Safety a priority in youth football

We thank Ms Charis Kuang for her letter (MOE should take a stand on heading footballs during training in school; Aug 27).

The existing literature on the risks of brain trauma from heading the ball repeatedly is inconclusive.

Instead, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) take reference from the laws of the game, set out by Fifa as football's global governing body.

These laws and guidelines allow players to control the ball through headers - to pass, shoot or clear - during school-based and national-level competitions and training.

We would like to assure students and parents that participation in football is always carried out in a meaningful, safe and age-appropriate way in our schools.

For example, we use smaller footballs for younger students due to their smaller frame.

MOE also encourages developmentally appropriate play in schools.

This is why we have modified the game rules for Junior Division football competitions at the National School Games, to encourage students to focus on the fundamentals, like passing and dribbling.

We have also replaced throw-ins with kick-ins to encourage more ball play on the ground.

Coaching for primary school players also focuses more on footwork and short passes for ball control, rather than high balls and heading.

In addition, FAS is working with coaches to teach students proper heading in an age-appropriate manner.

MOE and the FAS will continue to monitor global developments on this issue and take appropriate follow-up action where necessary.

Ong Kim Soon

Director, Physical, Sports and Outdoor Education Branch

Ministry of Education

Michel Sablon

Technical Director

Football Association of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2018, with the headline 'Safety a priority in youth football'. Print Edition | Subscribe