When the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) posted that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) on 20 November, not many would have batted any of their eyelids.
Afterall, the FAS is known to sign MoUs at will over the years, with the resulting impact still very much questionable.
For example, in March 2022, the FAS signed a MoU with the French Football Federation to collaborate over women’s football development and to conduct a technical exchange programme over two years.
A month later, it announced the renewal of its MoU with the Japan Football Association and subsequently the appointment of Takayuki Nishigaya as the replacement to outgoing Tatsuma Yoshida, with Nishigaya then failing to take the Lions to the Asian Cup when neighbours Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia all made it.
Further back in 2018, it also signed a MoU with private education institution PSB Academy (see photo below) to help provide professional players with a pathway for continuous learning and further education.
Since signing on the MoU, there’s been no updates on how the partnership went with PSB Academy or if the five-year long partnership has been extended.
The Unleash the Roar team has also signed partnerships with La Liga and German club Borussia Dortmund.
Still, and unlike the rest, the FAS’ MoU with a country known for human rights violations, being accused of murder (see image below) and for oppressing the rights of women surely must be a cause for concern.
Read Amnesty International’s report on Saudi Arabia here.
The FAS said in its release that the areas covered under the partnership would be youth National Teams, women’s football, technical and professional exchanges, referees and technology and added that it was intent on having its women’s teams participate in training camps in Saudi Arabia, despite reports of the way women were being treated in the kingdom.
Note that the Saudi Arabia women’s team only played their first match in February 2022 this year.
So why would Singapore pick Saudi Arabia as a nation to support the growth of our women’s game?
In many ways, SAFF is engaging in the art of sportwashing, by using sport as a means to improve on the regional and global image.
And it is riding on the Singapore brand for it ashamedly.
Could the FAS not have found other partners to work with or perhaps extend on its partnership with the JFA in the areas it intends to colloborate with the Saudis?
Afterall, the Japanese would be experts in all areas it is intending to improve on, including in the women’s game.
“The MoU will provide for youth age-group National Teams from Under-15 to Under-23 level of both countries to be hosted by either party for friendly matches or tournaments, as well as opportunities for Singapore’s senior and age-group Women’s National Teams to participate in training camps in Saudi Arabia,” said the statement.
“The technical and professional exchanges will see both FAS and SAFF share expertise, courses and facilities between one another across domains such as sport facilities, league development, marketing and more,” it added.
The FAS also said that its referees will also be able to tap on the expertise of their SAFF counterparts, including the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology and that both both parties will share IT and data technology knowledge and know-how for “mutual benefit”.
A MoU with a country notorious for its human rights violations, having been accused of murder and oppression of women surely isn’t the right course to undertake, event in the realm of sport.
MAIN PHOTO: FAS