Monthly Archives: March 2010

The SAA — Two-faced, divided within its own ranks, or just confused and talking bollocks?

The report #1:

These two reports, in response to Singapore Athletic Assocation chief executive officer Steven Yeo’s assessmentof the standard of youth athletics in Singapore,  were published in TODAY over the past week.

The first, a commentary by sports editor Leonard Thomas, came out on Saturday (27 March), while the second appeared in today’s edition. Here is Leonard’s commentary:

A programme in tatters

(TODAY, 27 March 2010)

Steven Yeo’s assessment of young athletes a wake-up call for SAA’s technical team

By Leonard Thomas

After nine months in the job Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief executive officer Steven Yeo’s view, that track and field in the country will be in the doldrums for some years to come, is depressing.

If his dire forecast was meant to be a warning for technical director C Veeramani and his team of coaches at the association, then I hope they get the message.

Yeo issued the damning indictment on the state of track and field at junior level in an interview with The Straits Times last week.

The 16 athletes shortlisted for the Youth Olympic Games are well short of the benchmarks set by the SAA, and he bemoaned the lack of talent coming through the ranks.

Yeo predicted Singapore will struggle to make an impact in athletics at the SEA Games and Asian Games based on the strength of the current generation of young sprinters, jumpers and throwers.

It brings into sharp focus the role SAA’s technical department has been playing in developing young track and field talent in Singapore.

Veeramani and his team are responsible for shaping a programme to first, ensure mass participation, then identify potential and finally, give the handpicked youngsters every chance possible to eventually get to the top.

It is not working out.

Ironically, less than two years ago, SAA chief Loh Lin Kok predicted a bright future for the sport.

In an interview with Today in November 2008, he claimed the SAA had embarked on a programme to develop local talent, both for athletes and coaches.

The programme actually started in 2005, according to Loh, and at the time he said the results were already beginning to show.

Sixteen months on, the programme has collapsed, if Yeo’s assessment is correct.

The programme could have been affected, as SAA’s funding from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) has been frozen for FY2009/10.

But SSC have always maintained that athletes with talent will not suffer and they would help them individually.

If the SAA had identified the athletes being groomed as worthy of financial support, and recommended them to the SSC, they should still be on the radar.

Maybe Yeo’s withering comments on the production line of track and field was timed to send a wake-up call to the talent scouts in his association.

Singapore have talented youngsters in track and field.

Discus thrower Alan Teh has promise. The 17-year-old from Hwa Chong Institution College bettered his personal best of 47 metres (discus, 1.5kg) with a heave of 49.96m to win gold at the inaugural Asean Schools Games last July in Supanburi, Thailand.

He has been undefeated at schools’ level since 2006, when he set the championship record of 47.23m in the ‘C’ Division.

Sprinters Shanti Pereira and Eugenia Tan, both 13 and from the Singapore Sports School, did well enough at the Wala Championships last weekend in Perth to suggest they could go on to greater things.

Shanti clinched the bronze in the under-14 200m with a time of 25.84sec, going under her own national under-15 record of 26.03s set last August.

Eugenia finished fourth in the 100m for under-14, clocking a new personal best of 12.23s. The time is faster than the national under-15 (12.74s), under-17 (12.39s) and junior (12.26s) records.

Shahrir Mohd Anuar, 17, from Raffles Institution College, clocked 10.90s at last year’s Inter-School Track-and-Field Championships, a new record in the boys’ ‘B’ Division.

I am sure all of them will disagree with Yeo.

Indeed, track and field is one of the most popular sports at schools’ level, there are always at least a couple of raw gems in every cohort.

The SAA are set for a leadership battle, with Tang Weng Fei taking on Loh in elections that must be held by June.

Whoever comes out on top, it is crucial he installs a top-class youth development programme quickly.


My thoughts:

Bravo, Leonard Thomas.

