Sunday, November 23, 2008

The New Paper: "Does It Pay To Be A World Champ In Singapore"

Been reading the The New Paper in Singapore recently and they wrote something about being an Athlete here.

They wrote about a Singapore Silat fighter who recently won a World Title and how he intends to quit due to the lack of funding and recognition from the Singapore Sports Council.

On top of that,recently Singapore's bowler,Jasmine Yeoh-Nathan won Gold at AMF World Cup in Hermosillo, Mexico and also recieved nothing from the Singapore Sports Council. She did recieve some money that was raised by her association.

You can read the articles here.

"Does It Pay To Be A World Champ"

"No,It Does Not"

"Must It Always Be About Money?"

I actually decided to take time to write to The New Paper over the weekend. I never write in to any papers or magazines but this kinda affects me in a way.

You can read my letter to them here.
(I had to remove a couple of vulgarities to make it sound abit more professional!!)

Dear New Paper,

I'm writing in regards to the articles that I've been following over the last few days, "Does it pay to be a world champ?" Well my answer is NO not in Singapore!

I am a Professional Muay Thai fighter and I've been Professional for the last 5 years. I was a fighter on Mark Burnett's Reality TV series "The Contender Asia." I've fought on the prestigious King's Birthday in Thailand. I won a WMC Muay Thai Against Drugs Challenge belt. I was a Quater Finalist at the Amateur World Championships. I train and fight professionally around the world and I currently run my own personal training business in Singapore.

I know Muay Thai hasn't been in the NSA long, and it's not one of the 'elite' Sports like Swimming, Badminton or Table Tennis for example. Therefore I am not expecting to receive any monetary reward. However, I would like to voice my views on being a Professional athlete in Singapore.

I fully understand where Muhammad Razif Moklas is coming from when he says he is considering retiring. There have been many times when I have thought about hanging up my gloves and calling it quits. Why? Because there isn't any sponsorship or help from the SSC or external companies here in Singapore.

I have placed Singapore on the World Map of Muay Thai. Very few people even knew Singapore participated in Muay Thai. However, when I fought and won my place to be one of the fighters in The Contender Asia, many people on the internet and in the media and sports world were talking about me,"Who's this Singaporean?" "Why is he even in there?" "Do Singapore do Muay Thai?" The Contender Asia aired globally this year and had viewing figures of several million. Many of these viewers had never even heard of Singapore until they saw the show. Now I get hundreds of emails from all over the world offering support, recognising me and congratulating me on my win during the Finals at the Indoor Stadium.

Both before and since The Contender Asia aired globally, I have been featured in numerous local and International magazine and newspaper articles. Sad to say all the exposure hasn't really done much for me. I've approached many sports brands and fitness related companies to sit down and discuss sponsorship deals or endorsement with me but, to this day I've had very little success. Sadly, sports companies would rather give products like running shoes and training clothes to TV Stars (who probably go to slimming centres instead of working out to keep fit!). Instead why not give it to the local athletes like Muhammad Razif, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan, Remy Ong or even me?

Help doesn't have to come in the form of money. Things like running shoes, training clothes or even sports supplements are also a way to help the athletes. I run about 10 -15km a day during training. I change running shoes every 3-4 months and the cost is considerable. I spend hundreds of dollars on Protein and other supplements to help me recover and perform better in training and competitions but when I've contacted some of the Fitness Supplement companies here about sponsorship they don't even reply to my messages!

In regards to Singapore Sailing Presidents comment, "Why must it always be about monetary incentives? Why can't we take part in sports just for the sake of sports?" Not all athletes come from wealthy families. When athletes here have to work 9-5 just to survive and on top of that, train as a professional athlete it is not easy. Athletes have to be in top physical and mental condition to perform at their best. How can they perform at their best if they are struggling to pay bills and make ends meet? I have done and am still doing the sport I love out of Passion. But Passion doesn't pay for my running shoes, my supplements, my medical bills when I get injured. I don't know what injuries you get from sailing but I can tell you the injuries I've got from Muay thai! But, I have never asked for money from the Sports Council and am not about to.

