And on Saturday: World Cup? What World Cup?

Dec 10, 2016 12.16PM |

by Felix Cheong

A fictitious football fanatic, Oh Pi Sai, can’t believe that Singapore has just won the World Cup – only to discover that it isn’t the Fifa World Cup.

I WOKE up on Wed (Dec 7) with a start. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Singapore has won the World Cup! In a non-World Cup year? Did I miss the live telecast? Or did SingTel screw up the signal again?

At long last, we not only achieved Goal 2010 – ex-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s dream of Singapore qualifying for the World Cup finals – but we also won it!

Never mind that it’s six years late. What counts is beating the likes of England, Germany and Argentina! Majulah!

It was only after my wife had performed CPR on me – my heart had stopped all of 30 seconds – that I re-read The Straits Times headlines: “Singapore students bag educationWorld Cup’”.


Why call it a “World Cup” when there was no cup given out? And it turned out to be some kind of ivory tower called Pisa, which leaned heavily on mathematics, science and reading.

There were no qualifying rounds (students were selected randomly), no group stage, no knockout stage and definitely no quarter-finals, semi-finals or final.

Everything was determined by just one test – very much like the PSLE – and Singaporean 15-year-olds are suddenly declared world beaters.

I don’t know about you but I have mixed feelings about this.

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For one thing, my daughter, who was one of the 5,825 students who took part in the test, can’t use the result to get into a top junior college. She can’t use it to apply for a PSC scholarship. Nor will she have a scholarship named after her, unlike gold-medal athletes like Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu.

Despite doing this test to the best of her patriotic duty, she ends up with just a “well done!” pat on the back.

Maybe the G should look into how students like her who have done the country proud internationally could be lauded, even applauded and given a standing ovation in Parliament?

For another thing, while I’m happy that Singapore has added another feather in its cap, I’m also worried how the accolade confirms that we’re a nation of muggers.

Muggers who can read but cannot speak well. Who can do science but cannot innovate. Who can count but are also very calculating.

This myth is reinforced by the latest Fifa world ranking. It shows Singapore dropping 16 places to an all-time low of 171.

It’s not helped by the Singapore team crashing out early in the AFF Suzuki Cup last month.

World Cup? We’re still a very, very, very long way there. But at least we have the consolation of a cup half-full.

After all, we did beat Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England, Belgium, Spain etc.

Oh Pi Sai


Feature image by Sean Chong.

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