Despite becoming the first Singaporean footballer to sign a professional contract with a top-tier English Club, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced on Sunday (15 Jul) that it was unable to grant a deferment to football player Benjamin Davis.
Earlier, the 17-year-old had joined Fulham on a two-year scholarship agreement.
“I will enjoy the achievement and success so far, but now it gives me the motivation, drive and desire to push on to achieve the ultimate goal of playing in the Fulham first team in the Premier League,”
This deal was labelled as "fantastic news for Singapore football" by father Benjamin's father Harvey Davis.
"Ben has been trained here in Singapore and shows to all Singaporeans that you can be coached in Singapore and achieve the highest level for a 17-year-old on the international stage."
MINDEF: Unable to grant deferment to Benjamin Davis as he does not meet the criteria
MINDEF responded that Davis' application to defer his National Service obligations was not approved as he "does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS".
In sports, “deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore”.
Thus, “it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development”. In the last 15 years, only three have met such criteria.
The elder Davis said that they would appeal against the decision.
“I really hope that common sense can prevail so that Ben can be given the opportunity to not just pursue his dream of playing in the EPL, but also to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL."
The elder Harvey said "If Joseph [Schooling] had not been given the deferment and opportunity he would never have won the Olympics."
Netizens: MINDEF's decision is narrow-minded and hypocritical
On Facebook, comments have expressed considerable anger and disapproval against MINDEF’s decision.