Boosting local football

Community needs to be engaged

I join the many Singaporeans who view the LionsXII team's ejection from the Malaysia Super League to be a positive move for Singapore football ("LionsXII can lend star power to S-League" by Mr George Pasqual; last Saturday and "Out of Malaysia league, but not out of the game" by Mr Melvin Tan; Dec 1). 

While much has been written about how it will improve our S-League, insufficient thought has been given to the issue of increasing community engagement and growing the talent pool from which S-League teams can select their players.

To that end, it is not just the Football Association of Singapore, but Sport Singapore, too, that needs to rethink how football is played at the most junior levels in schools.

I propose the following:

• Leagues to be formed based on age-group tiers, wherein school teams play in a league format rather than the current "European Champions League" format.

This will increase the number of games each team plays, ensuring that every team stays engaged for the duration of the league rather than until elimination. It will also require each team to have a bigger pool of players.

• Play games on weekends rather than weekdays. 

This will allow parents to watch their children play and, hopefully, build a sense of belonging to the team and stronger family ties.

• The professional S-League teams should be encouraged to form a team in each of the various age groups.

They can draw from the best players in the school teams. In this way, teams will be playing in competitive leagues at every age tier.

• Teams need not be restricted to school teams and S-League "junior" teams but can also include teams from private schools, community centres and other places.

• There could be an elimination-based cup competition strictly for school teams if there is a need to maintain certain bragging rights.

With this format, and with more games being played, the pool of players will get larger, and better players can be identified. 

It might be preferable to channel more funds towards building a strong base of players rather than spend money on high-profile but unsustainable events and clinics that ultimately make no long-term impression on Singapore football.

Tong Hsien-Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Community needs to be engaged'. Print Edition | Subscribe