I thought Leonard’s piece was a brilliant way of turning Yeo’s assesment into an indictment of the SAA’s own technical (in)abilities and its youth development programme (or apparent lack of one).

Yeo said youth standards are appalling, that it would take a generation before Singapore can produce a batch of athletes able to compete at  SEA or Asian Games level.

Leonard says very astutely: “Oh dear, Steven’s assessment shows that the SAA technical department, tasked in 2005 to come out with a programme to ensure mass participation and subsequently, the identification of promising talent, has failed in its duties.”

And he cleverly points out that Yeo’s comments are also a contradiction of SAA president Loh Lin Kok’s declaration in 2008 that the SAA’s youh development programme is starting to bear fruit.

Which begs the question: who is telling the truth here? Yeo or Loh?

Here’s the other point to ponder: How can the SAA move forward if the president and the chief executive officer are failing to agree on whether the association’s own youth development programme is working or not.

Someone has clearly put his foot in his mouth in this instance. I am having a hard time deciding who it is. 

The report #2

The second report is essentially a response by the track and field community to Yeo’s comments.

And the consensus is this: Yeo is talking bollocks. Here’s the report:

No shortage of talent

(TODAY, 31 March 2010)

Track and field fraternity confused as SAA sendout mixed signals

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Less than two weeks ago, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief executive officer Steven Yeo sounded an ominous warning for the sport, when he said the poor standard of track and field at youth level meant Singapore would probably do little at the SEA Games and Asian Games for at least one generation.

Yesterday, various media reports claimed the association was targeting 13 medals at the 2013 SEA Games.

The SAA would be introducing coaching clinics, more local events, and would set up two Centres of Excellences in Temasek Polytechnic and Gombak Stadium, in a bid to achieve the target.

Nine athletes – including sprinters Ng Chin Hui, 16, and Shahrir Mohd Anuar, 17, and 21-year-old thrower Wan Lay Chi – were identified as potential medallists in 2013.

Many in the fraternity were taken aback by the latest development.

“First they shoot themselves in the foot, because they are responsible for nurturing talent … now, they say they can produce 13 medals and sprinters like Shahrir are not even in their Youth Olympics list,” said an industry insider.

“These new plans … It’s just old wine in a new bottle,” added the source.

Yeo, who joined the SAA in mid-2009, had lamented the lack of talent coming through the ranks, after revealing that the Youth Olympic Games qualifying times and distances posted by the 16-member shortlisted squad were well below the marks set by the SAA.

Junior athletes were required to compete in the All-Comers Meet in January and February, and the National Junior Championships, with the average performances benchmarked against the 10th-placed results from the last three IAAF World Youth Championships.

Veteran thrower and nine-time SEA Games gold medallist James Wong, Singapore’s chef-de-mission for the inaugural Youth Olympics, said: “Of course it’s a surprise to hear the news … we have some raw diamonds who are untapped, and we just need good craftsmen to polish them, but I don’t think we have that.”

At last year’s SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos, Singapore’s athletes won just three medals – gold in women’s shot put and men’s discus, silver in men’s 4x100m relay – from 45 events.

SAA chief Loh Lin Kok and his management team were heavily criticised for the performance.

Yeo’s comments about the lack of talent among the young athletes was rebuffed by local developmental coaches.

“We have many talented youngsters, just go down to the schools and look … we have a 13-year-old boy doing 39-plus seconds in the 300m,” said veteran coach Loh Chan Pew, who guided the national women’s 4x100m relay team to a new national mark in 2007.

Added schools coach Tan Wei Leong: “I don’t think it’s fair to say there’s no talent. It’s not only the Sports School that’s producing athletes, but all the schools.

“We always have youth athletes doing well at regional events like the Asean Schools Championships, and even Hwa Chong Institution throwers like Scott Wong and Alan Teh are doing well …

“The problem is that the mismanagement in the administration has caused athletes to lose interest.”


My thoughts:

Firstly, I am glad that TODAY has given the track and field community the opportunity and platform to respond to Yeo’s comments.

