Let us make football underdog fairy tale come true

It is fantastic news that Leicester City have won the Premier League this term ("Football: Leicester City crowned English Premier League champions for the first time after Spurs draw Chelsea 2-2"; ST Online, yesterday).

There is a lot that our local football scene can learn from the Foxes.

Leicester did not spend loads of money to bring in good players to bolster their squad.

They assembled a team of players who were rejected or thought to be not good enough by their former employers.

Some of these players even harboured thoughts of quitting football altogether.

One particular current star was even working part-time as a factory worker.

You do not have to be rich to win games. You need players who have the heart and passion to play and give it their 110 per cent when they are on the pitch.

Tampines Rovers, arguably our best local club at the moment, spent quite a lot of money over the pre-season to bring in class players such as Jermaine Pennant and most of the LionsXII players.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I hope clubs will start looking at grooming players instead of buying them.

Singapore may not be a big country, but our population is not small by any means.

While the S-League remains the only professional football league here, there are numerous amateur football clubs and leagues that are active.

Local clubs, if they have not already done so, should send scouts to these matches.

Who knows, they may just find the Singaporean version of Jamie Vardy.

The First XI was a great kick-starter programme to encourage amateur footballers to dream and play as professionals. We really need more of such programmes.

In addition, local players will need to have a good mindset about their careers.

There is a perception that football is not an ideal lifelong career in Singapore, because of the age factor.

However, players must tell themselves that they still have the ability to contribute, instead of thinking about retiring once they reach 30.

Just look at Shahril Ishak, Baihakki Khaizan and Ridhuan Muhammad. They are all still giving their all and looking to contribute to the game even after hitting 30.

Local players should grab a second chance if they get it, instead of resigning themselves to their fate.

Success does not come easy. It cannot be bought, but can be worked towards.

I hope all clubs out there, not just in Singapore, will learn from Leicester and strive to make yet another underdog fairy tale come true.

Henry Choong Kun Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Let us make football underdog fairy tale come true'. Print Edition | Subscribe