Forum: Under-21 league may revive Singapore's football glory

Hougang United's 16-year-old winger Farhan Zulkifli (centre) has been called up to the national team after a series of good performances despite just 10 senior starts for his club.
Hougang United's 16-year-old winger Farhan Zulkifli (centre) has been called up to the national team after a series of good performances despite just 10 senior starts for his club.PHOTO: SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE

In overseas football leagues, talent is scouted and recruited, put through the rigours of a football club's training academy and youth side, then progresses to the first team for a senior career.

There is continuity and a pathway to ensure that the pipeline of football talent is groomed and inspired to carve out careers in football.

It is heartening to learn that an Under-21 league will be introduced next season to provide continuity and a pathway to the Singapore Premier League for young talent who aspire to carve out careers in football (Higher quota for foreigners welcome, Nov 29).

This is consistent with national coach Tatsuma Yoshida's view that the youth team is critical to the long-term objectives of Singapore football and may be a missing piece in the country's efforts to raise football standards.

When we create opportunities for our young talent to succeed, they might very well surprise us with what they can achieve.

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said as much in a case study interview by Harvard Business School, when he was asked about his unconventional bet back in the day to develop the club's youth team - which included future stars like Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

Youth development is clearly imperative to a strong foundation and steady pipeline of local football talent.

With the creation of the Under-21 league, a visionary national coach marshalling the Lions and a sterling executive team in place in the Football Association of Singapore providing robust leadership, governance and direction, we are clearly taking the right bets to restore Singapore football to its former glory.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline 'Under-21 league may revive Singapore's football glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe