Football: SportSG boss urges FAS to focus on youth development

Ikhsan Fandi heading during Singapore's 2-1 defeat by Malaysia at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last month. The Young Lions were eliminated at the group stage.
Ikhsan Fandi heading during Singapore's 2-1 defeat by Malaysia at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last month. The Young Lions were eliminated at the group stage.ST FILE PHOTO

With reports that funding for the S-League will likely be reduced, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has called for the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to ramp up its youth development efforts and "manage current realities".

These realities, according to him, relate to S-League players' concerns about their future, following reports of decreased funding for the league, as well as management of the FAS' youth development system.

Speaking at a post-SEA Games media conference at the SportSG auditorium yesterday, Lim said: "What is very clear to most observers and to the FAS is that it needs to have a long, hard look and revamp its youth development.

"The review of the S-League will have to take that into account, because there's only so much (funding) available for the whole of football development."

The Straits Times reported last week that the Tote Board is prepared to disburse only $8.5 million for the Republic's sole professional sports league for next year, down from the annual figure of $16 million.

Asked if the slashing of funds would lead to fewer footballers making the transition from junior to senior level, Lim said the same argument could be applied to the current S-League model, suggesting that it also does not encourage talented players to continue.

He added: "I'm not going to discount the fact that there may be a lot of differing views coming from people who have had a lot of experience in the football ecosystem, and SportSG and the Singapore Sports Institute have to be very open in listening to those views very clearly.

"But just by looking at results and the flow of talent, neither the senior system nor the junior development system is working that well."

FAS deputy general secretary (strategy and engagement) Yazeen Buhari said its executive committee has been in "active discussion" with SportSG over the impending changes in local football.

He added: "It is thus not appropriate to make any comments about changes or next steps at this juncture."

While the Young Lions came under criticism for being knocked out in the group stage at last month's SEA Games, Team Singapore's overall performance at the Kuala Lumpur Games received praise from Lim, SSI chief Toh Boon Yi and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at yesterday's conference.

Singapore posted its best away SEA Games haul of 57 gold medals, 58 silvers and 73 bronzes.

The Republic's previous record overseas haul was 43-43-41 from the 2007 edition in Korat, Thailand.

Minister Fu praised the athletes' "impressive performance" and said the results reflected the depth and breadth in Singapore sports.

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'SportSG boss urges FAS to focus on youth development'. Print Edition | Subscribe