Importance of Role Models: The Union of Nations Due to Sport

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Role models have an important influence for the person you will grow up to be. These role models help form values and behaviour and a feeling of belonging and nationalism. These role models act as the personification of the ideals and values children will grow up believing and are therefore an important part of forming younger generations. In modern society sports stars become role models, especially as they gain more and more influence trough social media and so on. The modern sports star can also be national heroes that serve as role models for the youth of their nation. They serve as inspiration for ideals and values in the modern society. So how does this play out in Singapore?

The Foreign Sports Talent (FST) scheme is used in Singaporean football to recruit foreign talent. The goal is of course to strengthen the team to be able to compete on a higher level. Two of the main concerns raised are:

  1. Public opinion. These are not true Singaporeans and their loyalty are questionable. 
  2. Foreign players are hindering local talent.

The FST has brought some successful players to the Singaporean national team, but many players targeted by the program have turned out to be failures and other players have moved on even before representing The Lions (Meng, 2018).

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Emerson writes that communities in Southeast Asia have usually been limited to local groups and for a nation to form traditions must be breached. (Emerson, 1946). In colonial times people from different communities would breach tradition and unite against a common enemy. When the war was won the problems of forming a nation began. Minority groups were often overlooked an alienated from the forming nation as has been seen all over Southeast Asia. In other examples larger groups met resistance, for example the Chinese and Indian immigrants who, according to Emerson, were “..viewed as aliens encroaching on the jobs, the power and the wealth..”. One way in a modern society to create a common enemy is trough sports. In national sports it is nation against nation, and it has the potential to unite people across a nation to support the national team and its athletes. Football requires multiple athletes to be on the same team and compete together to gain victories to the nation. This team represents the nation, and the more people from the local communities that can identify with the athletes from the team the stronger the support will likely become. Athletes who grew up in the communities will serve as role models for younger generations and as they are part of a team with athletes from other communities also shows how bonds can be strong between communities. The importance of these role models can be vital in uniting communities to a nation. One of the biggest challenges would be for the national team to also gain results, because a winning team will always be the most popular one over time. This is the challenge the Singaporean football national team faces. The FST scheme is there to recruit athletes to ensure that the team is competitive on the national stage. This can be utilised to be more competitive in the short run, but if the team is gain national support, and be used as an instrument to unite the nation, it must be local talent who represent nation.

In a multi-cultural nation, it can be difficult to pin-point what nationalism is because it is practiced in many different ways. In sports, representation of local talent, later to become heroes, are crucial for people to support and rally as a united nation. In the Singaporean football national team representation of local talent will be a crucial factor for gaining united support across the nation. Having local heroes will inspire younger generations to go practice and further strengthen the national bond between all those who participate. The unified support and the strong bonds created through shared history of accomplishment are critical to unifying the nation.

This has made me think of the importance of strong local communities and that they must be represented on the national stage. It is also important that governments are aware of how to manage this. They must consider if short term success in terms of result in the sporting arena outweighs the importance of having shared history between local communities. The acknowledgment of communities on the national stage, may it be ethnicities or religions or other, that come from being represented is vital in bridging the gap and uniting a nation. The importance of shared history and accomplishments through good times and bad are the foundation of building a nation and should never be neglected even when times are tough. Politics also play a huge role in how sports is used by a nation. Many nations have recruited athletes to compete and to win medals, but who besides the athlete benefits from this practice. It is very difficult to know if a recruited foreign athlete will inspire the younger generation or if their accomplishments will only benefit in the short run.


  1. Emerson, R., 1946. An Analysis of Nationalism in Southeast Asia. The Far Eastern Qurterly, February.
  2. Farhan, N., 2017. Channel News Asia. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 02 October 2019].
  3. Meng, W. M., 2018. StraitTimes. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 28 September 2019].   
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