Football fans are eagerly awaiting the friendly games that Singapore will be hosting which features internationally famous team Arsenal. While the football stars tour Singapore and make appearances, I cannot help but wonder if the Ministry of Defense (Mindef) have missed a trick by rejecting footballer Ben Davis’ request to defer his national service (NS).

Football generates intense attention and revenue. Even if the government isn’t football mad, can they not see how this could become a revenue generator for Singapore should Davis be successful? Think of all the merchandise people could sell. Think of all the publicity adverts he could do for the government.

By rejecting Davis’ request over a rigid rule or worst, fear of losing face on the part of Mindef would ensure that even if Davis was successful, that Singapore would see none of the benefits. Why should he help the government in future if they refuse to support him now? By obstinately standing their ground over this, Mindef is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

While I am confident that Ben Davis is not crucial to our national defense, I am equally confident that supporting Ben Davis is a crucial step to improving the level of football in Singapore. Wasn’t that once our goal? Or was it just another fad that the government has lost interest in?

Imagine for a moment that Ben Davis feels no choice but to drop his citizenship, He then becomes internationally famous. Would he further Singapore’s international reputation? Why would he and why should he ? Is Mindef being too short term in rejecting his deferral?

Also, it is important to note that this whole thing would not have become such a big issue if the deferment was granted in the first place. It would just have quietly gone unnoticed and should he succeed, Mindef can then also busk in the glory of its foresight in granting him the deferment. It is Mindef’s rejection that created the headlines. Is this a case of public relations fail on the part of Mindef? And now that it has gone so far down the road, they feel they can no longer retract? I hope its not the latter as that would be a shame.  Choosing to save face over logic never leads to good long term results.

It seems incongruous to me as a Singaporean that we are hosting international footballers but denying the opportunity of one of our own.

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