to improve. Stamp out the excessive time wasting and fake injuries that delay play and frustrate the fans.

5) Marketing: Perhaps, the FAS can engage some professional sports marketers to think a little more out of the box to create an appealing package and attract more sponsors.

At the end of the day what is lacking is vision, leadership and money.

I hope the Government and FAS can take on the challenge to turn around a league that is not in the Top 10 of Asia right now, but deserves to be, before it’s too late.

Kenneth Ling

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Being in Asia‘s top 10 soccer league is not enough

(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 16 Sept 2009)

THE article, “Alam Shah told to back claims” last Saturday again put the spotlight on the state of affairs of the S-League and our attempts to develop the commercial aspects of the sport.

The success and viability of the S-League would be compromised if spectatorship is dismal and falling. The fans know that and so it is of little comfort for them to be told that the Asian Football Confederation ranked the S-League among the top 10 leagues in Asia.

On the other hand, it is not fair to compare our S-League and fan base with that of other Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, all of which have a much bigger population base.

The changing profile of Singapore’s population, which reflects a growing number and proportion of foreign residents and new citizens from overseas may further retard the growth of our football fan base. This is assuming that these residents have less interest in local football than native Singaporeans.

The fans and spectators are key stakeholders in the S-League. They are also the customers of the S-League. Do we know their profile and their needs? Do the product and services address their needs? How can we increase customer satisfaction levels? Is this what the customers want? Is the demand high enough to sustain the product? When do we pull the product off the shelf?

It is now timely for FAS to address these questions.

Lee Kai Yin 

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