When I was younger I played football for the S-League Youth Clubs and I also played for the Singapore Combined Schools Sepak Takraw team. We were expected to attend training almost every day. What did we get in return for playing for the team? A jersey and a tracksuit. Thinking back I could have bought almost 4 or 5 tracksuits with all the money that I spent on transport to training. Many of the talented players I knew back then have given up professional football and don't play at all anymore. Why? Because there is no incentive here in Singapore. A lack of recognition and incentive kills the drive and passion required to be a professional athlete.

I was once asked who I represent when I fight at tournaments. I replied that I represent Singapore, myself and the gym that I'm fighting for. When asked whether Singapore gives me any incentives when I fight in the way of money, awards or certificates I replied, "nothing." So why do I represent Singapore? Good question! The fact that I am Singaporean is the only reason that I represent Singapore but even that is slowly losing it's meaning. For all I know Singapore could just buy a Thai national and give him P.R status and he could easily replace me as Singapore's best Muay Thai fighter. Kids dreams are dashed when they know that as hard as they try and as much as they train, Singapore could easily overlook local talent and just 'buy' foreign athletes to represent them. If all the money spent on Foreign Talent were used to groom the local youths and even the semi-pro athletes they would be just as good as the imported talent.

In summary, I feel that Singapore does not offer the support and recognition that local athletes deserve. When local companies would rather endorse and promote TV celebrities than athletes is it any wonder Singaporean youths are deterred from chasing their sporting dreams? I am not asking for money from the government or the SSC or from anyone else for that matter. However, I am expecting the recognition and the respect that I deserve for putting my body on the line and representing my country.

So thats just my two cents worth on this whole discussion. One thing that really got me annoyed was the Singapore Sailing Presidents comment. That really annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe he didn't mean it that way? Maybe I was just so angry when I was reading the article I took it thw wrong way? I mean,you would probably have to be wealthy to be able to afford to do a sport like sailing anyways?!! So maybe money isn't a prob to him and his sport...?? But not all of us were born with a silver spoon up the bitching and whining abit for recognition and funds is normal for us middle class athletes.

I hope the new paper read it. There is so much more I would like to say in it,but I reckon I'd just lose my temper.......and just end up getting in trouble!!

So you readers decide if what I have said in the letter makes sense...or am I just a grumpy pissed off Thai Boxer.

LaterZ ppl.

Ohhhh before I forget...!!! On another note...there is an amateur muaythai event on the 29th of November at Jurong Sports Hall. Check the poster out. I should be there that day to catch up with some friends/fighters and all. For more details contact Punch Academy


David said...

I agree with you, Zach. Everyone wants a future. If there is no promising future, who wants to spend time. I think, we asian wants a better life for ourselves as well with someone supporting. Parents also want a promising future for their children. It's just not fair for the country to take all the fame while the person train so hard independently without any support. I agree with you that importing foreign fighter to represent the country is just bull shit. People involve in sailing might mostly be rich ppl, so maybe their incentive could be cut less while more damage sports like muay thai, swimming and other prone to injury should be given more incentives because they are using their health, life and future to get the result..

Anonymous said...

I watched the replay of the final against Zidov on AXN last night. I was really impressed with your skills and prowess, and too bad I only knew about The Contender Asia quite late. I really do feel sorry for how the Singaporean government treats their finest athlete who don the flag with a proud spirit. Anyway I do wish your perseverance pays off and hope to see more of your fights in the future. Hopefully one day you could represent Singapore at K1 Max Japan. All the best Zach!!!

bareboxersjournal said...

Hey zach, I totally understand how you feel. And the thing is you are a professional muay thai fighter. What about the other small time 'dreamers'? I used to have a dream of becoming somebody big in the boxing scene, but that dream is slowly fading. Because at the end of the day you look back at all the time training, and where does it get you in life? You're spending money, spending time training, having little time for other things. And Singapore isn't helping with promotions or monetary issues, so how can sports in sg prosper?