Friday, December 28, 2012

Game Over: Foreign talent sports personalities ditch Singapore for their China motherland

After getting what they wanted, even the appeal of a new life in Singapore has failed to keep certain foreign-born sports personalities anchored in the Lion City.

If they won't stay, then what is the whole point of the Foreign Talent Sports Scheme which spirited them to our city-state?

Implicit in the arrangement where foreigners are flown to the city-state and Singaporeanised so they can don national colours and play for Singapore is the assumption that they would eventually call this country home, settle down and add to the gene pool. All this while, their Singapore-born compatriots were supposed to benefit from having sparring partners whose presence helps lift the level of assorted sports to new levels.

Alas, the pull of the Chinese motherland has proven too strong for some. Their readiness in heading home back to their country of birth proves the assumption false.

Two table tennis stars have already decided to head back to China after announcing their respective retirements.

Ms Li Jiawei's decision to be "based in China" mirrors the move by former teammate Ms Wang Yuegu, who headed home after quitting the sport this August.

While not quite enough to indicate a trend, how many more must do the same before one realises the Foreign Talent Sports Scheme may not be working as intended?

Sure, we won armfuls of medals but is this the endgame engineered by the scheme? One had the impression it was supposed to persuade foreign talent to sink their roots here - which clearly isn't happening.

Perhaps we overrated the appeal of Singaporean citizenship to benchwarmer sports "stars" whose departure from their mother country marked no big loss to their erstwhile home nation's Olympic ambitions.

Maybe we, as a country, failed to do more to keep our new citizens feeling part and parcel of life in Singapore.

Could we have miscalculated just how much the war bounty in Singapore dollars, amassed from successful sporting campaigns, translates to when coverted into their currency of choice. It represents not just wealth, mind you, but an opportunity for starting life afresh at a new social strata, thanks to Singaporean tax payers.

It would be a mockery of Singapore's national identity if the global sports community views the Foreign Talent Sports Scheme as a lottery ticket to untold fame and riches, provided one is willing to pay the price of lipsynching an alien national anthem [Note: Singapore's national anthem is in the Malay language] and having the Singapore flag temporarily eclipse ties to their country of birth.

Even if we dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" dutifuly, perhaps it's time to recognise the painful reality that what we value as our Singaporean identity isn't cherished or treasured the same way by some of our foreign imports.

Such theorising would be harmless if not for the hard truth that the Foreign Talent Sports Scheme runs on tax payers dollars - all of which could have been put to better use nurturing the fraternity of Singapore-born sports boys and girls in achieving greater heights.

To be sure, this kind of argument has to be trotted out delicately because it flirts with the Establishment's cluster bomb defence which is to label the commentator as being closed-minded, anti-immigrant, even xenophobic.

The mainstream media has thus far been kind on Jiawei.

The 90 cents newspaper quoted her saying: "It's impossible to describe my feelings now in just one or two sentences."

The paper added sympathetically:"It is not hard to understand why, since her link to her adopted country goes beyond simply sharing the same birthday - Aug 9." [Note: The 9th of August is Singapore's National Day]

It followed up with this bizarre line:"Li has spent more time here in Singapore than in China, her country of birth." [One should certainly expect that to be the case because Jiawei is a Singaporean. Where else do you expect her to spend her time? Outer Mongolia?]

The clearest signal that Jiawei's decision to be "based in China" isn't some euphemism for a long-term stay in the Middle Kingdom could have been drawn from the fate of her three-year-old Singapore-born son, Tianrui.

Nobody bothered to ask what plans the Singaporeanised mother has for Tianrui. News reports are silent whether he will someday serve National Service alongside the sons of Singapore, whose parents cheered and rooted for mummy during her heyday.

Don't bet on it.


Anonymous said...

Very unfair criticism to make of Li Jiawei. Don't forget that Singpore-born Junie Sng also emigrated to Australia. Would you call that a 'betrayal' as well ?

Anonymous said...

What do you really expect of a mercenary who was hired to play an obscure sport in order to obtain medals for gloryhunting bureaucrats?

I'm not even angry at Li Jiawei. In fact, I would have probably done the same in her shoes. It's those dunces in charge of Singapore's sports scene whom we should direct our venom towards. The same dolts who think prioritize playing a 40+ year old FT striker over developing local talent.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but why do you refer to the striker as an FT, the acronym for Foreign Talent?

More and more, it is quite obvious that the imports are not talents. They are merely foreigners. Let's refer to them as that, instead of buying into the govt's labelling.

As for Junie, didn't she have a choice to stay or go, as someone who was born here? Quite a number are doing that. If she in a few years decides to leave Aus and come back here, say after it had sunk a lot of money into her, one would ask some questions.

Jiawei was Bribed to come here under a scheme which we were told had benefits beyond medals and glory for the country. She delivered the medal and the glory. Thank you. She's off. Done. Washed her hands of us and is very much richer.

However, her leaving has rubbished a govt promise. Basically, the govt has not delivered on the 2nd part of its boast about these imports and reasons for the huge amount of money it has frittered away on them. Money it could have put into a born in Spore athlete.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that China, which do not recognise dual nationality, will take back a quitter who, after being trained to play badminton, betray her own birth country to play for another country.

Mern How said...

The issue here is citizenzhip and how it is used an merchandize and a commodity to be bartered. In NS we are told to fight and die for our country because we are citizens. Spore citizens pay a very high price i.e cramped living conditions, cramped transport services, low pay, yearly reservist training. etc...

