When talking about local football, most Singaporeans would either dismiss it curtly or go on a long tirade regarding the state of the game in Singapore.
While there may be darker than dark clouds hovering over the state of the game here, there are also some bright spots for us to take in our stride and inject hope in us that things can improve.
For example, recently Home United’s AFC Cup success was one of the brightest moments we had in a long time and was truly refreshing to see the support from the fans.
On the other hand, another aspect of the local game which has been a positive is we see more local players going for trials in Europe abroad. One example is Tampines Rovers’ Saifullah Akbar who secured a trial to Spanish side CD Tenerife.
When I interviewed Saifullah before he jetted off to Spain, he informed me how his dream to play in Europe was made possible by his careful planning between him and his father. For example, one of the most crucial decisions they made in their process of planning was for the 19-year-old to enlist for NS (National Service) at an earlier stage.
Significantly he mentioned to me how his decision to enter NS earlier helped his cause to one day ply his trade in Europe. As a Singaporean he knows that NS is an obligation and said how his experience in it even helped strengthen him mentally. It also thought him the art of time management as he had to juggle NS duties and training.
Now compare this to Ben Davis and you get a sense that maybe instead of him complaining, he should take a cue from Saifullah. When Ben’s case was debated in Parliament, it was made clear that the government would not budge on granting him deferment for NS.
Yes both Ben and Saifullah may be in different circumstances but still the former can take inspiration from the latter, as Saifullah showed you don’t necessarily have to give up your football career should you serve NS, with proper planning. Moreover the likes of Ikhsan and Irfan Fandi have all served their country’s calling and are still able to try their luck in Europe.
Two of arguably Singapore’s greatest footballers Fandi Ahmad and V.Sundramoorthy also lend credibility to the aforementioned statement. Both served their country and were able to leave their mark in Europe.
As the age old adage goes; where there’s a will, there’s a way.