A reader, angkujupi, has asked me about my thoughts about Taiwanese pool player Wu Chia-ching’s about-turn in wanting to take up Singapore citizenship. He was referring to this report which appeared in The Straits Times last Saturday:
Deal is off for Taiwan pool ace
(The Straits Times, 15 May 2010)
It looks like world champion will not be taking up Singapore citizenship after all
By Terrence Voon
A YEAR after announcing his decision to become a Singapore citizen with much fanfare, Taiwan’s double world pool champion Wu Chia-ching appears to have changed his mind.
The former pool prodigy failed to turn up for appointments to finalise his citizenship last month, and has demanded better terms for his playing contract as a foreign sports talent.
This, after braving media backlash in Taiwan and repeatedly stating his desire to represent Singapore.
His recent actions have angered Cuesports Singapore, which had welcomed the player here and backed his application for citizenship. They have now decided that enough is enough.
“We do not want prima donnas in our team,” Cuesports Singapore president Subhas Anandan told The Straits Times yesterday. “The deal is off. We’re not interested in him any more.”
Nicknamed “Little Genius”, the 21-year-old Wu became a household name in Taiwan after winning the prestigious World 9-Ball Championship and the World 8-Ball Championship at the age of 15.
Last year, he approached Cuesports on the possibility of representing the Republic. After appearing here as a sparring partner for the Singapore team, he announced that he would take up Singapore citizenship – a move that sparked public outcry in his homeland.
Wu submitted his citizenship application last year and this was approved earlier this year.
The first signs of trouble appeared on April 1, when he did not turn up for a scheduled appointment at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority headquarters to finalise his citizenship.
A second appointment was made a week later, but he failed to appear again. Wu – who was based in Shenzhen at the time – later informed Cuesports officials that he was ill and could not travel.
According to Mr Anandan, matters came to a boil recently when the player’s representatives began asking for additional perks. These include getting a bigger cut of any potential sponsorship the player would attract.
When contacted, Wu admitted that his move here had stalled. Negotiations had been difficult because he was now contracted to a company which manufactures pool equipment bearing his name.
“There are some contractual problems which need to be sorted out,” he said in a phone call from Taipei.
“As a player, I want to perform on the international stage. But there is nothing I can do. The company has invested in me, and it is up to them to negotiate with Singapore.”
Two weeks ago, Cuesport sent a registered letter to Wu’s address in Taiwan, asking him to clarify his interest in playing for Singapore. He was given a seven-day deadline to respond after receiving the document.
Wu claims he has not received the letter, but time appears to have run out for the former champion.
Said Mr Anandan: “We would rather concentrate on raising the standards of our local-born players. Pool is a game where we can be as good as powerhouses like Taiwan and the Philippines.
“We just have to be disciplined and train hard.”
Frankly, I’m glad that matters came to an abrupt end at this stage.
In the first place, from all previous media reports, it seems like Wu was motivated more by the prospects of monetary gain of becoming a Singaporean ie the chance to compete in the major Games and world competitions and reap the handsome financial rewards that come with podium finishes.
Considering his pedigree – he is the 2005 World 8-ball and World 9-ball champion — he would have stood a very strong chance of fattening his bank account while in Singapore colours.
Last year, there were also differing reports on how much Wu would be paid to don national colours.
One report said that Cuesports Singapore would pay Wu NT$50,000 a month, or S$2,100, to play for Singapore.
In another, the Taiwan Pool and Billiards Association claimed that Wu was being offered NT$4.6 million (or S$204,000) to play for Singapore.
I don’t know what the true figure is but judging from the amounts being bandied, I assume it would have been a pretty attractive salary regardless.
But subsequently, the TPBA hit back to say that Wu would have to return the NT$900,000 he received as a reward for winning the world title if he became a Singaporean.
He would also be ineligible for the 2010 Asian Games (Singapore offers $250,000 for an Asian Games gold) and barred from playing in the lucrative Taiwan domestic league where top players can rake in up to NT$1 million annually.
So I can see why Wu possibly had second thoughts about taking up Singapore citizenship. He must have done his sums and figured he had more to lose financially in the next two years if he went for the pink IC.
Does this make him a “prima donna”? (which is what angry Cuesports Singapore president Subhas Anandan is now calling him)
I am not sure.
What I am sure about is how much worse we Singaporeans would feel if the 22-year-old Wu becomes a citizen, goes on to win a few major titles in Singapore colours, and then decides after a few years, to give up his citizenship to return to Taiwan.
Can you imagine how that will cheapen the idea of Singapore citizenship if it happens? I can also imagine the sort of despairing hand-wringing and outpouring public indignation it will subsequently spark off.
And honestly, let’s face it: How much sporting pride can we truly derive from an already-accomplished Taiwanese world champion’s future accomplishments in Singapore colours? It’s not as if we played a role in developing his talents.
So as far as I am concerned, this turnaround is a blessing in disguise for Singapore sport.
We have been spared from all the possible pain and emotional despair that would have arisen if Wu gives up his pink IC a few years down the road.
It has also turned the spotlight once again on the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) and shown up its bad points for all to see.
Truly, this has been good news, not bad.
In fact, I think it is cause for celebration, wouldn’t you agree?
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan