Tag Archives: Low Lin Fhoong

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.

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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.”

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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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What, yet another start-from-scratch foreign club in our S-League?

The report:

The report below appeared in today’s edition of TODAY:

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Get ready for some French flair

(TODAY, 19 January 2010)

FAS boss banking on new addition Etoile to bring ‘excitement’ to the S-League

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Football fans here may well be chanting “Allez les Bleus!” when the 2010 Great Eastern-Yeo’s S-League season kicks off on Feb 1, with the addition of French side Etoile FC to the competition.

Etoile and China’s Beijing Guo’an were officially confirmed yesterday as the final two teams to contest the coming S-League season, after both clubs met Football Association of Singapore (FAS) requirements, including bankers’ guarantees of about $500,000 each.

Etoile, who say their entire playing squad will be made up of French nationals, will be based at the Queenstown Stadium, while the Chinese side will operate out of Yishun Stadium.

No Europe-based club has featured on the S-League roster since its launch in 1996, and with possible signings like former Cameroon defender Lucien Mettomo, the S-League could be a different ball game this year. Mettomo, a former Manchester City, Southampton and Kaiserslautern player who holds dual French and Cameroonian citizenship, is in the club’s sights but the 32-year-old will need to pass a medical test first.

Speaking to the media yesterday, FAS president Zainudin Nordin said he expected both teams to “finish in the top half, making them among the strongest foreign sides we’ve had in our league so far”.

“When you have a team from Europe, there’s an injection of excitement, which is the value they will bring,” said Zainudin. “Having Etoile FC, and new players signed (by the other clubs), we’re looking to more people coming to watch the games.”

Comprising a mix of young and experienced players, including footballers currently competing in first and lower division leagues in England, France and Spain, Etoile are looking to rally the French community here to fill the 2,000-seater Queenstown Stadium.

“The key is to sign decent players and bring up the standard of the S-League,” said Etoile FC chief executive officerJohan Gouttefangeas.

“We will work through the embassy, the French school, French chamber of commerce, Alliance Francaise, all the major companies here.

The French Ambassador is helping us with this.”

Filling the trophy cabinet is one of Etoile’s targets, but Gouttefangeas warned that adapting to the heat and humidity here initially could be a stumbling block for the 22-man squad.

“It’s -5 to -10 degrees in France currently, so it’s going to take some time,” he said. “But they have to and that will take a couple of weeks.”

Jita Singh, the FAS’ senior head, game development, who watched the team in training in Aignon last month, is confident that Etoile will be a hit.

“They have the potential to be in the top five,” he told MediaCorp.

“If they’re able to capture the audience and if they’re able to adjust and counter local tactics, then perhaps they may make an impact this year itself.”

S-league 2010 line-up

SAFFC, Tampines Rovers, Gombak United, Home United, Geylang United, Albirex Niigata, Young Lions, Woodlands Wellington, Sengkang Punggol, Balestier Khalsa, Etoile FC, Beijing Guo’an

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To be honest, when I first read it, I immediately had my apprehensions. And my feelings of concern had nothing to do with the report’s cheesey and presumptuous headline and opening paragraph.

My first thoughts when I found out that French side Etoile FC, one of two latest foreign clubs to join the S-League were “Oh no, not another start-up football club?”

Unlike Albirex Niigata and Beijing Guoan, the other new S-League foreign entrant, Etoile does not have a parent club in the French football league to tap players from.

Instead, it will be made up of players from, according to their CEO Johan Gouttefangeas, from the lower divisions of the English, French and Spanish league.

Thing is,  is that a workable model?

Remember Sporting Afrique? It was a start-up operation which saw a whole bunch of African footballers being signed to form a club to compete in the 2006 S-League as one of the competition’s foreign clubs.

Unfortunately, its S-League adventure lasted only one season but what a colourful and controversial season it was. The club found itself mired in all sorts of controversies away from the field including salary disputes.

The club also finished ninth in its first season, well below the top-three position that it had promised.

Of course, it didn’t help matters that Sporting was constantly losing its top players who were sold by its management whenever an interested overseas club came a-calling. Not surprisingly, the FAS called time on Sporting’s participation in the S-League after just one season.

You can read more about Sporting’s misadventures here.

Sporting aside, we have seen how other previous start-ups like Sinchi, Liaoning and even the Super Reds in their debut season failed to get it all together, and ended up being more of an embarrassment to the S-League than an  asset as they floundered about at the bottom half  of the table.

So let’s just hope that the players that Etoile gets are of a quality that will be higher than that of reigning champions Singapore Armed Forces FC, Home United, Tampines Rovers and for that matter, Gombak United.

If not, then really, what is the point of having a team made up of European players if they are not able to challenge for the title or a top-three spot at the minimum in their debut system?

How does that raise the standard of the S-League?

In that sense, Brunei’s DPMM was a breath of fresh air to the S-League last year as they were truly a tenacious and quality sidfe. They had a good coach, good foreign signings and the bulk of their local players were Brunei internationals.

They were so surprisingly good that they even won silverware (the League Cup) in their first season. And they would have finished second had they not been barred from playing in the S-League by Fifa.

Now that’s the sort of INSTANT IMPACT I am expecting to Etoile, none of that sit-on-the-fence “finish in the top half” predictions that are being made, thank you very much.

To be fair to Etoile, I will not expecting any great results or performances from it in the first three weeks as their players struggle to adapt to the humidty and tropical weather.

But once they acclimatise, expect my scrutiny on them to be even more intense. Because at the end of the day, these foreing clubs are still getting public money from the FAS to help subsidise their operating costs.

Likewise, I hope the local media will do the same.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Shocker: A possible new challenger to SAA president Loh Lin Kok emerges…

The report:

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I glanced at the front cover story of TODAY.

In an exclusive, the morning freesheet reported that Cheah Kim Teck, the former national relay sprinter and current chief executive officer of Jardine Cycle & Carriage, could emerge as a surprise candidate to challenge Loh Lin Kok for the presidency of the beleaguered and embattled Singapore Athletic Association.

What a surprising twist in the long-running saga that is Singapore athletics.

Some people may dismiss the story as pure speculation since Cheah himself opted not to comment when contacted.

However, I feel that there has to be some gfrain of truth to the report for it to become a Page One story. And as the saying goes, there is  usually no smoke without fire.

To me, the key word and thus the key paragraph in the story was this:

MediaCorp understands Mr Cheah Kim Teck (picture), former national sprinter turned corporate top boss, is set to throw his hat into the controversial ring…

The word ‘understand’ is usually a journalistic trick employed by reporters to indicate that they have confirmed a piece of news with several reliable sources. However, they would have to use the word ‘understand’ But because the key figure in the story is not confirming anything. Notice though that the key figure, in this case Cheah, is NOT DENYING the rumour either.

How fun. It means we can expect some fireworks in the run-up to the SAA elections in June.

Now it remains to be seen whether the bulk of the 21 affiliates to the SAA, who hold the voting rights, and whose main officials  have for years been well rewarded by the current regime, will continue to support  Loh.

For at the end of the day, announcing the emergence of a new challenger is only one small piece of the puzzle. Whether the new contender can turn the bulk of the affiliates and get them to support him is another story altogether.

Here’s the report in case you’ve missed it today:

The right combination (TODAY, 4 Jan 2010)

Could former sprinter’s mix of talents be enough to save SAA?

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Under fire in recent weeks for the lack of success from Singapore’s track and field athletes, veteran sports administrator Loh Lin Kok now faces the biggest challenge yet to his long-time position as president of the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA).

MediaCorp understands Mr Cheah Kim Teck (picture), former national sprinter turned corporate top boss, is set to throw his hat into the controversial ring.

The 57-year-old chief executive officer of Jardine Cycle & Carriage’s motor operations, some are convinced, is the man to rescue the SAA from the doldrums and restore its tarnished reputation, especially after the dismal SEA Games track-and-field showing in Laos last month.

Former sprint king C Kunalan is one who believes in his former teammate – who, along with Godfrey Jalleh and Ong Yeok Phee, made up the 1974 Asian Games quartet that set the national record of 3min 10.55sec in the 4x400m relay in Tehran.

“As an athlete, he will have the welfare of the whole sport in mind, and he has the heart to carry the sport forward,” said the 67-year-old.

“He’ll bring back the faith of all those who want to work for athletics. Right now, everybody is staying away and they don’t want to come forward and help because they are disillusioned. Kim Teck will motivate the fraternity into action.”

When contacted yesterday, Mr Cheah declined comment. But sources confirmed – and the track-and-field community has been abuzz with – his anticipated challenge to Mr Loh at the SAA’s upcoming annual general meeting which must be held by June.

Mr Loh, 62, has held the top post in SAA since 1982, except for a two-year period from 2004 when Mr Tang Weng Fei was at the helm.

At last month’s SEA Games in Laos, only men’s discus thrower James Wong and women’s shot put ace Zhang Guirong won gold medals out of a total of 45 athletics events.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, lamented the fact that athletics was not pulling its weight in terms of success, while Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean urged the leadership in the SAA and the fraternity to undergo a “self-examination”.

Mr Cheah’s sporting background and business acumen has impressed some as being the combination the association needs.

As a runner, he was part of the medal-winning quartets at the 1969 and 1973 Seap Games. These days, besides overseeing his company’s motor operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, he sits on several boards including that of Singapore Totalisator and Mapletree Logistics Trust Management, with senior marketing experience in several MNCs on his resume.

Wings Athletic Club president Melvin Tan, who coached all four runners in the record-breaking 4x100m relay team that won silver in Vientiane last month, said: “His business connections will definitely be of help as associations now need to be run differently, in a more corporate and business-like way.

“A person of his position can do a lot more for the sport. And the fact that he wants to come in and serve shows that he is passionate about track and field.”

Mr Cheah is not the only veteran that could make a comeback in athletics. Mr Kunalan, now a National Institute of Education assistant professor, is not ruling out a return to the sport.

“Previously, I used to say that I was busy with work … but now, I may consider it as there seems to be an urgent need as we’ve reached a stage where more help is needed,” he told MediaCorp.

Mr Loh has been challenged four times during his tenure, twice each by fellow lawyer Mr Edmond Pereira (1983, 2000) and former SAA vice-president Mr Steven Lee (2002, 2006). Mr Kunalan was part of Mr Lee’s losing election team in 2006.

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Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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