ESM Goh Chok Tong wishes good luck for Singapore football's Goal 2034 quest

(From left) Lina Chiam, Ang Peng Siong, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and his wife at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Good luck for Goal 2034.

Those were the words of encouragement by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to Football Association of Singapore vice-president Edwin Tong, who announced on Sunday (18 August) that Singapore will aim to qualify for the 2034 Fifa World Cup Finals.

ESM Goh was making his speech as guest-of-honour at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner at the Marriott Tang Plaza on Thursday night. Tong was also present at the dinner.

He jokingly said that Tong, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health and Law, was “foolish enough” to set the lofty target for the Lions.

“But that’s the spirit. We must always have some target in mind,” he added. “Even if we don’t qualify, we can raise the standard of football when we try to make the World Cup.

“So good luck to you.”

Three unsuccessful sporting targets

When he was Prime Minister of Singapore, ESM Goh had similarly set Singapore the “Goal 2010” target in 1998, an ultimately unsuccessful bid to reach the 2010 World Cup Finals.

During his speech, he revealed that he had set two other sporting targets which were also unfulfilled: to win an Olympic gold in sailing by 2008, and to reach badminton’s Thomas Cup Finals by 2012.

“While we did not succeed, we must always dare to try,” he said. “We must never give up chasing our dreams, both individually and as a nation. Today, we might not be at the very top, but we are producing globally competitive athletes in sports such as swimming, sailing, table tennis, bowling and silat.”

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during his speech at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

ESM Goh applauded Chiam, his one-time political opponent and former Potong Pasir Member of Parliament, for setting up the sports fund under his name, which managed to raise about $160,000 through the gala dinner to aid under-resourced athletes.

Since its launch in March 2017, the fund has assisted more than 30 athletes, including modern pentathlete Kok Kiat Xuan, national powerlifters Matthew Yap and Matthias Yap, as well as sailor Olivia Chen.

“I do recall how Chiam used to raise questions in Parliament about support adequacy for our athletes even before I was Prime Minister,” he said.

“Sports can help build character, discipline and resilience. The Chiam See Tong Sports Fund is doing precisely that, by helping children and youths from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their sporting dreams.”

Chiam once coached by Ang Peng Siong’s dad

Chiam, who is facing health issues, made a brief appearance in a wheelchair at the gala dinner.

His wife Lina shared during her speech that her husband once represented Anglo-Chinese School in swimming. He was coached by none other than Ang Teck Bee, father of Ang Peng Siong, former swim star and now chairman of Chiam’s sports fund.

“We are proud and we appreciate the work that has been done by the board in such a short period of time,” Lina Chiam said.

This is the second fund-raising dinner organised by the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund. The first one was held in 2017, and renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens was the guest of honour then.

In attendance last night were well-known faces from Singapore’s sports fraternity, including five-time SEA Games shooting gold medalist Choo Choon Seng, former women’s national hockey captain Melanie Martens and Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu.

A live auction was held during the dinner, and ESM Goh donated a golf club, which fetched $5,000 during the auction.

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