EPL signee Ben Davis’ NS deferment rejected by MINDEF

From ‘MINDEF rejects Fulham signee Ben Davis’ application for NS deferment’,  15 July 2018, article by Nigel Chin, CNA

Singaporean footballer Benjamin Davis’ application to defer his national service (NS) enlistment was rejected by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

In a statement on Sunday (Jul 15), MINDEF confirmed that Davis’ application was not approved as he “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS”.

“As all male Singaporeans liable for Full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.

“Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria,” MINDEF said.

Amid calls by sports fans for Singapore to emulate the success of small nations like World Cup Finals-qualifying Iceland, MINDEF has decided that letting one Joseph Schooling do whatever the fuck he wants is more than enough, hence putting another local talent’s dreams in cold storage because of NS obligations. Is it any wonder that our FIFA ranking (163) is even lower than our already sucky World Press Freedom position (151)?

Swimmers tend to get their lucky break, and if you think that this is because of the Olympics prestige, then how does one explain the two months’ deferment granted to Stanley Aw to participate as a gamer in the WORLD CYBER GAMES? Can I ask for deferment to train for the Asia-Pacific Yo-yo championships? Do I have to become a fugitive and NS defaulter for life if I happen to be a piano prodigy?

But note the other criterion, that you need to be deemed a ‘potential medal winner’ before you stand a chance at deferment. Personal growth and passion is useless unless you show results, a state-endorsed materialism that undermines everything that the Government has preached about people taking risks and living their dreams, failure in PSLE notwithstanding. So you want to be a Dancer? In the words of my former RSM,  ‘Fuck you understand’.

One wonders if Ben would get a repreive if it weren’t FULHAM but a more prestigious, Peter Lim owned megaclub. Or if his father had been, say, a former Minister of Defence. Until the powers that be put away that perennial periscope stuck to its eyeballs and review its deferment selection process from a lens wider than its ironclad arse, we can only watch as our homegrown talent fade away into the green, learning how to stick CB leaves into their helmets or stabbing people with bayonets instead of excelling in a once-in-a-lifetime arena of champions. Fast forward some years later and you’ll see them featured in a op-ed, with a trophy in the bag, telling some disgusted journo, with tears in their eyes, about how they had to abandon their country of birth and childhood friends, just to be where they are now.

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Singapore no longer known as SIN at sporting events

From ‘No more SIN, it’s SGP at sports meets’,

Singapore will no longer be abbreviated as SIN at international sporting events. Look out for SGP instead.

The country-code change was approved by the International Olympic Committee last month, following a proposal made by the Singapore National Olympic Council.

The first major Games where the new code can be used is at next year’s Sapporo Asian Winter Games.

Mr Low Teo Ping, Singapore’s chef de mission at the recent Rio Olympic Games, said he has been asked “a thousand times” at sports events why the country adopted the old code, with its negative connotations. Mr Low, who is also Singapore Rugby Union president, said: “It’s not so much a derogatory way of interpreting the old code.

“It hasn’t done us any harm.

“But, at the same time, it’s also not funny after a certain point of time.”

Mr Low added that there is uniformity now, as Singapore’s United Nations country code is SGP. But its International Air Transport Association airport code remains as SIN.

He said: “I think that the change is for a good reason. UN has been using this (code), so it’s nice to be known like this internationally.” SEA Games 200m sprint champion and national record holder Shanti Pereira said that the change is not a big deal.

The 19-year-old athlete added: “We will get used to it. It’s a good thing that it still starts with an ‘S’.

In 2014, a forum writer brought the ‘negative connotations’ of SIN to light, asking if it was in our NATIONAL INTEREST to retain the ‘SIN’ brand. Today, his wish is granted, though renaming Singapore to SGP is unlikely to make us less, well, ‘SINful’.

Not sure if other countries have done the same because their country code is offensive or sounds’ funny’ . Brazil remains as BRA, Liechtenstein is LIE, Madagascar is MAD, and Moldova’s is a shortform of a recreational drug (MDA). SIN sounds tame in comparison. Changing it will only make everyone realise how much ‘SIN’ bothers us, though many believe we’ve committed an atrocious one depriving gold-medal Paralympian winner Yip Pin Xiu of the $1 million prize that able-bodied athletes get for Olympic victory.

Whether it’s SIN or SGP, it’s our representatives’ performance and behaviour in the sporting realm that matters more than country codes, though sometimes the embarrassment comes in the form of ridiculous national attire. Like having the national flag splayed across our water polo boys‘ crotches.