And secondly, I am glad that increasingly, they are not holding back on their criticism and are no longer afraid of any repurcussions to their athletes,or to themselves, if they should speak up. 

Secondly,  I completely agree with the views of the community. 

I’ve been following the youth athletics scene for a long time, way before May 2008, which was when I first started this blog. And I can safely say that the scene has never looked brighter.

We have in our midst a small but growing army of young boys and girls who have the ability to become future regional champions in athletics.

You want some names? Well then, let me invite you to click on any name you see in my tag cloud, and chances are, you will find loads of information about their achievements at local, national and even international level.

The SAA should count itself fortunate to have so many budding talents, despite their poor efforts at youth development, and at properly grooming and devleoping these talents.

In fact,I think it augurs well for track and field in Singapore that these talents have managed to sprout in spite of the SAA.

And this is all thanks not just to the Singapore Sports School but also to the dedicated, passionate and hardworking coaches out there, slaving long hours in the sun to groom their charges.

So shame on you, SAA, for not knowing what you are talking about.

And double the shame on you trying to pass off the development of the youth athletes as something you are undertaking when it is clear that they have come up inspite of your ineptitude and lack of action for a long time.

When you want to talk the talk about unity in the track and field community, all working together to raise the standards of athletics in Singapore, please, walk the talk yourselves first.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan 

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Sports School founding principal Mr Moo Soon Chong dies after two-year battle with cancer, my condolences to his family

The reports:

I’ve reproduced two reports on the passing away of Mr Moo Soon Chong, the founding principal of the Singapore Sports School.

One of them is from The Straits Times, and the other from Lianhe Zaobao, which I edited after getting it translated through Google.

I did this becaue I felt the two reports, when combined together, help to give the full flavour of the man and the extent of his massive impact on Singapore sport.

Truly, Singapore sport owes a huge debt to Mr Moo for all he has done to enable young sporting talents to realise their sporting dreams without having to sacrifice their studies. Without his vision, there would be no Sports School today, and no emergence of some of the brightest young sporting talents that we have witnessed in the past four years.

I would like to express my deepest condolences to his family.


Sports School’s founding principal dies of cancer

(The Straits Times, 17 March 2010)

He was a pioneer in creating a curriculum to nurture student-athletes

By Yeo Shang Long

THE founding principal of the Singapore Sports School, Mr Moo Soon Chong, died yesterday morning, about two years after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Moo, who had celebrated his 63rd birthday last month, saw through the first batch of students at the Sports School before retiring in January 2008. He became ill shortly after.

It was his passion for nurturing talent in sports alongside schoolwork that perhaps made Mr Moo the ideal candidate to lead the Sports School.

In 1994, at a time when other educators were focused on academics, he, as the principal of Anglican High, pioneered a flexible curriculum that accommodated the training needs of student-athletes.

A table tennis player in his schooldays, he once explained that the Sports School was set up as many schools found it difficult to make concessions for student-athletes to pursue their sporting and academic goals together.

‘We are here to develop a student who can compete successfully in the international sporting arena and can handle the academic rigours of Singapore’s education system,’ he said.

Dr Irwin Seet, who worked with Mr Moo as director of sports at the school from its opening in 2004, remembers Mr Moo as ‘a visionary who dared to take up the challenge of setting up the Sports School’.

During his term as principal, the school produced three world champions, two Asian Games gold medallists, two South-east Asian Games gold medallists and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

Sailor Joel Pang, 19, a Sports School alumnus, said he would remember Mr Moo as ‘a mentor and a fatherly figure’ who made a difference by putting the needs of students first.

After Mr Moo retired, he worked as an education consultant and director of Yellowbox Education Services, which he set up with his son Errol.

He is survived by his wife and two sons. 

A funeral service will be held today at 8pm at Sengkang Methodist Church.


