5 ways Singaporean football can ride the Olympic wave

Joseph Schooling made history at the Games by claiming Singapore's first ever gold medal, and John Duerden thinks there are vital lessons that the country's number one sport can take on board...

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On Saturday morning, something extradordinary happened. Joseph Schooling swam to glory at the 2016 Rio Olympics and won Singapore's first ever gold medal at the Games.

It is not often that the city state makes international headlines in the world of sport but, if those in football could learn a few lessons from the new star, then perhaps that could be about to change.

Here, FourFourTwo outlines five ways in which Singaporean football can step up to put the country on the map.

Tap into the nation's sporting passion

When talking about Singapore becoming a football power, it is common to hear the refrain that it is hard to produce top-class footballers as children in the city state are pushed to choose books over boots.

This may be the case but then there are the same (often harsher) demands placed on youngsters in countries like South Korea and Japan. These East Asian nations qualify for World Cups, occupy spots in the upper reaches of the medal table and still manage to keep the economy going.

There's a reservoir of fan energy for Singaporean football to tap into. Photo: S.League

Yet the reaction to Schooling's success shows that there can be a national passion for sport. It needs catalysts and a certain amount of ingredients in place but there is no reason why Singapore can't be a sporting nation.

And if Singapore can be a sporting nation, then it can also be a football nation.

Football is the number one sport in the country, the region,the continent and the world. There is a well of support and desire to win that can be tapped into.

If swimming can unite an entire nation in joy and delight, then so can football. 

Heroes are needed to inspire

The photo of a young Schooling meeting Michael Phelps back in 2008 is a magnificent one.

There is no opponent in the world of sport as dominant as Phelps. The American has won 22 gold medals and his considerable shadow has been blocking the limelight for competitors for years.

A reference point for footballers could truly help them take the next step

Despite, or rather because, of such dominance, Phelps inspired a generation of swimmers to be as good as they could be.

Overcoming such a legend is a fantastic achievement but perhaps now the next generation of Singapore swimmers will grow up wanting to be, and to beat, Schooling.

In football, the heroes to many youngsters in Singapore may be European or South American at the moment. These can inspire locals to play the game but what is really needed is home-grown talent to become genuine stars and then act as role-models to a new generation.