Anti-football railings erected in HDB void deck

From ‘Void deck railings to stop ball games’, 25 Feb 2016, article in ST

A set of barriers that caused confusion among residents of a Queenstown Housing Board block when they were installed at its void deck were set up to stop football being played, Tanjong Pagar Town Council clarified yesterday.

Three railings, each around 3.5m long, were erected across the void deck at Block 143 Mei Ling Street last Saturday, leaving residents scratching their heads and wondering what they had been put there for.

One Facebook user posted a photograph of them and wrote: “(This) space, originally filled with so much potential for use and creativity, is now effectively transformed into a dead space.”

The miscreants were told to stop playing football, as it was not allowed in the area, but to no avail. “Upon discussion with (MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Chia Shi-Lu) and the Residents’ Committee (RC), we installed the barricades… to discourage football activities.

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It’s a dark day for humanity when kids playing soccer in a void deck are called MISCREANTS by journos. The guy on the train playing his handphone game at full blast is a miscreant. The couple having a sex tryst in the stairwell are miscreants.  Amos Yee is miscreant extraordinaire. A town council that wastes our money building obstacles to stop fun things from happening, hence destroying a child’s dream of becoming the next Fandi Ahmad, is the worst offender of them all.

Void decks have been romanticised as ‘community spaces’ and people have won photography contests capturing them in all their concrete, uniquely Singaporean glory. These places are where foreign workers eat and sleep, Chinese traditionally mourn and weep, Malays rejoice in matrimony, Indians sell sundries, a home next to home resonant with chapteh memories, the rustle of old hanging magazines at the mama shop, the echoes of neighbours’ greetings, the squawky horns of the karang guni man and, soon to be a thing of the past, the thuds of balls bouncing off the walls. Void decks were designed to break down the walls between us, but now we’re building them up again.

An entry for the Singapore Stories exhibition, by Alphonsus Chern, 2012

Sometimes barriers do more harm than good. We all know of glass doors in shopping malls that shatter over little children. When the LTA built an anti-bicycle deterrent on overhead bridges to persuade cyclists to get off their bikes, somebody crashed into it and became paralysed. Other bicycle barriers built along void decks proved to be an obstacle not just to errant cyclists, but the disabled as well. If you’re wheelchair bound the only railings you want to see are those you can hang on to for dear life, not those placed in a manner that makes traversing a void deck as painful as solving a booby-trapped labyrinth designed by an evil dungeon master who just wants to fuck with your mind.

If your rose garden is invaded by a family of gophers, grow them on a minefield. This is what erecting barricades in a void deck says to you when you’re home after a hard day’s work. You’re not welcome. Keep out. We already deal with metaphoric cages and choke-chains on a daily basis, and now we’re punished with physical, spiritually toxic ones right below our homes. That’s right, with these new fittings the void deck underneath your flat now looks EXACTLY like a GE polling station save for the yellow lines that you’re not supposed to cross. 24/7. Whatever your opinion of void deck football, about how flying balls tend to hit pregnant women smack in the bellies or how the miscreants of the night keep you awake, you have to admit that this idea is balls-out bonkers.

There is already a dismal lack of play spaces to kick a ball around these days, what with people complaining that grass patches are becoming bald because of the sport. Unlike those up there who only know how to build fences when they can’t figure out how to shepherd a flock, kids these days have more creative ways of wriggling their way around the iron clasps of authority, at risk of putting themselves in even greater danger. Put up a fence and I will climb it. Build a wall and I will tag it with graffiti. Obviously the town council hasn’t heard of parkour, or  groin-crushing skateboarding tricks. Worse, they may give up football altogether and turn your void deck into a flying kendama death trap.

But maybe it’s not just kids who will make the most out of these ugly obstacles. We may lose our football, but we may yet become a nation of champion hurdlers, steeple chasers or calisthenic spider-warriors if those barriers could be put to actual use. Alternatively, if you’re not the active type, you could lean around it fantasising about waiting for the bus, while the foreign worker grumbles next to you about having one more damn thing to wipe down.

National Stadium a white elephant paraded for profit

From ‘Privatisation of Sports Hub not financially feasible’, 19 Dec 2015, Voices, Today

(Quek Soo Beng): The report “High costs ‘a new reality’ with new National Stadium” (Dec 17) about the stadium’s high rental costs is a wake-up call that is not unexpected. As with renting an office space, rental costs vary with capacity. Return on capital and net profitability are realities of any commercial enterprise, as they are in the way the Sports Hub is set up.

