Football: NSF Sobti disciplined after training with Sailors while on MC

Veer Karan Sobti, seen in a file photo from 2019, had his contract with the Lion City Sailors suspended before he enlisted for NS. Photos of him training with the Sailors in early 2023 while he was on MC from BMT were posted on social media, which led to Mindef’s investigations. PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF THAILAND

SINGAPORE – Former Singapore Under-16 goalkeeper Veer Karan Sobti has been charged and disciplined by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), after training with Singapore Premier League (SPL) club Lion City Sailors while on medical leave from basic military training (BMT). The 18-year-old is currently serving time in the detention barracks.

In response to The Straits Times’ queries, a Mindef spokesman said on Monday: “National servicemen found to abuse privileges or medical leave will face disciplinary measures.

“Investigations revealed that Recruit Veer Karan Sobti, a full-time national serviceman, sought medical attention and obtained medical leave, which exempted him from military training.

“On multiple occasions, while on medical leave, Rec Veer trained with the Lion City Sailors Football Club. When interviewed by his superiors, Rec Veer denied attending the football training sessions.

“Rec Veer has been summary trialled for disobedience of a general order for leaving his home without permission while on medical leave, and conduct to the prejudice of good discipline for lying to his superiors.”

Mindef noted that the punishment imposed for such offences include being sent to the Singapore Armed Forces Detention Barracks, but it did not disclose further details.

Born in Hong Kong to Indian parents, Sobti came to Singapore when he was three. He impressed the national selectors enough to be called-up for the Asian Football Confederation Under-16 Championship qualifiers and played in the 2-1 loss to Hong Kong and 6-1 defeat by North Korea.

In 2019, he had two trials with Cardiff City before signing with the Young Lions in 2020. He moved to the Sailors in 2021 and joined Tanjong Pagar United on loan in 2022, playing his only SPL game to date when he completed 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Balestier Khalsa in September.

He returned to the Sailors when he enlisted for national service (NS). However, photos of Sobti training with the Sailors in early 2023 were posted on social media while he was in BMT, which led to Mindef’s investigations. It is understood that he had sought medical leave for eczema and allergies.

A Sailors spokesman acknowledged there was a “gap in communications protocol at the club” and that corrective action has been taken following an internal review “so such a situation never happens in the future”.

He added: “Karan’s contract had earlier been suspended, before he enlisted... and he was not an active player with the club when he requested to join training sessions.  

“Karan had informed some staff members of his NS medical status, and the moment this was surfaced to club management, he was immediately disallowed from participating in training sessions.”

It is believed that he had attended training before the ban and that the photos had surfaced after.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said in a statement on Monday that Sobti is not currently representing any of its national youth teams and that the disciplinary measures imposed by Mindef were “appropriate”.

Its spokesman said: “FAS does not condone any footballers not fulfilling their national service obligations and/or meeting expected conduct, as it is a duty expected of every Singaporean male.”

National agency Sport Singapore stressed that Sobti is not a Team Singapore athlete who receives support, as its spokesman noted that “sportsmanship is important on and off the field”.

The spokesman added: “Sport Singapore does not condone anyone compromising their national service obligations or abusing their privileges. Any TeamSG athlete who does so will be subject to disciplinary review.”

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