Academy to boost juniors' interest

Former national goalkeeper Lionel Lewis (left), ActiveSG Football Academy principal Aleksandar Duric and Minister Grace Fu encouraging some of the 350 children who attended the launch of the programme yesterday.
Former national goalkeeper Lionel Lewis (left), ActiveSG Football Academy principal Aleksandar Duric and Minister Grace Fu encouraging some of the 350 children who attended the launch of the programme yesterday. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

Quality and affordability key factors, coaching at five centres in attempt to offer wider access

Twins Daryll and Dashiell Chia love to play football but their school, Alexandra Primary, does not offer the sport as a co-curricular activity (CCA).

But the Primary Three pupils will now get the chance to polish their skills when they train with the new ActiveSG Football Academy.

Launched yesterday morning at the Jurong East Stadium, the academy is set up by ActiveSG, the national movement for sports, and helmed by former Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric to give children aged between six to 12 affordable quality coaching and learn from the national football syllabus.

In a carnival atmosphere yesterday, 350 children were put through basic kicking and dribbling drills.

The academy's programme will benefit those like Daryll and Dashiell, whose schools do not offer football as a CCA, and also students who do not receive coaching if they are not members of their school teams.

The twins' parents, mother Hameiza, a homemaker, and father Sean, a fireman, are thankful for the new opportunity.

Hameiza said: "It's really a good thing for us. It's a pity that their school does not offer football as a CCA yet. I know for sure, a number of boys from their school play football outside of school.

"We've been looking since they were five, but private-run academies are expensive. But this is affordable and it's accessible because they offer it at the heartlands."

Come the June holidays, Daryll and Dashiell will be joining the academy's first programme, costing $130 per child, held from May 28 to June 26. The programme consists of three training sessions of 11/2 hours per week during the school holidays.

As Queenstown residents, the twins will be training at Queenstown Stadium. It is one of five venues as the programme aims to have 500 primary school pupils. The other locations are Bedok Stadium, Jurong East Stadium, Serangoon Stadium and Woodlands Stadium.

Each centre will be run by a team of coaches led by a head coach. ActiveSG said plans are afoot to invite ex-national players like Terry Pathmanathan and Steven Tan, as well as former S-League coaches like Richard Bok, to guide the youngsters.

Tan said: "This is a community programme. It's time for us to give back to the community, to help more children in football."

When the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon revamped the National Football Syllabus last year, the Belgian's aim was to promote fun football to excite and stimulate youngsters through small-sided games that place an emphasis on skill to beat opponents.

By incorporating Sablon's training methods in their sessions, the ActiveSG academy hopes to enlarge the Republic's talent pool.

Duric, the academy's principal, said: "(This is) another option for all kids to join. We have the same syllabus, the same target of getting as many kids to play. The pricing is made more affordable, too."

While the FAS runs its Cubs programme that aims to get more primary school students to play the sport, Sablon welcomes the ActiveSG academy as an ally in promoting the grassroots game.

"We use the same development plan for the football activities," he said. "They are the same principles and methodology, and we are all moving in the same direction.

"The important thing is now to ensure that the quality is consistent throughout all the centres."

Another exciting prospect for the participants is the possibility of meeting Tampines Rovers star Jermaine Pennant.

The Stags are the first S-League team to partner the ActiveSG academy, which will see Tampines coaches and players make guest appearances and participate in half-time kickabouts during home matches.

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra said: "I've told all my players to immerse themselves with grassroots footballers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'Academy to boost juniors' interest'. Print Edition | Subscribe