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S’pore could lose first-ever S’porean EPL signing Ben Davis to Thailand or England

If he is forced to choose, he might make a decision we will regret.

Belmont Lay |Martino Tan | July 15, 2018 @ 07:58 pm

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The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has announced that the first-ever Singaporean to be signed to an English Premier League side Fulham would have to serve National Service regardless.

This has come as a surprise to some Singaporeans.

Many probably recall recent cases of deferment, such as Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and fellow national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen.

Both were given deferment to compete at the 2016 Olympics and the 2020 Games.

Deferment cases in sports quite rare

Mindef told the media that deferments in sports are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions and are potential medal winners for Singapore.

In fact, only three – Schooling, Quah and Sailor Maximilian Soh – have met this criteria in the last 15 years.

No NS deferment for first S’porean signed with Fulham English Premier League club

Where do the authorities stand with regards to Davis’ case?

Mindef revealed that it has informed Davis and his parents about its decision a month ago on June 11.

It added that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) however was more supportive of Davis’ appeal for deferment.

In fact, Davis senior said that FAS will help to put in an appeal to Mindef.

Singaporean shares concerns if Davis has to serve NS now

However, arguing in the youngster Ben’s favour are fellow Singaporeans, such as this guy:

This Facebook post was put up several hours after Mindef announced that Ben would not receive NS deferment.

What is Ben’s case

It highlights the unique circumstances surrounding Ben’s case, such as how he is of mixed parentage, but has chosen to stick it out here for Singapore.

The post said Ben was born in Thailand to a Thai mother, but moved to Singapore at the age of five and gained citizenship here in 2009.

He studied at the Singapore Sports School from 2013 to 2015 before moving to London’s Harrow High School in 2017.

Ben’s father, Harvey Davis, was originally from the United Kingdom and is now the founder of Singapore’s private football academy, JSSL.

Ben has been playing for Singapore age groups since U14 levels.

According to Fifa rules, Ben qualifies to play for Singapore by citizenship, Thailand by birth and heritage through his mother, and also England by heritage through his father.

What this means

For Ben to consider giving up top flight football to serve NS is considered too much to ask for, according to other Singaporeans who are pleading on his behalf to let him go but come back at a later time to serve his NS obligations.

As time continues to wind down on Ben’s impending enlistment date, as he is turning 18 this November, it could force his and his family’s hand to take the option of simply leaving Singapore for good.

This would be the worst option for Singapore as a whole, as the country would not only lose a potential globally-recognised sportsman, but also lose a citizen who is more than willing to sink his roots and contribute to the country militarily and otherwise.

This is what the Facebook post said:

What can Ben Davies do?

Ben was born in Thailand to his Thai mother, but moved to Singapore at the age of five and gained citizenship here in 2009. He studied at the Singapore Sports School from 2013 to 2015 before moving to London’s Harrow High School last year. Ben’s father, Harvey Davis, was originally from the UK. He is the founder of Singapore’s private football academy, JSSL.

According to FIFA rules, Ben qualifies to play for the following countries: Singapore (by citizenship), Thailand (by birth and heritage through his mother), England (by heritage through his father).

Ben has been playing for Singapore age groups since U14 levels. But Ben could have played for Thailand and England. This should speak for something. He could be playing for better and stronger countries but he is choosing Singapore.

So the least Singapore could do is defer his enlistment by at least 2 years so he could see out his football scholarship in Fulham. By the time he completes it, he would be about 19 or 20. This sounds like the enlistment age for many Singaporeans anyway. So what is MINDEF babbling about?

Ben is playing in Premier League South U18. That’s the highest standard of English Football at that age level. There are players at this level that get promoted to their first teams. With Fulham regaining Premier League Football, he has a chance of playing in the Premier League next season. This may not be the Olympics. Nor will Fulham do a Leicester and win the Premier League. But to say he is not representing Singapore is wrong. Ben is Singaporean and he is flying our flag high in England. And if he makes it to the first team, that should be worth as much as an Olympic medal. The problem is that MINDEF is not contextualising his case. Football is not Swimming. It is a team sport and the Olympics is not the highest achievement in Football. But to be able to play at the highest possible standard is. And for us arm chair Premier League fans, the Premier League is the highest standard there is.

But if MINDEF insists to deny his deferment, then the ministry did not stop one boy’s dream, but the dream of thousands of Singaporeans who want to see their country’s football status rise again. Not every Singaporean boy wants to be a footballer and has such a chance to play in the Premier League. That is a unique situation and deserves to be reviewed at a case-by-case level. Ben is not asking to be exempted. He is asking to be deferred. He is still going to serve. That shows he has decided a long time ago he wants to serve Singapore whether on the battle field or the football field. But if Mindef continues with its rigid and archaic policies, then it would not be some mismanagement of FAS that ruins Singapore Football. It would be this country’s thirst to take the dreams of boys and send them to war – fighting who, no one knows. South Korea has North Korea at their doorsteps and their footballing heroes are granted 10 year deferments. Ben is only asking for 2.

About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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