In a statement on 15 July, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) announced that young midfielder Benjamin Davis' application for NS deferment due to his signing with newly-promoted English Premier League club, Fulham FC, was not approved, as he "does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS".
Ben Davis' father, Harvey Davis, stated that his son will be carrying out his National Service (NS) duties, contrary to MINDEF's assumption regarding the issue.
MINDEF's decision has sparked a fiery debate amongst local netizens, some of whom have expressed dismay against the decision and believe that Davis' potential should not be squandered due to MINDEF's rigid reasoning.
Timothy Leong said:
Because of a kid, everybody becomes a professional in NS and national defence, even those who have not served before. To those who asked him to leave, [are] you guys [just] sore just because he has a chance to live his dream and you can't? [Is it] Because you're still stuck in your mediocre life and you don't want to see others with talent succeed? Get a life man.
Tey Tai Fong wrote:
Ben Davis, don't take the citizenship anymore. Neither [does] the country appreciate your support here, nor [do] they understand youth development. If one day you get to represent England and win the World Cup, England will appreciate you more than [people will] here. Maybe then, they will say, "Ben Davis, who used to study in Singapore..." Must find a way to link back the relationship with you. Go, just go.
Angeline Lee commented:
When the government gives scholarships for tertiary studies to those with impressive academic scores but none to Singaporean sporting talents, then it is discriminatory to deny them opportunities to seek scholarships overseas.
Vickna Anandarajah suggested:
There are so many variables to consider. Of course he cannot give a firm commitment as such. He could be released early or not get an extension, but at least let him serve the first contract, and then ask to come back to serve after that. Is that too much to ask. He will still be younger than most poly students.
Schooling has been deferred twice and has now gone professional. What happens after 2020? There's no discussion there.
Paul Anthony wrote:
This decision jeopardises his entire professional career. Football teams look for the best 17-18 year olds every year to recruit. The window of opportunity for an athlete is small, and he has it. The career of a professional athlete also is very short in comparison to other professions.
Comparing this profession to “universities” or other professions ignores the fact that one can go to university or into intellectual professions at anytime, but athletes cannot. He should be afforded the opportunity to excel in one of the world’s leading football leagues. If he succeeds, he will bring so much joy and national pride to Singapore, and provide it with a star to lead its national team for the next 10-15 years. That, in and of itself, is the very definition of “national service”.
If he is compelled to complete NS, he will likely be overlooked by Fulham and other teams for the next batch of 17-18 year olds they can train and develop, as opposed to a 19-20 year old kid who had talent 2 years ago.
Thomas George wrote:
My issue here is that politicians did not debate this issue years ago by providing a tangible framework in anticipation, instead of making things up as they go along.. We started a Sports School. What is the rationale of doing that if there is a break in the pursuit of sports! I am totally behind NS, but this issue should have been thought out, way back!
Gerald Sim questioned:
Why is MINDEF only now stating this "criteria" in public? Why did its previous statement only state that "deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners"…
Tracy Wong wrote:
Ben’s older brother has already served the NS... this family is committed to Singapore like any other family but just in the “Others” category of Singaporean group... Can we guarantee other new citizens in the last 10 years from other countries to be loyal to Singapore too?
So would some people please don’t judge and comment loosely before having enough information to do so...
If my child is so talented in an age-sensitive career... I would ask him or her to follow one’s dream too...
I am surprised that Singapore is not making their astute business-like decision in this case... It’s such a good case to say that Ben and family born overseas but has converted to become Singaporean and being trained in Singapore facilities can also reach international standard... This will help to attract more good and diverse talents to Singapore...
Unless Singapore government is obviously bias and only interested in attracting one particular type of Foreign Talent and bias or discriminate against other form or types of talents, one should be a little more flexible but still fair about the rules.
Singapore government should be big enough to say that you can dream and achieve big, we can give you flexible deferment... to strike a win-win situation...!
At the age of 18-20, it’s the best time to learn and achieve one’s dream. Honestly, NS can be served after uni before starting work...
In Ben case, even if he comes back at 40 to serve NS, he can teach and coach many young boys in the NS how to be fit and play a good game of football all over the camps in Singapore... It’s a win win right... No need to follow the book to the T, right...
Thought the government would like to encourage people to think out of the box...
Vincent Law commented:
This is just getting ridiculous. On one hand, we hand out citizenship to foreign players, and on the other, deny a citizen the chance to fulfil their potential in the ultimate cutthroat career of an athlete.
Lilian Chang said:
Whether you can make it to the top or not, at least you have tried. Please leave for good... Bye bye😁
Yazid Bin Abu Hassan wrote:
Bruh, opportunity doesn't come often. You deserve to follow your dream. Change nationality if possible.
