To hear an ang moh calling Singaporeans to support their national team is surely as foreign a concept as the issue of nationalism is to its people. But that’s what Daniel Bennett, a defender in Singapore’s national football team did in The Sunday Times ahead of tonight’s friendly against Liverpool. Moreover, Bennett was actually raised in Liverpool. While he is actually a fan of Liverpool’s arch-rival Everton, Bennett has been a Singapore citizen for the past seven years and he spoke as a Singaporean:
“It looks like it will be a full house at Kallang, but wouldn’t it be great if all the fans support Singapore? These fans have no real connection with Liverpool. Their passion should be with the Singaporean national team. Instead, the National Stadium will look more like Anfield on match day.”
Indeed, the stadium was a sea of red tonight. In fact, my girlfriend, who doesn’t know much about soccer, thought it was nice to see Singapore supporters out in full force for our national team. That is until I told her that Liverpool’s colours are actually red and we saw the fans’ jerseys and scarves “fine print” on our TV screens.
I’m not against good football, great teams and even Liverpool but let’s put into perspective why these teams come here: money and good public relations. It’s no secret that Asia is a huge fan base and that clubs do get big money for being part of such tours.
What has Singapore gained from hosting a team like Liverpool? It is true that there is much that we can learn from these successful clubs. After all, we lost 5-0 tonight.
But the exchange was unequal and unfair. For more than half the game, Liverpool fielded a reserve team, not the one that fans watch week-in-week-out and show their support for. Yet, fans had to pay for tickets from $88 onwards. Our national team players got just a 90 minute encounter with a good team, I’m not sure how much they could have learnt, except one thing — that playing for this country is a tough choice.
Imagine playing for your own country but watching your fellow countrymen support the opposition. Plus, the voracity of the support is something you’ll never receive. I really wonder what our national team had to play for but their own pride. At least I hope they are getting paid in our national tradition of reward: cold hard cash.
How Liverpool the football club recreated Anfield in Singapore’s National Stadium symbolises the triumph of capitalism over nationalism. The peoples’ loyalties are no longer to the imaginary concept of nation-states but that of the trans-national corporations. Like countries, they embody values and lifestyles too, and it’s to them most of us subscribe to today. In fact, countries that are successful today, like Singapore, have taken on the corporate model in running the day-to-day affairs of its people.
So yes, our national team was trounced on the pitch tonight, but so was our nation too.