22 June 2017

Singapore has won the Asian Cup for three straight years — in table football (also known as Subbuteo)

So on Monday, The New Paper published my column comparing Singapore football to Burger King's new Hainanese chicken burger.

Today, I received an e-mail from the president of the Table Football Association of Singapore.

Not the Football Association of Singapore, mind you. The Table Football Association of Singapore.

Yes, there's such a thing. It even has a website.

Anyway, here is the e-mail:

I am Tan Kok Wee, President of the Table Football Association of Singapore (TFAS). We are an established association registered with the ROS since 2009.

Our role is to promote and develop sports table football (aka SUBBUTEO) in Singapore via engagement in community and grassroots events, including partnership with SportsSG.

In Singapore, sports table football have grown steadily over the years, and our regional and global profile is raising from strength to strength.

In particular, we have been very successful in the Asia regional stage, winning the Asian Cup for the last 3 consecutive years.

We attached a media release on our recent successful Asian Cup in Tokyo and the establishment of an Asian confederation together with the sports table football associations of Japan and Australia.

We hope you would help us raise the awareness of this sport by carrying a report of the Asian Cup event in your esteem publication.

Similar reports on the Asian Cup was carried in the Japanese, Australian and UK media. A sample of the relevant links to reports in English are as follows:

ABC New (Australia):

Kyodo New (Japan): https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/cac53ed5dc0e-feature-hope-flickers-for-table-soccers-growth-in-japan-and-across-asia.html

Inside World Football (United Kingdom): http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2017/06/13/subbuteo-builds-global-football-fingerprint-asian-confederation/#.WUZjQBWIJsc.facebook

Please feel free to contact myself at 9853-7423 or our Honorary Secretary, Vikas Chandiramani at 9816 0501 if you need any clarification or further information.

We will be most willing to provide more information to you.

I remember Subbuteo from childhood but have never played it, and I'm shocked that anyone still does.

And that there are international Subbuteo tournaments.

And that there is a Table Football Association of Singapore.

So Singapore may suck at actual football, but in table football, we are Asian champions.

Now if only we could have a rematch with Argentina - in Subbuteo.

EARLIER: How Singapore football is like Burger King's new Hainanese chicken burger

19 June 2017

How Singapore football is like Burger King's new Hainanese chicken burger

What an embarrassment for Singapore.

How could the powers that be let this happen in public for all the world to see? It was so humiliating.

As a Singaporean, I didn’t know who to root for.

I was torn by conflicting emotions.

Or is it a conflict of interest?

On the one hand, country comes first.

On the other hand, Argentina was the team we wanted to see at the National Stadium on Tuesday night.

This headline on the UK’s Daily Mail website gave us no face: “Singapore 0-6 Argentina: Jorge Sampaoli's bizarre 2-3-5 formation wreaks havoc with six different scorers netting against hapless hosts.”

Where are the organs of state when you need them?

Singapore getting beat up by a foreign power appears to be a recurring theme in the news of late.

In this case, some Singaporeans were even rooting for the foreign power as many Singaporean fans wore Argentina colours to the friendly match.

And it wasn’t just the spectators.

Two Singapore players were spotted asking for the jerseys of two Argentina players as they were walking off the pitch at half-time.

Perhaps the Singapore players wanted to switch teams for the second half.

Which is understandable, considering the final result.

And the state of Singapore football in general.

While it may be seen as ironic that the match was organised to commemorate the Football Association of Singapore's 125th anniversary, it’s actually quite fitting as the outcome of the match perfectly illustrates the decrepitude of Singapore football after 125 years.

Nobody likes to be on the losing team.

But then you gotta dance with the one that brung ya.

It’s like when Burger King introduced its Hainanese Tendergrill Chicken and Rendang burgers at the same time recently.

As a Hainanese person, I was naturally very excited to finally have a burger named after my dialect.

For too long, just as Singaporeans have been enamoured by foreign football teams, we have been slobbering over foreign burgers like McDonald’s Samurai and KFC’s spicy Korean burgers.

And don’t get me started on the french fries from France.

