Two online petitions, calling on the Ministry of Defence to grant a Singaporean youth footballer a National Service deferment to pursue his dreams, has received over 4,000 and 2,500 signatures respectively.
The Singaporean footballer, Ben Davis, 17, has signed a professional deal with English Premier League side Fulham, after just one year into his scholarship to train with the top tier premier league club.
What are the two petitions asking for?
The first petition was started by one J Chan on Sunday, July 15.
The second petition was led by a Zulhafiz Zainal two hours later.
Both petitions started a day after Mindef said it would not be granting a deferment for Ben.
The petitions were arguing that Ben's case is a rare opportunity that does not come often.
The narrower implication is that the rejection of Ben's NS deferment might thwart his professional chances at a footballing career.
The broader implication is that such a move may potentially put the brakes on future football development in Singapore on hold, as NS obligations become a hurdle, considering the essential role of youth development in the achievement of sporting excellence from an early age.
What is Mindef's position for this case?
Mindef released a statement about its decision not to approve Ben's application for NS deferment.
MINDEF told the media that male Singaporeans liable for NS should put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, as "it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development".
In other words, MINDEF is implying that NS is fair to all who are required to serve and everyone should put their personal aspirations on hold.
Mindef also 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 – swimmers Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and Sailor Maximillian Soh – have met this criteria in the last 15 years.
In other words, all three who managed to defer were deemed by MINDEF to have the potential to achieve immediate sporting glory for Singapore.
Mindef also 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, has been more supportive of Davis’ appeal for deferment.
Davis senior said that FAS will help to put in an appeal to Mindef.
The most earnest portion of the petition reads:
Hence I (and the rest of us signing this petition) hope to have the decision reviewed and hopefully granted so Ben Davis can be given this opportunity to take up the Fulham FC offer, and then come back to serve his nation and country after. This opportunity is too precious for him, and I can only imagine how hard it would be for me to accept it if I were in his shoes. Because I firmly believe this opportunity could just be this budding youth's beginning to perform and bring glory at the international stage.
Top image adapted via Change.org & Football Association Singapore