Sunday 18 July 2010

After cheering on foreign talent in World Cup, we're all patriots for National Day

On the eve of the World Cup final a week ago, I walked by a sports shop in HarbourFront Centre and was immediately drawn to a rack of World Cup T-shirts on sale.

Should I go for Holland? But no one looks good in orange. My complexion looks sickly enough. I don’t need the Dutch national colour to further bring out my natural pastiness.

Spain then - except that the red Spain shirt also had some orange in it. I recoiled from EspaƱa like a vampire from sunlight. (I mean a regular vampire, not those sparkle fairies from Twilight.)

Then I spotted a white tee with red trim. Ah, good old England. Sure, they were already out of the tournament, but there’s always 2014.

But when I looked more closely, I discovered it wasn’t a England shirt. It had the word “Singapore” on it. What the...?

Wasn’t this supposed to the World Cup rack? What was Singapore doing here with the countries that actually achieved their “Goal 2010”?

Wait. Maybe I could buy the shirt to wear ironically during the final - you know, to point out Singapore’s absence from the World Cup.

But then I remembered that Singaporeans have little sense of irony. People would just think that my Singapore shirt was dorky - and they would be right.

So I left the shop without buying anything.

The final came and went.

In the days since Spain beat Holland, I noticed the Singapore flag popping up all over the place for National Day, which is now just three weeks away. Suddenly, wearing a Singapore shirt doesn’t seem so dorky any more.

How ironic, I thought, that many of these Singapore flag-displaying, Singapore shirt-wearing Singaporeans were heartily cheering on countries other than Singapore in the World Cup just days before. (And you know how much Singaporeans appreciate irony.)

And, yes, many of these Singaporeans are also wearing the shirts of these other countries. Of course, I’m not suggesting that they’re any less patriotic because their choice of apparel shows their support for foreign talent.

By the same token, do wearing a Singapore shirt and watching the National Day Parade (NDP) make you any more patriotic?

But how considerate of the World Cup to end long before National Day so that we don’t have to face the impossible choice of watching either the NDP or a World Cup match.

Raffles Institution even went so far as to declare the day of the final a school holiday. Can a once-every-four-years nationwide public holiday be far behind?

If ever a World Cup match should fall on Aug 9, I believe some rewriting of history would be required to avoid a serious clash in scheduling.

Or to compete with the World Cup on its own terms, we could introduce some form of legal betting for the NDP, like wagering on how many members of the marching contingents are going to faint before the parade is over.

Or perhaps one day, we could celebrate National Day by watching the World Cup because Singapore would be playing in it. Hey, I would even buy a dorky Singapore shirt for that.

We can call it Goal 3010.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 July 2010