The problem is, because Burger King introduced the Hainanese and Rendang burgers at the same time, you can’t help but compare the two, therefore pitting brother against brother, I mean, burger against burger.

But like Singapore versus Argentina, it was no contest.

The Rendang burger is a returning favourite. Burger King even learnt from previous mistakes by leaving out the mayonnaise this time.

The fast food chain must have read my 2013 column where I wrote: “Rendang with mayo is a crime against nature and all taste buds.”

The Hainanese burger, however, is a new product and, like the Singapore football team, a bit of a disappointment.

It’s basically just a grilled chicken burger with some weird ginger sauce

A post shared by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

So, as a Hainanese person, I’m torn by conflicting emotions.

Should I remain loyal to the Hainanese burger just because I’m Hainanese?

Or should I try to switch teams like those two Argentina jersey-seeking Singapore players and order the Rendang burger because it’s so much better?

I will need to form a not-secret ministerial committee to look into this.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 June 2017

Frankly speaking

1) The FAS is weak and useless . When they sign Sundram before the election , it really speak volume of their capability.

2) Sundram unfortunately is really not up to the mark.  He should be sack after the Argentina game.

3) the national players is poor.  Lack of creativity, speed, stamina , intelligence .

4) singapore should engage a renown coach and his own scouting team.  You cannot use our own scout who pick the same type of players that cannot propel Singapore forward.

Thank you
Johnny Lee

15 June 2017

I was stopped by police at the MRT station yesterday afternoon

So I had a weird afternoon yesterday.

It was a few minutes after 4 o'clock. I was on my way to work and had tapped out at Braddell MRT station.

In front of me were three Public Transport Special Command officers. You know, the guys in the grey berets who patrol the MRT?

I wondered if the country was on high alert because of the suddenly very public squabble between our prime minister and his sibs.

And then I remembered a woman was recently detained for pro-ISIS activities. That could be it.

I hoped I wouldn't be stopped because I was late for work.

Just as I was about to walk past them, one of the guys stopped me. Just my luck.

I took out my earphones to hear what he was saying to me.

All he kept saying was “spot check, spot check” as if I was supposed to know what to do.

I had never been stopped for a spot check before, so I waited for instructions. Although I instinctively wanted to take out my IC, I wasn't asked to do so yet.

"Spot check," he repeated.

I said: "Yah, so?"

Perhaps I sounded a little more insolent than I should.

He eventually asked to see my IC, which I handed to him. He then stepped away and I heard him read my name into his walkie-talkie.

Meanwhile, I just stood there awkwardly, feeling kinda embarrassed that passers-by must be looking at me and wondering what I did.

Was I behaving suspiciously because I was anxious about being late for work?

Even though I didn't do anything, I felt guilty for just being stopped.

While I was waiting for my IC, one of the other guys asked me where I was going. Eager to clear myself, I said I was late for work and even showed him my work pass.

He asked me if I was on the afternoon shift. I said night shift.

He said he thought the night shift starts at 7pm. That puzzled me. I was unaware there was some universal definition of “night shift” that states it must start at 7pm.

I said my work starts now and ends at midnight. He didn't seem very convinced.

It would be just like me to get arrested over semantics.

I wanted to take a selfie with them but then thought better of it as I didn't want to get into more trouble and make myself even more late for work.

So after I got my IC back and was told I could go, I quickly snapped a selfie with the cops in the background (circled) as I was leaving the station.

When I arrived at work, a colleague said I looked even "grungier" than usual.

I wondered if that was why I was stopped by police.

I headed for the men's room and bumped into a Malay cleaner whom I had never seen before. After leaving the men's room, I bumped into her again.

Apropos to nothing, she asked me: "Are you Malay?"

What a weird, random question.

I replied no.

She said I looked Malay because of what I was wearing on my head.

I wanted to say that my complexion is too pale for me to look Malay, but I just smiled weakly at her.

It was not the first time I wore the headgear to work. I usually wear it to keep sweat from my face when I'm running , but after my hair grew too long, nowadays I also wear it to keep hair from my face even when I'm not running.

You may ask, why don't I just cut my hair? I have explained that in an earlier article.

