Professional footballer Ben Davis has finally broken his silence -- and he is at peace with his decision to default on his National Service (NS) duties and leave Singapore for good.
Speaking to Singapore media CNA, the 18-year-old is finally making himself heard ever since he came into the spotlight and divided the nation with his aspirations.
Without leaving room for any doubt on where he stands on the issue, Davis said that he had no intentions to return to Singapore or to complete his mandatory conscription:
"Nah, I don't think I'm going to go back. I'm cool with that.
For me, it's all about succeeding in football. I don't really look back."
Davis added that while it was "tough" no longer getting to see his friends in Singapore, he didn't have regrets.
"It is the right decision," he said
From defaulting to debuting
Earlier this year, Davis — who had unsuccessfully tried to get a deferment for his NS duties — defaulted on his NS obligations when he failed to turn up for his enlistment.
Since 2017, he has been plying his trade at Fulham Football Club, becoming the first Singaporean (and likely soon-to-be ex-Singaporean) to sign a professional contract with a side competing in the English Premier League (EPL) — the top tier of English football.
Davis made his senior debut for the club — now relegated and competing in the 2nd tier of English football — in August 2019.
"If I hadn’t taken the contract I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t have made my debut or anything. It was a big decision," he said, while also arguing that the two years in NS would've harmed his career prospects:
"You have to have tunnel vision, you have to be selfish, you have to be confident in everything, especially to succeed in Europe."
"Sorry that I hurt your feelings"
That selfishness has caused controversy amongst Singaporeans, with many critical of Davis' decision to default.
According to CNA, Davis shrugged off the criticism:
"I'd just be sorry that I hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to.
It is what it is. There’s always going to be one side and another side. It’s life."
"My mum really wants me to play for Thailand"
Davis also said that his decision to represent the Thai national team came down to a primordial connection to his country of birth and his mother's wishes:
"I feel like I’m from Thailand and England. I feel like those are my home countries. And my mum really wants me to play for Thailand so I want to make her proud. That’s my main reason."
Davis was born to a British father and a Thai mother in Phuket before moving to Singapore at age five and gaining citizenship here.
Under FIFA rules, this made him eligible to represent England, Wales, Thailand, and Singapore.
However, despite turning out for Singapore's national junior team at various age groups, Davis has now been called up for Thailand's provisional Southeast Asian (SEA) Games squad and was speaking to CNA at the team's training camp in Bangkok.
He noted that his former Singapore teammates were "happy" for him.
"They support me. They’re not mad or anything but when we play against each other we’ll see what happens," he said with a smile.
Making it to the top
Speaking about his career with Fulham, Davis told CNA that he hoped to get more playing minutes with the senior team and earn a contract extension mid-next year.
His aim is to eventually be playing at the highest tier:
"I think I can make it to the top. You have to have that mindset. Even if you’re someone who can’t, you still have to have that mindset to reach the top. So I think I will be able to make the Premier League."
Top image from Ben Davis' Instagram account
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