SINGAPORE - Five-time S-League champions Tampines Rovers and private football academy JSSL Singapore on Thursday (March 1) officially announced a partnership which both parties hope will create a pathway for talented young players into professional football.
This partnership between a local professional football team and commercial academy is the first of its kind.
The "multi-year and multi-layered" partnership - initially for three years -will see JSSL coordinate youth development programmes for Tampines, focusing on footballers from the ages of six to 14.
JSSL will also offer scholarships to 60 young players. The scholarship will cover the cost of these players being part of the academy's elite programme for a year.
Tampines chairman Desmond Ong said there is no monetary element to the partnership.
He added: "As the focus on identifying and fast-tracking young footballers into the S-League intensifies, this partnership with JSSL, added to our grassroots partnership with ActiveSg, ensures that Tampines Rovers offers a range of entry points for children in the local community into playing the game.
"This will hopefully create a strong flow of talent into our professional ranks."
JSSL general manager Gavin Lee, who will transition into a full-time role with Tampines as assistant coach of its S-League team, added: "Having now been assisting Jurgen (Raab, Stags' head coach) in the first team, what stands out to me is that a lot of young players that come to us... have to be taught to re-learn certain things.
"If there were an academy system like this in place for the past 10 years, we would just focus on them integrating into the team, and not having to learn new skills.
"That's what we want, young players playing with the same philosophy as the first team, so when they do arrive (into the first team) the job of the head coach is so much easier."
Established in 2002, JSSL now has over 1,000 footballers under its charge across multiple age-groups, from three to 16.
JSSL managing director Harvey Davis said: "We don't expect results in one or two years, but four or five years down the road, we're very comfortable in saying we're going to be providing Tampines with the best (youth) players for their U-16s, U-19s, and potentially into the first team.
"Hopefully the message is, to every young player in Singapore, there is a real pathway from a very young age that we've created. And hopefully, it'll be the first successful model for other clubs to follow."