Wait, could that be also why I was stopped by the cops — because I looked Malay?

Because of my headgear?

Because of my long hair?

And what a weird coincidence that I would have the conversation with the cleaner in the same afternoon.

To cap it off, minutes after talking to the cleaner, I found out that I had misread a message from a colleague (the one who called me grungy) and I wasn't supposed to be working that day. It was my day off!

So I had rushed to work for nothing. I wasn't late at all. I was stopped by police for nothing.

As I shuffled back to the MRT station to go home, feeling like an idiot, I realised the three TransCom officers could still be there.

If they see me again, they would think I had lied to them about going to work after all that discussion about "night shift" and me working until midnight.

How was I going to explain myself?

To my relief, when I reached the MRT station, the cops weren't there any more because even I couldn't be that unlucky.

Perhaps it's time I get a haircut.

5 June 2017

Fight racism, ageism and discrimination against gay not-rainbow cakes

Read any good books lately?

Uh… does Facebook count?

Well, it should. Last week, because of Facebook, I learned about issues of racism, ageism and foodism.

No, I didn’t make up that last word.

Unlike "covfefe", "foodism" is a legit word in the Oxford English Dictionary along with "aiyah" and "aiyoh".

As in, aiyoh, did you read what happened to that Indian actor who complained on Facebook about being asked to speak like "a full-blown Indian man" during an audition for the Ah Boys To Men movie sequel (yes, another one)?

Mr Shrey Bhargava’s Facebook post went viral and many people supported him, but many also whacked him worse than critics whacking the Ah Boys To Men movies.

Things escalated quickly when he was questioned by the police at Tanglin Police Division on Wednesday because someone made a police report.

Yes, someone actually made a police report over this because, you know, Singaporeans.

But the police said they have "assessed that no criminal offence was disclosed" and they "will not be conducting further investigations in relation to the case".

Yah lor, the police have better things to do.

Like investigating unattended bags at the MRT station left by two dudes who had to go answer the call of nature.

At least Mr Bhargava wasn’t called "sick in the head", "self-centred" and "smug" by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam because of his Facebook post.

That was what happened to a Mr Thomas Chua who wrote a "gloating post" about the death of a Traffic Police officer and angered Mr Shanmugam so much that the minister identified Mr Chua by name and posted his picture on the minister’s official Facebook page.

I’m not sure which is worse — being questioned by the police or being shamed by the Minister of Home Affairs and Law on social media.

At least Mr Bhargava is still on Facebook whereas Mr Chua isn’t. The latter is too busy getting arrested for shoplifting.

Also, Mr Bhargava, 22, is still young and has a whole career ahead of him unlike, say, 70-year-old TV actress Jin Yinji.

In a newspaper interview, she said she was shown no respect during contract talks with Mediacorp last year and has since left the company.

I wonder if she was asked to speak like a full-blown Chinese woman.

Probably not. Nowadays, it seems only Jack Neo is asked to do that.

When he’s not busy perpetuating racial stereotypes, the director of the Ah Boys To Men movies also cross-dresses as Liang Ximei in Happy Can Already!, a Hokkien TV series promoted by the Government.

Speaking of questionable sexuality, I also read on Facebook that multi-coloured cake is gay.

On Tuesday, someone posted on the "We are against Pinkdot in Singapore" Facebook group:
"Went to another of those ‘young punk’ cafes that are sprouting all over our island, and again saw all these so-called ‘rainbow cakes’.

"I always protest to my ignorant young cousins, these are not rainbow cakes. Rainbow has seven colours.

"These are gay cakes. Nothing wrong with a gay cake, sure, but please call a spade a spade.

"Stop covering up gay agenda. Now."

The post went viral last week too. Before long, there will be erections of barricades around these baked goods and only Singaporeans and permanent residents will be allowed to enjoy them.

In Taiwan, the law would be changed to allow these cakes to marry each other.

After all, they didn’t choose to be gay. They were baked that way.

Hey, isn’t that a Lady Agar Agar song?

If you want to be outraged by food, it should be cheese tea. I mean, what the hell is it? Do you drink it or dip nachos in it?

