Singapore's unique football ecosystem crying out for reform

If SPL clubs know that these children are permitted to come through the ranks right to their youth and senior squads, more resources will be invested in them.
If SPL clubs know that these children are permitted to come through the ranks right to their youth and senior squads, more resources will be invested in them.PHOTO: SPH-SYOGOC

It could be argued that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) would not discard its FAS Football Academy (FFA) if it had produced the desired results since its inauguration in 2000 (Football: FAS to shut down its elite academy; Jan 13).

Placing the responsibility of identifying, recruiting and developing young talent back in the hands of Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs is an admission that the centralised system has not produced a formidable national team.

The balance, flexibility and mastery of basic ball control in our young players have to be nurtured from the primary school level. If SPL clubs know that these children are permitted to come through the ranks right to their youth and senior squads, more resources will be invested in them.

No club would commit to any long-term programme if the cream of their talent is co-opted into the Singapore Sports School or Young Lions squad when they come of age.

The FAS must support youth development schemes in which training is fun yet effective.

The development of skills such as trapping, controlling and receiving a ball, and the importance of awareness of one's surroundings, is fundamental.

The FAS must take charge of this ecosystem, which is the most basic of its responsibilities, and fill the current vacuum in the game's leadership. The previous turf war between the FAS and SPL clubs in competing for emerging talent must be transformed to one of collaboration.

The current rules in the SPL requiring clubs to register a minimum of six players below 23 years of age, and the scrapping of the Prime League are detrimental to the development of young players. Without a reserve team league, teenage players may be prematurely integrated into first-team football, which could stunt their growth and even ruin their careers.

Singapore's unique football ecosystem is crying out for reform from top to bottom.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore's unique football ecosystem crying out for reform'. Print Edition | Subscribe