Geraronden Lim said:
Just go your way and do your parents proud. Good luck, think nothing [of] what people say, go with your heart. Singapore is not your only choice...
Others have declared their support for MINDEF's decision, mostly citing the relative newness of his citizenship and their belief that playing for an EPL club is not on the same level as participating, and even winning a Gold medal, in the Olympics.
M W John Tan wrote:
MINDEF is right in not granting Ben a deferment. The reason is that he and his parent did not commit a date for him to come back to serve NS. There is no guarantee that he will come back to serve NS after 2 yrs. It all depends on how he fares there. What happens if he is successful in Fulham FC? He might even stay there and renounce his [Singapore] citizenship. After all, they are newly minted citizens who are still not true blue Singaporeans, because both [of his] parents are migrants [...] MINDEF has to be very careful -- there will be more cases like this surfacing in future.
I have 2 sons who [have] already completed NS. Last time during my son's BMT [Basic Military Training] at Tekong, I was proud to see an Ang Moh [White/Caucasian person] with his son serving NS. This is what I call real immigrant who can contribute to Singapore and to our defence. Not those who benefit from our sport school, and now going overseas for their own benefit. If you want to keep your citizenship, there is only one way: Serve your NS first, than go overseas, which most male Singaporeans go through. Why must you be so special? Our legendary footballer Fandi Ahmad served his NS first before he played for Singapore and then overseas to play for a Dutch club.
Chong Yeong Fong said:
Ben’s father is asking for an “open-ended” deferment and will not commit to Ben returning to Singapore to fulfil his duties to serve NS as a male Singaporean. That means he is asking for an EXEMPTION. I am shocked that there are still Singaporeans thinking that MINDEF is wrong in not granting deferment. Come on, we are all being played out by the father and we still want to support Ben? Don’t be so gullible (I admit I was) and get used by the father to garner support. He did not come clean with us [about] why MINDEF did not grant [his son] deferment.
Carmen Grace Tan wrote:
To keep it short : He did not commit a date. His father openly admitted [that] he is looking out for his son's future, not Singapore’s.
Akai Shi said:
So simple solution lor. Ben just say 1 Jan 2038 can liao. This will be new information to MINDEF, and they can then approve [the deferment]. Or you say during off-season [that] you [will] come back [and] serve in installments lah!
Thom Tham wrote:
Even top [South] Korean player Son Heung-min who is earning big bucks with Tottenham Hotpurs in the EPL is required to go home to serve his [South Korean] National Service!
Aloysius Kwan commented:
Just let him renounce his citizenship la. He's not a true blue Singaporean anyway. He alone can't bring Singapore to a higher standard of soccer. Soccer is a team of 11 players, not an individual like [Joseph] Schooling who can solo his way to [a] Gold [medal]. Unless we have 10 [of] Ben Davis...
Thom Tham wrote:
Don't mix personal interest with national interest! You can't eat the apple and at the same time want to eat the pear too. He is donning the Fulham FC badge, not the "Moon and 5 Stars" [the Singapore national] badge! This is clearly a personal pursuit... Just go, and don't [make a] fuss about it.
Jerome Wong said:
MINDEF is right. He will never come back to Singapore ever again if he is offered a senior contract. By the way, who will? However, he wants keep Singapore citizenship as a backup if things don't work out in England.
Sheri Chee commented:
“He was born in Thailand to a Thai mother and a British father, but moved to Singapore at the age of five and gained citizenship there in 2009. He studied at the Singapore Sports School from 2013 to 2015 before moving to London's Harrow High School in 2016.”
Let’s ask ourselves, will he come back for NS if deferment is granted? He is barely a citizen -- for about 9yrs -- with non-Singaporean parents. His case places very little confidence to the authority [MINDEF].
Hanwei Lim wrote:
Why give him so much attention? NS is still bigger than [his] personal interests. If can't serve, then leave. Simple. No one force[d] him to stay. EPL [is] no big deal.
Goo Hiong Gwee commented:
Even if [his] return is dated, I am not of [the] opinion [that] joining [the] Fulham youth team deserves a deferment. This would be an insult to others before him who [have] diligently served NS on time and held back their bright careers.
Lim Jun Xiong wrote:
i support mindef's decision too. sports sg is right, some kind of commitment to return must be given, if not, why should the deferment application be considered when it's clearly a request for waiver instead? of course, davis can reapply for another deferment if there's a new development in his career. that was what joseph schooling did.
Lee Henry commented:
To openly declare the possibility of giving up his citizenship is a silly move by his father... It's like a threat to MINDEF, which they will now not back off from, and will, in fact, use it against father and son to question their loyalty to Singapore. Game over.