For just as we should guard against racism and ageism, we should also not discriminate against so-called "rainbow cake" with colours in numbers other than seven because that’s homophobia.

Or is it foodism?

If I post that on Facebook, please don’t make a police report, okay?

- Published in The New Paper, 5 June 2017

29 May 2017

The Performance Series Race at Stadium Riverside Run, I mean, Walk

No blisters or wet farts, at least until after the race.

Yet, yesterday's The Performance Series Race at Stadium Riverside Walk was one of my worst half marathon performances.

I did stop to take a leak, though, at the same toilet I used during the Income Eco Run three weeks earlier. That toilet at the Gardens by the Bay East entrance is a life-saver.

My legs felt stiff throughout the race. I usually hit the wall around the 14km mark. This time, it was 7km.

Previously, I would avoid drinking anything during a race. This time, I was looking forward to the next hydration point so that I could get a cup of cold, refreshing, delicious Lucozade, which tasted much better than last year's awful orange-flavoured version.

After getting "hydrated", I would feel too bloated to run. So once again, i walked for much of the last few kilometres, which accounted for my lousy time, 2 hours 55 minutes.

So what's my excuse this time?

Not enough sleep. some remnant pain from a leg injury and satay rendang pizza for dinner the night before.

But honestly, I should just face the fact that I have been undisciplined in my training and I'm just not fit enough.

At one point during the race, I asked myself, why am I punishing myself like this by signing for these 21km races?

I'm not getting any better at it. After half a dozen half marathons, it's still not getting any easier.

Unfortunately, I've already signed up for three more this year, including the Army Half Marathon.

I swear, after this year, no more half marathons.

But then, that was what I said two years ago.

22 May 2017

Exactly when did Ikea chicken wings stop 'meeting customers' satisfaction'?

It’s the biggest chicken-related food news to hit Singapore since KFC’s Chizza.

On Friday, Ikea posted on its Facebook page:
"Dear fans, thank you for all your feedback. We are aware that our chicken wings have not been meeting our customers’ satisfaction recently, so we have decided to stop selling them temporarily from May 23 so we can improve on it."
May 23?

That’s tomorrow!

That means today is your last chance to eat Ikea’s famed chicken wings that have not been meeting customers’ satisfaction recently.

After this, the wings will be replaced with $1 chicken tenders. If you’re not interested in eating chicken, I understand Ikea sells other stuff too.

Like hot dogs and meatballs — but no horse meat.

Rumour has it that Ikea also has a significant side business hawking pieces of furniture with weird umlauted names like they’re metal bands or something.

Still, people mostly go to Ikea to complain about the food.

What’s unusual is that the company is actually doing something about the complaints.

I mean, people have been complaining about local TV shows for decades, but Mediacorp still keeps churning them out.

OK Chope!, anyone? Not Najib with a B, apparently.

But Ikea’s Facebook post also raises a few questions.

Like why announce on Friday that you’re going to stop selling the wings on Tuesday? Why not stop selling them immediately?

If you know your food sucks, why inflict it on your customers for four more days?

I suspect there are people who have read the news and want to taste for themselves how bad the wings really are to be in the news.

First World problem?

The thing is, Singaporeans used to love Ikea chicken wings. Then, like the MRT, something went wrong in the last few years.

They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

As Ikea said, "our chicken wings have not been meeting our customers’ satisfaction recently".

But exactly how recently is "recently"?

Founded in Sweden in 1943, Ikea has been in Singapore since 1978.

So, yeah, the post could be a little more specific in terms of the time frame.

But one Facebook commenter has helpfully narrowed it down:
"The story years back was that there was corruption on the old supplier, then they changed to a new one, we (my family, even my young daughter age five or six then) noticed that ever since they changed to the new supplier, the standard dropped."

Involving chicken wings?

Yes, corruption.

Involving chicken wings.

That, surprisingly, is not fake news.

The guy who supplied chicken wings to Ikea between 2003 and 2009 ran "afowl" of the law by bribing an Ikea food services manager and in 2011, was jailed four months and fined $180,000 for corruption.

What a bad egg.

