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Tharman praises France for supporting its youth in developing football talents while MINDEF rejects SG youth in NS deferment

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam congratulated France on his Facebook page today (16 Jul) for winning yesterday's World Cup. France won the World Cup for the second time on Sunday (15 Jul) after beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.

In his Facebook post, DPM Tharman praised France for having a system where "every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths".

He added that the French victory has showed what was possible when young people were encouraged to develop their talents.

"It shows what is possible when a leaf is taken from the French football system, and every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths," the DPM said.

He praised 19-year-old player Kylian Mbappe, who became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil's football legend Pele in yesterday's final, as well as Paul Pogba "who many feel was man of the match".

MINDEF and MCCY reject Singaporean teenager Benjamin Davis' application to defer NS

Meanwhile, MINDEF has rejected Singaporean teenage footballer Benjamin Davis' application to defer his national service (NS) enlistment.

In a statement yesterday (Jul 15), MINDEF confirmed that Benjamin's application was not approved as he "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," it said.

"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 added that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). MINDEF is run by Minister Ng Eng Hen while MCCY is run by Grace Fu.

"Mr Davis was also notified that he is due for enlistment and must dutifully serve NS along with others in his cohort," MINDEF further stated.

Teenager Benjamin Davis, 17, is the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with English Premier League (EPL) club Fulham FC, a top-tier English club. He joined Fulham on a two-year scholarship deal in July last year. Benjamin would turn 18 this November.

Benjamin's father Harvey Davis said, "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."

"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," Mr Davis added.

"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?"

"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," Mr Davis stressed.

Drawing comparisons between his son and Olympic swimmer Joseph Schooling, Mr Davis also commented on Schooling's deferment, "If Joseph had not been given the deferment and opportunity he would never have won the Olympics."

All Croatia's national team members play in top-tier international clubs in the world

It may be of interest to Minister Ng Eng Hen and Grace Fu to know that for a small country like Croatia which played its way to reach the World Cup Final yesterday (15 Jul), the secret lies in all their players have already been playing with top-tier football clubs in the world.

For example, the following Croatian players are playing in top clubs in Spanish, Italian and English Premier Leagues currently:

  • Ivan Rakitic plays for Barcelona
  • Mateo Kovacic plays for Real Madrid
  • Luka Modric (Captain) plays for Real Madrid
  • Mario Mandzukic plays for Juventus
  • Marko Pjaca plays for Juventus
  • Dejan Lovren plays for Liverpool

For that matter, a large number of national players from the various countries in the World Cup are presently playing in top-tier clubs at the various premier leagues of Europe. It is because being in top clubs, they are constantly playing against the best and as such, they themselves become among the best.

So, for Singapore to enter World Cup, it is not necessary to import foreign players and play in Singapore like what former PM Goh Chok Tong has advocated. It is in fact, more important to "export" Singaporean players outside of Singapore so as to play in top clubs in any of the premier leagues in the world. When the time comes for World Cup tournaments, just like Croatia, the country players will come together and play for their country.