Govt launching new framework, scholarship to develop local football talent


Despite our love for the game, the story of football and Singapore is a Shakespearean tragedy. 

Firstly, there is our abysmal football ranking. At number 160, even war-torn Syria and Afghanistan are ahead of us. 

And let’s not mention Goal 2010, a goal we rather forget since the term became a euphemism for suggesting the impossible. 

For a country that regularly comes up tops at all kinds of rankings, can our football team revive itself from its deep coma and unleash the Kallang Roar?

That is clearly a question on our minds and that of Member of Parliament Mr Sharael Taha’s (Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC) when he spoke about developing local football talent during the Committee of Supply debate on Monday (March 6).

Developing local football talent

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Singapore has plenty of pathways for our young football talents, said Mr Sharael. 

In addition to a National Youth League, Singapore has a specialised sports school, ActiveSG football centres, private clubs, and academies providing our youths with the opportunities to develop their football skills and passion. 

Basically, all the infrastructure wealth can afford. The question is, why do we remain so lacklustre at the sport? 

To solve the mystery, Mr Sharael asked several questions that made us sit up and listen.

Are our young talents playing together at the right level and standard? Do staff and coaches have enough proficiency to support talent development? Are there development opportunities for our local coaches?

Now, can these be all that is missing from our football ecosystem? 

Building a national framework

In his reply to Mr Sharael, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Edwin Tong highlighted Unleash the Roar! (UTR) — a national movement to raise the level of Singapore football. 

The PAP Government is putting in place a national framework to select and develop the best players, said Minister Tong. 

At the core is a national football development centre, a hothouse for footballers and a primary pathway for selection to the national team. 

“Next, we will roll out training on talent identification for coaches and strengthen our scouts’ capabilities in identifying the best young footballers.”

According to Minister Tong, this is very important as Singapore is a small country that cannot afford to let talent slip through the cracks.

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Lastly, a standardised coaching syllabus will be used across the School Football Academies (SFAs) and the national youth squads to ensure consistency in training and development. 

“We will introduce coach licensing… and find opportunities for our coaches to learn from the best, be immersed in an environment and experience what it is like to be coaching at the highest level,” added Minister Tong.

In sports, we have seen how coaches make or break a team. Perhaps this is the missing piece in the puzzle.

Introducing football scholarships

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Scholarships are a means of exposing our students to a world beyond our tiny shores. 

And during his speech, Minister Tong teased the launch of the inaugural UTR scholarship which will allow our best footballers to attend overseas academies that combine a good-quality education with competitive football training. 

In addition, local scholarships will also be available for suitable footballers who choose to enrol in the Singapore Sports School. 

“Developing talent takes time, and we are putting in place a systematic infrastructure to expand, nurture and develop this pool of young players,” said Minister Tong. 

At this rate, Goal 2034 might finally become a reality and something that Singaporeans will be proud to stand behind.

Photo sources: Unleash the Roar! /FIFA/ActiveSG Football Academy/MCI via YouTube