Presumably, after the supplier was caught, Ikea had to find a new supplier as it would be difficult to supply chicken parts from prison.

And it seems the wings haven’t been the same since.

You know what they say, forbidden wings taste the yummiest.

That was like eight years ago.

And only now Ikea decides to stop selling them temporarily so that the company can "improve on it"?


Perhaps the wings can be marinated in some special corruption sauce.

Hey, anything is better than the Chizza.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 May 2017

It wasn't the quality of the chicken wings alone; yes, they look malnutritioned.

Even the cooking process was compromised. Last time I ate them was more than a year ago; the wings were not thoroughly cooked, seemed to be straight out of the freezer into the oil. I feedback, and changed for some other food. Since then I stopped eating their chicken wings.



8 May 2017

My Star Wars Run-neth over: PM Lee outgeeks Canadian PM Trudeau

I saw a guy running in a gold bikini top at the Star Wars Run on Saturday night.

Yes, a guy.

In a gold bikini top.

As if Return Of The Jedi wasn’t already ruined by those mutant teddy bears, the Ewoks.

Now my hetero adolescent fantasies of Princess Leia in the slave girl outfit from that movie have been destroyed for good too.

Thankfully, the guy wore a T-shirt under the bikini top. So I didn’t have nightmares that night.

I also saw many Jedi and Sith wannabes running with lightsabers, which were not only cumbersome but also potentially hazardous to other runners.

And you thought people with selfie sticks were annoying.

Some fans even ran in full costume — helmet and cape et al. I had a heat stroke just looking at them.

I was already sweating like a pig on Dagobah in my Under Armour Star Wars Trooper compression shirt — that is, if there are pigs on Dagobah.

I wish I had a gold bikini to run in. At least that seems more Singapore weather-appropriate.

The run was part of a three-day event at Gardens By The Bay celebrating 40 years of Star Wars, a 1977 US movie that grew into a worldwide cultural phenomenon and merchandising juggernaut.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a photo of himself wearing R2D2 and C3PO socks with the tweet: “These are the socks you’re looking for. #MayTheFourthBeWithYou #GuerreDesÉtoiles”

Guerre Des Étoiles is French for Star Wars.

The geek is strong with this one.

But Mr Trudeau wasn’t the only world leader who jumped on the Star Wars cantina bandwagon.

On Saturday, our own PM Lee Hsien Loong posted photos of “Sabertrees” at Gardens by the Bay with the caption:
“Star Wars fans know ‘May the 4th’ as Star Wars Day, and this year @gardensbythebay joined in the fun with Star Wars-themed events.

“I couldn’t make it on the 4th but managed a #jalanjalan at the Gardens last night.

“The Supertrees have been converted into spectacular ‘Sabertrees’, and look like giant lightsabers pointing to the sky!

“Happened to capture the moon in my photo too, or at least, I think it’s a moon. :)

“The festivities end tonight — just in time for the Revenge Of The Sixth, so do catch it if you can. And May the Fourth be with you!”

No Padawan he is.

Besides the obvious Revenge Of The Sith pun, notice how PM Lee also subtly worked in a “That’s no moon” reference without using the actual quote from the original movie.

I’m sorry, Mr Trudeau, but you have been out-geeked by our prime minister. Even without mismatched droid socks.

Wait, did PM Lee just reference the Sith? Does it mean he has gone to the dark side?

Well, he did recently tell Singaporeans that to stay ahead of the competition, “you must make sure you steal somebody else’s lunch”.

That sounds pretty dark side-ish.

If he had joined the Star Wars Run, I wonder whether he would have chosen to be on the light or dark side.

On the one hand, PM Lee is a member of the People’s Action Party, also known as the Men in White, which suggests the light side. On the other hand, white is also the uniform of the stormtroopers, who are on the dark side.

Oh, the conundrum!

Now I understand what Anakin and Luke Skywalker went through.

As for me, I went to the dark side because the T-shirt is nicer.

How long did it take me to finish the 10km run?

In less than 12 parsecs, of course.

According to Strava, it was a personal record. (But then I started using Strava regularly only this year.)

Who needs a gold bikini?

- Published in The New Paper, 8 May 2017


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