It seems the pricing problem has more to do with the public-private arrangement than with the Sports Hub’s management. In a small country, privatisation is often not financially feasible. We’ve seen that with the MRT system, and now the Sports Hub.

…Singapore can justify only one huge sports stadium. Switching it back and forth for concerts and other non-sporting purposes, while necessary to increase usage and revenue, is fuelling operating and management costs and, ultimately, pricing problems.

Any solution that is not financially viable or prudent will not do. Otherwise, under persistent public and government pressure, the demise of the Sports Hub organisation, as it is now modelled, will be only a matter of time.

We cannot have our cake and eat it. The National Stadium is an iconic asset. Let it not become a white elephant to be paraded for profit.

The $1.33 billion Sports Hub costs nearly as much as the Gardens by the Bay, and since the NDP impasse people are already wondering if this behemoth is turning out to be a stupendous waste of money. Already 2 senior management staff have been given the boot over contract disagreements, following in the footsteps of stadia pitch expert Greg Gillin in 2014. Even before a single event was staged, we had problems with its ‘sandy turf’, which threatened to make the stadium not just a white elephant, but probably the most expensive artificial beach in the world.

But maybe it’s not just an issue of rental costs. The original National Stadium had its attendance woes too. In 1958, Financial Secretary T. M Hart, a cricket-loving Scotsman,  slammed the idea of building a ‘white elephant, full every 4 years‘, that Jalan Besar stadium would be good enough at the time. Come the 70’s, despite it being the ‘golden age’ of Singapore soccer, we had to bring in English league teams to draw the crowds, with the SSC boss then continuing to defend the charges that the National Stadium wasn’t making money. More than 10 years ago we saw a dip in confidence filling up seats for tournaments such as the Asian Cup. Dreams of a ‘Malaysia Cup’ resurgence recently died when our Lions were kicked out of the Malaysian Super League. Today, we merely encased that same beast in a shiny dome, gave it a new name, and baptised it with superstars like Jay Chou (whose concert some fans described as a total washout)

The hallmark of any advanced civilisation is that you can afford to build a state-of-the-art Colosseum for the ages. Singapore’s vanity project is no different.  Other mega-structures like the Singapore Flyer, for instance, have already fallen into disuse, but it remains an indispensable fixture of our world-renown skyline. Our billion-dollar dome will remain iconic for decades to come no doubt, but if nothing is done about its management or our general waning interest in sports, it will become, as one ang mo skeptic prophesised half a century ago, ‘full only every 4 years’, an empty shell containing nothing but distant echoes of its once glorious past, making ends meet only when Jay Chou comes to town.

ASEAN Para athletes taking the MRT to venues

From ‘Para-athletes voice support for ASEAN Para Games transport option’, 8 Oct 2015, article by Justin Ong and Wendy Wong, CNA.

As organisers of the ASEAN Para Games sought to assuage concerns that para-athletes competing in December’s Games in Singapore would be travelling to venues via MRT trains, local athletes have voiced both support and concern for the move.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Oct 8), para-swimmer Theresa Goh said that those competing in the Para Games have not yet been officially briefed on the transport arrangements, but said that the option to take the train was “not a bad idea”.

…The Singapore ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee (SAPGOC) said in a hastily called news conference on Thursday afternoon that the MRT is just one option available, and that shuttle buses will be used to ferry competitors to venues.

SAPGOC chairman Lim Teck Yin stressed that their first priority was the “well-being and care of the athletes”. He also said that the train arrangement was a means “to bring the ASEAN Para Games closer to the people” and that athletes would have the option to choose whichever mode of transport they are most comfortable with.

However, able-bodied national racewalker Edmund Sim said he was puzzled by initial reports suggesting the MRT would be the main transport arrangement for para-athletes. “In major Games, there are higher priorities such as managing competition stress to fret over. As much as possible, I am sure the athletes will prefer little fuss over logistical matters.”

As for organisers’ point that taking the MRT could promote “inclusivity”, Sim said there are “other ways to showcase social acceptance”. “Public transport to ferry (athletes) during a major event is a bad move. You must remember there will be spectators taking the same train or bus too.” The reputation of Singapore as host in the international arena is at stake as well, he added.