 “Former Sports School and Anglican High principal dies”

(Lianhe Zaobao, 17 March 2010)

Mr Moo Soon Chong, the founding principal of the Singapore Sports School, died in his home yesterday morning after a lengthy battle with colon cancer and liver disease, He was 63.

Mr Moo and his wife had two sons. His eldest, Errol Moo, 35, revealed that the doctors had originally given his father  just nine months to live after diagnosing him with cancer in 2008. However, Mr Moo battled the disease for two years.

Said Errol: “Our family prayed daily for my father and thanked God every day for the blessings He gave to him.”

Mr Moo seemed to have battled his cancer successfully at first. After undergoing chemotherapy, scans in June 2009 showed that the cancer cells had been wiped out.  

“We were, of course, very happy when we received the news,” said Errol. “Unfortunately, another scan five months later showed that the cancer had returned aggressively.”

Errol added that Mr Moo spent the last few months playing with his 14-month-old grand-daughter, and had even seemed better during this last week.

“We are just grateful that we managed to share many good times as a family during these last two years,” he said. “I am also glad that my father got to see his grand-daughter grow. In fact, he even managed to take her swimming in January.

“He also went on many overseas trips with my mother.

Errol said that Mr Moo’s cancer was not the reason for his retirement as Sports School principal at the end of 2007.

“He felt it was time to step down because he had finally found his successor in Mrs Deborah Tan. Also, the school’s students had been doing well in international competitions,” he said.

“When (swimmer) Tao Li won the women’s 50m butterfly at the 2006 Asian Games, my father started to think that his task at the Sports School was more or less done, and that it was time for him to start preparing to retire.”

Sports School business manager Bernard Tan said he was shocked by the news of Mr Moo’s death. “It was just last April that Mr Moo came back to the school for its fifth anniversary celebrations. We even organized a tree-planting event for him,” he said.

“And he sounded quite strong when I spoke with him on the phone three weeks back. Some of my colleagues and me were hoping to visit him during Chinese New Year but he said it wasn’t convenient. Infact, we were hoping to visit him next week.”

Sports School academic dean Raymond Mak said Mr Moo was a father figure to him. “What I respected most about him was his courage to take risks,” said Mak who was a teacher at Anglican High when Mr Moo was still the principal at the school.

“Setting up the Sports School was a huge challenge but he rose to it. He has been a role model to me. I owe him too much.”


Rest in peace, Mr Moo.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Baihakki and Ridhuan’s insincere and defensive apologies are the most pathetic attempts at saying sorry I’ve ever heard

The report:

This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times. My observations appear after the report. Do note the ‘interesting’ parts that I have highlighted.


Please don’t make us scapegoats: Baihakki

(The Straits Times, 12 March 2010)

By Wang Meng Meng

BAIHAKKI Khaizan and Ridhuan Muhamad, the two national footballers at the centre of the latecoming controversy in Jordan, have apologised for their transgressions.

Baihakki, who plays for Indonesia Super League club Persija, said: ‘I am sorry to the coach and my teammates for being late. I didn’t do it on purpose.’

Arema Malang right-winger Ridhuan also issued an apology. But he explained the circumstances leading up to Lions coach Raddy Avramovic filing a report on the duo’s tardiness, which kept their teammates waiting for seven minutes on the team bus that was to take them for their Asian Cup qualifier against Jordan.

The 25-year-old said: ‘I wanted to apologise to the guys when I was on the bus but Raddy’s stern look scared me.’

Baihakki, a defender, added: ‘I wasn’t trying to be arrogant or act like a superstar. When I boarded the bus, Raddy was staring at Ridhuan and me. The way he stared at us was as if he wanted to eat us.

‘That’s why Ridhuan and I quickly sat down and kept quiet. I blocked the incident out of my mind immediately as I wanted to focus totally on the big match.’

With the two players, who were roommates in Amman, likely to face disciplinary action, Baihakki, 26, hopes that he will not be held responsible for the 1-2 defeat that ended Singapore’s hopes of qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup Finals.

