How Wales became a world soccer power

I cannot agree more with Mr Manoraj Rajathurai that Singapore has much to learn from the way football academies in Germany are operated (Learn from German football academies; Sept 6).

However, Germany has a population base of about 81 million, and its youth academies have seen significant investment running into millions of euros.

It is perhaps more realistic for the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to take a leaf from the book of a smaller country that has excelled on the world stage.

In spite of having a population of three million, Wales climbed from 117th position in the Fifa world rankings in 2011 to the eighth position in 2015.

It stands currently at 18.

Football has always competed with Wales' de facto national sport, rugby, for talent.

Wales made up for the absence of high-profile players with team effort, a positive mindset and the emergence of a national identity to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Prior to last year's exploits, the country had not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

The foundations of its recent success were firmly laid more than 10 years ago.

Its current management focused beyond the game by changing the culture at the Football Association of Wales.

Sport science was adopted to achieve marginal gains that helped the team perform better and with greater consistency.

The team maintained its principles in the face of major setbacks and underwhelming performances.

While youth development was strongly encouraged, the team mitigated the talent shortage by recruiting English-born players with Welsh lineage.

Great football teams cannot be assembled overnight; this present Welsh squad has been years in the making.

Wales was not afraid to change its approach to attain success; it appears that it has hit upon a winning formula and the FAS should take a closer look.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'How Wales became a world soccer power'. Subscribe