Able-bodied rower Nadzrie Hyckell, a SEA Games silver medallist, said the MRT could be a faster mode of transport, but questioned why it was not used for competitors during the SEA Games in June.

“Did they test this method? Like whether it is easier for the athletes?” he asked.

In a paper written by Jorain Ng from the Disabled People’s Association titled ‘Achieving Inclusion in Transport‘, numerous barriers of accessibility to those with special needs were identified. We have oblivious commuters hooked to their devices standing on tactile indicators, frequent breakdown of lifts and escalators (not to mention the trains themselves) and clueless MRT wardens. One Forum writer complained of able-bodied people using the disabled MRT toilets as dressing rooms. (Limit use of toilets for the disabled at MRT stations, 2 Sep 15, ST Forum).

Although Stadium station is only 3 stops away from where the Para athletes are staying, one has to wonder if our infrastructure and MRT staff are up to par when it comes to accommodating even a couple of blind commuters, not to mention entire contingents of people with various disabilities. Getting on board is one thing, being compromised by a train delay, by an ugly commuter, or someone using the disabled toilet for hanky-panky while the whole world is watching (including new Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan), is quite another.

As for ‘promoting inclusiveness’, what does chairman Lim Teck Yin expect of Singaporeans when they see Para athletes waiting for the train? Give them hugs of encouragement, assuming Singaporeans even KNOW about the Games? Will there be ‘priority lines’ for ASEAN Para teams just like how vehicles are expected to give way to SEA games buses? If not, are we telling the world that it’s OK to give able-bodied sportsmen and women traffic privileges but not those on wheelchairs and walking sticks?

If I were an athlete, disabled or otherwise’, I’d probably be more concerned about getting to my venue on time instead of mingling with the local population. These people are here to win medals, not your sympathy. They could have gotten SEA games marathon runners to jog directly to their venues and mingle with our local joggers, but noooo, they had to hide and ferry them around in air-con buses, with not even an open top deck for us locals to wave, cheer and toss bouquets of flowers at. I suppose those are reserved for PAP victory parades once every 5 years.

Alternatively, if cost was really the issue, the organising committee could have looked into chartering trains en masse, like what ACS did to bring their boys to a rugby final. And considering that people tend to behave better when they see imposing men in uniform with weapons, up the kiasu level and activate the SAF (for free, too) to make sure things go according to schedule.

SEA games carnival ping pong table copying artist’s work

From ‘Quirky ping pong table at SEA games carnival resembles work by Singaporean artist’, 6 June 2015 article by Mayo Martin, CNA.

A circular ping pong table at the South-east Asia Games Carnival for children at Sports Hub which bears a striking resemblance to a famous artwork by a Singaporean artist has prompted criticism online.

Cultural Medallion recipient Lee Wen has said he was unaware of it of the table at the Sports Hub. His own interactive artwork, titled Ping Pong Go-Round, has the same circular features, which allow for multiple players. Variations of it have been shown in different exhibitions and fairs such as his solo retrospective in 2012 and last year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. Most recently, it was part of an exhibition of Singapore artists at the ArtScience Museum.

…“I’m trying to find out who’s in charge and talk to them to ask them to stop exhibiting until they settle with me,” he added. “It’s good that they picked up the idea but it’s as if they didn’t think it has been done before. I think they should at least talk to me. I’m thinking of asking for some compensation in terms of artists rights because according to one lawyer I’ve talked to, it’s probably an infringement of copyright.

…The ping pong table in question, called 300° Table Tennis, carries the logo of Atos, a French technology firm appointed by the organising committee to manage the information technology for the Singapore games.

While it forms a “C” and Lee’s work is a complete circle, the latter said his artwork could easily be manipulated and rejigged so that users could enter the central space.

Lawyer George Huang was quoted by the ST (‘Horseshoe shaped ping pong table by SEA games organiser similar to artwork by artist Lee Wen, 5 June 2015’) as saying that Lee’s ping pong table is ‘very simple’ and it’s possible for anyone to come up with the same design independently. Well, everything is obvious on hindsight, George.

According to IPOS, ‘artistic works‘ may be protected under copyright law, but the ‘idea or concept’ of the sport of table tennis isn’t. So what happens when the worlds of art and sport collide and you have an exhibit that’s viewed as ‘artwork’ in a museum, but can also easily pass off as a fancy variation of a traditional game at a sports carnival? If I’m an artist and I put up a ‘performance’ involving a badminton racket with a chapteh instead of a shuttlecock, do I have a case if someone makes it an actual Olympic sport? What if I put people in ridiculous sumo suits and make them play touch rugby? Or captain’s ball. On trampolines?