He said: ‘I’m prepared to face the disciplinary committee. I will explain my side of the story. But don’t use this case to drop me. Don’t destroy my international career over seven minutes. Please don’t make Ridhuan and me the scapegoats for the defeat. We lost to a hungrier team.’

Avramovic has decided on the duo’s fate, but he declined to reveal his verdict for now.

Baihakki lamented that the issue came to light after Singapore’s loss, saying: ‘When we lose, big and small issues will start to come out. But when we win, everything looks so nice.’

Ridhuan, meanwhile, believes that he is a target of envy. He said: ‘Maybe, some people don’t like us. Just because Baihakki and I play in Indonesia, some people think we’re big-headed.

‘Honestly, we are still the same guys. We want to win for Singapore as much as everybody else


My thoughts:

I’ve made up my mind: Baihakki Khaizan and Muhammad Ridhuan should not be made scapegoats for Singapore’s 1-2 loss to Jordan which ended the Lions’ hopes of qualifying for next year’s Asian Cup. The team’s failure was a collective one. Besides, we just weren’t good enough against Jordan.

But nevertheless, Baihakki and Ridhuan should be axed from the Lions’ squad,  regardless.

Just look at their sorry excuse of an attempt at an apology, and ask yourselves: are these the sort of players we want in the national team?

In their own words, they didn’t apologise to the team for being late because they were scared of Raddy Avramovic. They were intimidated by his black face, and so they kept quiet.

So, was that a valid excuse for not apologising subsequently?

Let’s call a spade a spade.

If you are not man enough to stand up and admit you are wrong, even when you are fearful of the coach, then honestly, what sort of person are you? And how does that make you fit to be a Lion?

What was to stop them, while the bus was making its way to the stadium in Amman, to ask team manager Eugene Loo if they could have permission to apologise to the team for their tardiness?

Nothing, right? At most, if it had been rebuffed, they still could have said they tried to apologise.

What was to stop them from apologising in the locker room before the game? Wouldn’t that have done wonders for team unity minutes before the game?

Instead, they opted not to apologise, and in Baihakki’s words, tried to block the incident from their minds.

Which means they didn’t take into account the possibility that their teammates could have been resentful of their poor discipline en route to the stadiujm, Not very good for team unity, right?

And they only chose to apologise several days after the match, upon hearing about Avramovic’s  decision to report their ill-discipline to the FAS.

In that light, their apologies don’t seem terribly sincere after all.

But what was most revealing was what these two clowns said to pad up their attempt at an apology.

Please don’t make us scapegoats, said Baihakki.

Also, he asked, why is it that when the Lions lose,m the big and small issues come out?

So is this what you think it is all about, Baihakki? That everyone is looking for a scapegoat?

Hasn’t it occured to you that your ill discipline, on the day of the big match, was unforgivable in itself?

And here’s another question: do you think your lateness is a big or a small issue?

If  it is a big issue, then why are you apologising only now?

And if it is a small issue, then what does it say about you? Is lateness really such a small issue?

Ridhuan was even better. After attempting to apologise, this clown of a footballer says “Maybe some people don’t like us. Just because Baihakki and I play in Indonesia, some people think we are big-headed.”

The moment he said that, I knew his apology had no sincerity in it.

So is this you think this hoo-hah is all about, Ridhuan? Jealousy?

What about respect for the team and your teammates? Isn’t that the issue here?

And aren’t you supposed to be a professional footballer in Indonesia now?

If so, then how is it that you can be so unprofessional in your behaviour in the Singapore jersey?

Doesn’t playing for one’s country deserve a higher level of professional conduct?

I am flabbergasted at these two clowns. And I have had enough of them. Their attempt at an apology is a sheer insult to the Lions, to Avramovic, and to us long-suffering die-hard fans.

Please, Raddy, axe them.

They do not deserve to have the five stars and crescent on their chests from now on.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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