With 142 international caps, three AFF Championship titles, the SEA Games bronze, and numerous other accolades to his name, Baihakki Khaizan is no stranger to the local and regional football scene.
While the 39-year-old may have hung up his boots, football remains a huge part of his life. Since shifting gears to an administrative role at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in 2022, Baihakki has been keeping himself busy, engaging closely with various stakeholders ranging from academy operators and partners to young footballers and their parents. The Unleash the Roar! team recently caught up with the former Lions stalwart on how he has channelled his love for football towards levelling up the local game.
Q: Tell us more about your role at FAS.
Having played in top leagues and teams across the region, I recently transitioned to a football administrator role at the FAS. As the Head of Planning (Technical Division Office), Ambassador, and Special Projects, my goal is to leverage my playing experience to contribute ideas for the local football scene and elevate Singapore football.
One of the key projects I am spearheading is the FAS Academy Accreditation System (AAS), born from a study of our youth football ecosystem. This initiative aims to establish a practical framework for youth development in Singapore, serving as a blueprint for progress on both regional and international stages.
Baihakki Khaizan (L) with Michael Browne (R), FAS Technical Director launched the Academy Accreditation System earlier this year as part of the process to identify more youth talents. Photo by Football Association of Singapore.
Q: Could you share more about AAS and how will it benefit academies and the local football ecosystem?
AAS is similar to the concept of club licensing for professional clubs, but tailor-designed for our local football academies to help them evolve and develop. It comprises three tiers, with academies accorded with different levels of accreditation based on various criteria such as talent identification, coaching, and player performance.
The AAS enables parents to easily identify FAS-recognised academies. It also charts a clear progression pathway for academies. Under the AAS, academies can tap into administrative knowledge and guidelines to progress through accreditation levels, unlocking benefits like upgraded coaching courses and workshops. These skills enhance on-field developmental phases and contribute to shaping future players.
Baihakki Khaizan visits the headquarters of the 2023 SPL Champions, Albirex Niigata, as part of the academy accreditation assessment process. Photo by Football Association of Singapore.
Q: Could you share some success stories or challenges encountered while implementing the AAS?
As with all new implementations, the AAS faces the usual anticipated administrative and logistical challenges. We therefore appreciate the support of partners from Sport Singapore under the Unleash The Roar! national project, as AAS seeks to set a minimum standard for football operations, while guiding and aligning clubs and academies.
Coaches play a key role in the growth of our football ecosystem, hence it is important that they continually develop their capabilities. It is heartening to witness and know that AAS has left a positive impact on the coaches and academies in that respect. Each accredited academy under FAS now has coaches who have advanced their coaching capabilities and certifications.
In the long term, with more and more academies being positively impacted by AAS, we can only see our ecosystem grow and the quality of our youth coaching further developing.
Q: Beyond recognising academies, how does the AAS actively foster youth development? How does it integrate with the upcoming Singapore Youth League?
Accredited academies, as FAS members, will contribute to talent identification, and selected players from these academies may be considered for the National Development Centres (NDC).
In addition, only AAS accredited teams qualify to participate in the upcoming Singapore Youth League (SYL) - an initiative aimed at shaping young players and building a robust talent pool for international representation. A total of 216 teams from 53 clubs and academies across the different age groups have signed up for the inaugural national league via the AAS, with invited teams such as Johor Darul Takzim FC, Singapore Sports School and Active SG Football Academy.
With nearly 3,800 youth players competing weekly, the SYL is where the pipeline of young players is being shaped. In the long-term, this will only strengthen Singapore football, and I hope to see more and more promising generations of future Lions coming through.
As part of AAS, individual FAS Youth Player Profiles will be created for each player in the SYL. These profiles track players' development, allowing FAS technical staff to monitor their progress, injuries, and performance, providing valuable insights for NDC selection. The player's database is intriguing, as it is similar to some of the youth systems throughout the globe.
Baihakki Khaizan shares his wisdom and experience with the young footballers at Flair Football Academy during one of the Academy Accreditation assessment session. Photo by Football Association of Singapore.
Q: What will you say to academies currently considering joining AAS?
As football is a team game, inclusivity is crucial. Let us work together to achieve the common goal of improving Singapore football.
Remember, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Let us work together for Singapore and the future of our football.