Ping Pong Go Round isn’t JUST about bouncing balls to one another, of course. The artist himself uses the analogy of a ‘dialogue‘ between players on opposite sides, like a circular conference table. In other reviews, it’s described as a re-invention of the game in the context of ‘contemporary possibilities’. Meaning, instead of playing against one person you could easily switch to another, or play against both simultaneously. There’s not much room to manouevre if you’re in the inner hole with other players, though. So much for ‘broader dialogue’. I could add some crazy rules to the standard gameplay and make it a new sport, or work of art, if I want to. Like playing across 2 table-lengths, playing with two balls simultaneously or you’re only allowed to hit the ball with your batting arm behind and around your back.

Still, It’s a refreshing change from what we usually associate with ‘performance art’, which incidentally was once banned by the NAC in 1994 after someone snipped his pubic hair in public. Lee Wen himself is famous for his ‘Yellow Man’ work as an emphasis on his Chinese ethnicity, where he painted himself yellow from head to toe and described it as ‘wearing a full body mask’, a possible inspiration for the phenomenon known as ‘zentai’ today.

To the layman participating in this ‘interactive artwork’, it’s just crazy ping pong joined in a circle, and probably as fun and innovative as other insane sports mash-ups like roller-frisbee, hockey-golf, basket-polo or bubble-soccer. You’re not going to get inspirations on how to improve your next meeting with the bosses. But hey, ART man.

UPDATE (13 June 15): Sport Singapore acknowledged Lee’s work and has made a goodwill payment, hence resolving the issue amicably.

Singapore swimmers dropping the name ‘Red Lions’

From ‘MINDEF welcomes SSA’s decision to drop Red Lions name’, 18 March 2015, article in CNA

The Ministry of Defence said it welcomes the Singapore Swimming Association’s decision to not use the name ‘Red Lions’. This comes just days after Manpower Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council President Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Singapore’s aquatic athletes will be collectively known as “The Red Lions”, in a bid to provide a common identity for the sport.

The Red Lions tag was meant to unite the five disciplines – diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo and open water swimming. However, the name is already used for the Singapore Armed Forces’ parachute team.

In response to media queries, Chief Commando Officer COL Simon Lim said: “We welcome Singapore Swimming Association’s move to drop the use of ‘Red Lions’. The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”

SAF came up with the ‘Red Lions’ in 1995, and when the SSA decided to adopt the tag for our swimming team, commandos cried foul. Granted, it’s awkward to name a swim team after a land mammal, likewise an elite group of flying commandos, but this ruckus over a name supposedly synonymous with the NDP parachuters smacks of poor, well, sportsmanship. These are our own countrymen fighting tooth and nail for national glory for goodness sake.

MINDEF itself has been accused of stealing other people’s ideas, namely a mobile medical station. ‘Lions’, in fact, has been used to identify sport teams way before the commandos decided to add a national colour to it and claim ownership. Here’s a rundown:

1) The Singapore Lions, polo (1920’s). I suppose the one with horses.

2) Our national soccer team (1970’s till now), with the developmental ‘Young Lions’ under their wing.

3) The Dunearn Lions, rugby (1970’s)

4) The ‘Police Lions‘, a squash team (1980)

5) Amazingly, a tennis squad called the Brylcreem Lions (1970s). I’m sure they gel very well as a team.

6) TaeKwanDo Lions(1980s), which in my opinion, is the most befitting of the king of the jungle, a sport which involves you striking and mauling your opponent. Sometimes you also roar.

Of course these days we have teams adopting the ‘Singapore Lions’ tag without our football team making a hissy fit about it, like this cheerleading squad for example. I could form a competitive chess team and call ourselves Singapore Lions without anyone accusing me of identity theft. Like the sky-jumpers, our footballers also deserve to be called ‘a group who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through HIGH RISKS to capture people’s imagination’. But that doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusivity to the name, especially one that pays tribute to a national symbol. 

If there’s any good out of this, it gives the SSA a chance to choose a far superior name, something closer to the aquatic nature of the sport. The ST reported that other choices included the Red Singas, Red Merlions or, strangely enough, Aquamen, the latter possibly getting you in trouble with DC comics. Or AWARE since there are women in the team.  How about the Red Tomans perhaps, unless MINDEF decides to shoot the SSA down again for choosing the same colour.