Rejecting request by Benjamin Davis for deferral of NS too rigid an application of the rules?

It would appear that Singaporean youngster and footballer may have to wave goodbye to his dream of being the first Singaporean to play in the English Premier League (EPL) because his application for deferment of his national service (NS) has been denied. This is yet another example of Singapore’s confused policies. Not too long ago, Singapore had dreams of playing in the World Cup by 2010. While that dream was not realised in time, Singapore could well be on track to achieve this feat at a different time if talent such as Benjamin Davis is nurtured.

How can Singapore who hosted the inaugural Youth Olympics and who is rumoured to be bidding to host the World Cup be so unsupportive of  a Singaporean who is on track to play for one of the leading clubs in England? With the training that he would receive at a club like Fulham, Davis would be able to champion Singaporean football to greater heights. Surely, this is a mission worth supporting?

While this scholarship at Fulham will not lead directly to Davis representing Singapore at a sporting event such as the Olympics, he would still be flying our sporting flag high by being part of an internationally famous team. Is rejecting his request for deferral of NS too rigid an application of the rules?

Singapore has long courted sporting excellence and any event that would put Singapore on the map of First World countries. Isn’t that why Singapore played host to the F1? Would Davis not similarly raise Singapore’s profile?

While Singaporeans are sensitive to the issue of NS, it is important to bear in mind that Davis is not asking to be excused from NS. He is merely asking for a deferment. I dare say that most Singaporeans would be in favour of granting Davis’s request for deferment. We are after all a football watching nation. The prospect of one day watching a Singaporean play in the EPL will surely be a moment of pride for all Singaporeans. If Joseph Schooling had not had the opportunity of deferring his NS to focus on his training, he might not have won an Olympic medal!

Granting Davis’s request will not affect the Singapore Armed Forces at all. But it will make a huge difference to Davis and add to his chances of making Singapore proud in the beautiful game. With this in mind, I sincerely hope that the government will not blindly apply the rules such that it benefits no one and in fact leads us to lose out on an opportunity to be proud of a fellow Singaporean.