These players from overseas however are HIGHLY PAID and do not sacrifice anything for their citizenship. Dont expect JiaWei to bring her son back to do NS and annual reservist training.

Anonymous said...

Junie Sng left for Oz due to 2nd language handicap in her days. She won numerous medals without money thrown at her. Lee JW is not the only table tennis play who balik kampong, there was another lesser known one. There were also a few FT footballers who cannot manage a decent pass. The whole stupid FT sports policy costs taxpayers a bomb. Those who came up with this should pay the price for their failed policy.

David Boey said...

Dear stngiam,
Am unable to say why Junie Sng left but others have already commented.

Since we're on Li Jiawei, name me one Singaporean protege she was helping to develop before she retired. Just one player.

More thought drivers:
1. The relatively short career lifespans for sports people (typically less than three Olympic cycles) make their life decisions a lead indicator of how ordinary foreign talent (FT) might behave once their own life goals are met.

2. If representing Singapore at a national level failed to spark that emotional bond to Singapore for FT sports personalities, one might ask what sort of emotional connection other FTs will have for Singapore (if any) once their life goals are met a decade or so from now.

3. For ordinary FTs, the decade or so that may be required for these FTs to achieve their life goals may cultivate stronger emotional bonds to Singapore, compared to the sports talents.

4. However, s/no 3 is a tenuous argument as many FTs tend to live in enclaves and keep to themselves.

5. Their inability or unwillingness to interact with heartlanders may see them fly the coop once they have better options elsewhere. To them, Singapore may be just a transient pit stop, a stepping stone on the way to Australia, Canada or the USA.

6. The Sing Govt has figures on the number of Hong Kong families it invited here before the handover to China in 1997. The retention rate for HKG families may indicate whether or not our FT policy is doomed to fail because it is human nature for people with a migrant mindset to cherry pick the "best" living conditions for their descendants.

7. If the action of sports personalities is a sign of things to come, you can well imagine its negative impact when multiplied across tens of thousands of FT households once they decide it's time to go.

Best regards,


Kenneth Koh said...

In business, we dun get 100% on all investments. Similarly, in the area of FT.
We do have successes - Jing JunHong and some others. We ought to focus on the successes and not the failures. These sportsmen and sportswomen have already create enough awareness to get our youth more interested in sports.

Think about this: before Jing Junhong and Li Jiawei, how many of our youngsters were interested in table-tennis?

Anonymous said...

@Kenneth Koh

Hi Kenneth, the sudden proliferation of "passion" for Table Tennis and other sports is due to this thing call DSA (Direct School Admission). Suddenly every father mother want their sons and daugthers to be passionate in sports, so as to enter backdoor to elite schools like RI/RGS,etc. Take away the foreign imports and leave only the DSA in the equation, this "passion" for sports will still remain. Granted there are genuine people having real passion for sports and we should nurture these local talents.


Thanks for your courage to write this so matter of factly and for discussion. If i may hazard a guess, PRCs psychologically prepared their mind to think that Singapore with its majority of Chinese is easier to "migrate" to than say the USA, NZ, Canada, etc. But i think they receive a "culture shock", they din expect Singapore to be so angmoh and they forgot about the Malays and Indians and a whole different geography! On the other hand, they will more likely prepare themselves psychologically if say, they are determine to go to the western countries... i have former PRC colleagues whom have migrated to Australia, ordinary blokes no different like us (and who are not Olympians!)who are now living very well owning 2 homes (landed) and a car. In Singapore, many years after your Olympic glory, they will find themselves living in HDB flats and squeezing into MRT with the great unwashed.

@Mern How,
You are right. National Service and 10 years of reservist for her son? hahahahahahahahaha.....

Anonymous said...

It is an extremely unfair comparison to make between LJW and Duric. Duric has given the best years of his life to SG. He has a family here and has publicly stated that this will be his home. He has no intention of leaving SG and will continue to contribute in whatever capacity he can. Not all FTs are materialistic and leave after their stint here. Duric is one FT that I will gladly call a fellow Singaporean.

Anonymous said...

Not wrong with what Jiawei did, Singapore dangle the carrot, she bite. Not like Singapore will feed her indefinitely, no Singaporean can expect the government to feed them, less to say about a sport person near to their prime.

Anonymous said...

Why should any sportmen especially those from other countries with right frame of mind will want to stay in Singapore consider its continuing high cost of living due to skew policies and nonsense of ruling party ?

Those foreign sportsmen are not draft as the old man think and they know the prize money that they won in blood and sweat will deplete faster in Singapore than in their mainland due to different standard of living.

Remember the currency rate is different in mainland. Why live in expensive Singapore if they have a choice ?

If the shittyTimes can only emphasize attachment to own country as the shitty reason , you can bet that the main reason is more of monetary reason, after all ,don't forget these people have no root in Singapore.

The said...

/// stngiam said...
Very unfair criticism to make of Li Jiawei. Don't forget that Singpore-born Junie Sng also emigrated to Australia. Would you call that a 'betrayal' as well ? ///

It is Singapore that betrayed Junie Sng. Was Junie Sng, a true blue Singaporean treated as well as Singapore treated a foreigner like Jiawei?

Did Australia thrown millions at Junie to induce her to migrate. And if Oz did that and Junie subsequently returned to Singapore, then you can call that a betrayal. Then, and only then, can you say Junie betrays Oz.

Anonymous said...

The internet dirty tricks brigade has appeared. With their real names so they can score brown-nose points.

Anonymous said...

You all better bear in mind the fate of lackeys when their patron falls.

Anonymous said...

Return after spying on.

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