A blueprint to boost Singapore football

It is high time Singapore football turned its focus to the young and youth development.

We can take a cue from England's Football Association on grooming youth football successfully, as it won the Fifa U-20 World Cup in South Korea in June and the U-17 World Cup in India in October.

Perhaps our football officials could be sent to study its infrastructure and system, and implement it here.

I have a blueprint for Singapore football in the interim.

- Revert the national football league to the old system where players could work and play at the same time.

The league tournament should be held from January to April. The league should be cut down to 10 clubs, preferably based around the constituencies.

Foreign imports should be restricted to three young players per club. These players should have an outstanding record and preferably be from Asian countries.

- Hold an inter-school football tournament sanctioned by the Football Association of Singapore for primary, secondary and post-secondary students.

Our former national footballers could assist the schools by imparting their vast knowledge of the sport and teaching students the basic and technical aspects of the game.

- Hold a Lion City Cup Under-16 Tournament. This is a must to develop young talent. It could be held in the December school holidays.

Outstanding players from the schools tournament could be roped in, as well as players from Malaysia.

- Host a Merlion Cup Tournament annually, preferably in October. Top guns from Asia, such as Iran, Syria, Australia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Japan, could be invited, as our players can learn and improve only by regularly playing the top teams.

The tournament will also be a yardstick of our standing in the region.

- Inaugurate islandwide futsal tournaments, as the hard courts provide a platform for budding players to develop their sharp techniques and out-of-the-box thinking and creativity.

- Sing the National Anthem before each training session for the national team. This will instil a sense of pride, belonging and patriotism in the players, and enable them to feel honoured to be playing for the country.

- Hold an appreciation dinner on Jan 1 each year to thank our former national players and their families for their sacrifices and contributions to the nation, as well as to honour footballers who have died.

A. Thiyaga Raju

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