Singapore’s male sportsmen will never be able to succeed at the world stage if the Ministry of Defence’s stand on National Service deferment remains.
A few days after it was announced that English Premier League side Fulham FC had signed 17-year old Singaporean Ben Davis on a professional contract, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has announced that it has rejected the player’s request for a deferment from National Service.
In a statement, MINDEF said that Ben “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS.”
“As all male Singaporeans liable for Full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.
“Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. 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. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria,” MINDEF said.
MINDEF added that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. The three athletes who were previously granted deferment are swimmers Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and sailor Maximillan Soh.
MINDEF did not state what were the criteria for having deferments approved for sportsmen.
Olympic gold medalist Schooling has had two deferment grants while it is unsure how Zheng Wen received a deferment when he has not won at the Olympic level and at the Asian Games level.
Maximilian Soh, a gold medalist at the 2006 Asian Games, never came close to a medal at the Olympic level.
Harvey Davis, Ben’s father, who is a Singapore citizen, said that he hopes “common sense prevails” so that his son can be given the opportunity to pursue the dream of every young Singaporean footballer to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL.
“As the father of Ben, 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 the dream of every young Singaporean footballer and to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL.”
He said that “if Ben is not deferred then the message is clear and simple; that there is no chance or opportunity for team sportsmen to compete on the world stage.”
“What message does this send to our children and young Singaporeans who dream of playing professional football in Europe and the EPL or any other team sport?” he added.
“We fully understand the importance of serving your country and my older son has already served and so will Ben as will my younger boy,” said Davis.
It is understood that the Football Association of Singapore will appeal the decision but have not come forward to state it publicly yet.
Ben is a product of the Singapore Sports School and has also been called up to the national senior team but was not fielded.