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The unequal support for our #OneTeamSG athletes

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Shouldn't we be proud of every Singapore representative?

Well wishes for our #OneTeamSG representatives have been pouring in over the past few months for the upcoming Rio Olympics.

While most of the comments were good-natured, I couldn't help but notice some xenophobic remarks as I scrolled through various social media platforms. A number of Singaporeans are still addressing their support specifically to native athletes.

Some commenters even went as far as saying they will only be supporting "true-blue" Singaporeans and none of the other "foreign talents".

Such distasteful comments are not new.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many Singaporeans were upset that the team was made up of China-born athletes, notably Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei, and Wang Yuegu.

Despite winning our first Olympic medal in years, some Singaporeans wondered if we are relying too much on these foreign-born athletes. Others were concerned if these foreign talents are taking away opportunities for our native athletes to shine.

The three athletes were under the foreign talent sports scheme, first introduced in 1993, which aimed to boost our local sporting standards by "importing" sporting expertise from other countries.


THE SINGAPORE WOMEN'S TABLE TENNIS TEAM WON A SILVER MEDAL AT THE 2008 BEIJING OLYMPICS.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: WANG YUEGU, LI JIAWEI, FENG TIANWEI
PHOTO CREDIT: MYACTIVESG

Even though the upcoming Rio Olympics marks Feng Tianwei's second time as a Singapore representative, she continues to receive malicious comments online.

Another athlete facing the same situation is Liang Xiaoyu, a 20-year-old Singapore shuttler who had moved to Singapore with her parents when she was 10.

Despite her early involvement in zonal and national competitions, Singaporeans were quick to classify her as a "product" of the same scheme. In a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia (CNA), the young athlete responded to such vitriol with much defence.


XIAOYU ATTENDED SINGAPORE SPORTS SCHOOL BEFORE TRANSFERRING TO REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC.
PHOTO CREDIT: CHANNEL NEWSASIA

"I'm not affected because I grew up here since young. It's not like I came to Singapore so that I could play at the Olympics," said Xiaoyu, who will be representing Singapore in the upcoming Rio Olympic Games.

She later added in the same interview with CNA: "The truth of the matter is I was trained in Singapore. Any results I get are due to being nurtured in Singapore."

Reading about these cases makes me wonder why some Singaporeans are still fixated over differentiating naturalised citizens and locals.

Perhaps they believe these foreign talents are adding unnecessary competition to our already cut-throat environment, which is probably why they are quick to vent their frustrations.


A SINGAPORE FOR SINGAPOREANS?
PHOTO CREDIT: DANIELYUNHX.COM

Still, I believe such competition is desirable, as it helps to raise our benchmarks and performances against our global rivals.

Take the latest case of home-grown singer Nathan Hartono's participation in Sing! China. His audition impressed all four judges and he made it to the next round, snagging megastar Jay Chou as his mentor.

While most netizens congratulated Nathan's superb performance, others were quick to point out that he is not a native Singaporean. Some even claimed "there is nothing to be proud of". 

Considering how Nathan, who was raised here since he was young, constantly identifies himself as a Singaporean, I find these comments particularly disheartening.


THE 25-YEAR-OLD SINGER HAS PERFORMED AT THE NATIONAL DAY PARADE IN 2008 AND THE ASIAN YOUTH GAMES IN 2009.

Given the amount of dedication and hard work these naturalised citizens have put into fitting in with our local culture (albeit with much difficulties), and representing Singapore on a global stage, it is only right for us to give them our equal support and respect.

What do you think - have we gone too far in berating naturalised citizens?