THE DEBUTANTS |MEN'S VOLLEYBALL TEAM

Mission is to see a spike in interest

The final of a five-part series on Singaporeans making their SEA Games debut

THEY are unlikely medal contenders. But to the Singapore men's volleyball team, just fielding a squad of 12 for these SEA Games on home ground is already an accomplishment.

Their current mission has a far longer runway: To leave a legacy by popularising the sport and inspiring a new generation of players to don national colours.

After all, up to the end of last year, there wasn't even a national men's volleyball team to speak of after commitment and funding issues led to the outfit disbanding in 2012.

And Singapore's participation in the Games' volleyball competition is chequered at best. Barely anyone in the current set-up can remember when the Republic last entered a men's team at the biennial regional multi-sport meet.

The only thing that comes to mind: The bronze won when Singapore last hosted the Games 22 years ago.

The seeds of the current Games team were sown from a challenge issued by Volleyball Association of Singapore (VAS) president Ang Wei Neng last August. At the VAS Open, he announced that a Games men's team would not be formed.

That stirred the country's top players to come together as a squad.

The line-up, aptly named The Developing Team, entered the Singapore National Games and won.

But the ride was far from smooth.

"It was not easy - different people would show up for matches and we couldn't train together," said national captain Javier Poon, recalling the days when a player would confirm his participation just hours before a game.

After the SNG win and open selections, Singapore finally had a men's team in January.

But while the 12 Games debutants are thrilled to be part of the fray this month, they are realistic about the impact they can make.

They have had only five months of training - twice a day, five days a week.

"You can't expect us to win," said Poon, 27.

"But we will do our best to show that the effort everyone - our coach, families, employers - has put in has been worth it."

The team hope that their debut performance at the upcoming competition will galvanise young players into taking the sport seriously, giving Singapore time to train the next generation of competitors.

As Poon's team-mate Melvin Goh noted: "As players, we try to achieve as much as we can.

"It's time for us to prove ourselves so that people know volleyball exists at the national level."

gohruiqi@sph.com.sg

 Get more updates, photos and videos