Schools in Singapore will play bigger roles in nurturing the dreams of young footballers with the launch of School Football Academies
He dreams of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo and don the famous No.7 jersey. The football pitch to 12-year-old Anas Amir is his sanctuary. For as long as he can remember, the Damai Primary School student has harboured ambitions of playing football at the highest levels like the Portuguese superstar.
Anas Amir (front row, third from left), together with fellow youths at Kaki Bukit Sports Club, where they were coached by former international Malek Awab (extreme left, back row) Photo: Amir Khan
Even though Damai does not have a school football team, Anas was able to hone his skills at the Kaki Bukit Sports Club under the watchful eyes of former international Malek Awab.
But with the launch of the School Football Academies (SFAs), part of the Unleash The Roar! (UTR!) project, Anas is excited to take his football dreams to the next level.
“I hope I can enrol in one of the SFAs as I’ll be studying and playing football in the right environment,” said Anas, who plans to choose one of the 10 secondary schools under the SFA pilot project when his PSLE results are released next week.
“This will also allow me to do what I love to do most! And that’s to play football.”
The SFAs are touted as game-changers and are expected to significantly broaden Singapore’s football talent base, with a cohort of players breaking through the ranks every year.
Ten schools, spread across the island, will kick start the pilot project in 2022 - in the North: Montfort Secondary School, Seng Kang Secondary School, and Singapore Sports School; in the South: Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), Queensway Secondary School and Serangoon Garden Secondary School; in the East: Meridian Secondary School and St Patrick’s School; and in the West: Assumption English School and Jurongville Secondary School.
The project will change the face of youth development in Singapore, almost tripling the current base of youths exposed to a high level of training.
Beginning with the Secondary 1s in 2022, the programme will progressively expand to include all four years in each SFA by 2025. It is expected that about 1,400 boys and girls will be a part of the programme eventually. This is more than double the 500 boys and girls who are presently receiving elite training at the Under-15 and U17 level under the FAS and ActiveSG constructs. This will broaden our pipeline of youth footballers who have been exposed to a high-level of coaching, to add on to those who are training with the various private academies in Singapore.
A holistic program that includes character development, sports science and football education will be implemented so that youths can study and play football to their full potential.
The SFA programme will encompass on-field training and elements of sports science. The development pathway follows the National Football Curriculum (NFC) developed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). It covers physical, technical, mental, and tactical skills training similar to the national elite system and overseas professional leagues.
Under a strategic partnership with Spain’s top football league LaLiga, Spanish coaches will help staff the coaching and sports science teams at the SFAs, exposing both local coaches and young footballers to best practices of the famed Spanish youth footballing system. Local coaches can also stand to gain from the SFA project by working alongside more experienced coaches and embarking on overseas stints.
Anas hopes to eventually play and impress everyone like his football idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: Amir Khan
Aspiring footballers like Anas will now train four times a week, up from the average of two in most football programs at secondary schools. He can also play competitively throughout the year, with an elite tournament planned among SFAs, ActiveSG Football Academy Development Centres, and possibly private football academies.
Anas’ father, Amir Khan, is buoyed by the latest development and looks forward to sending his son to an SFA next year.
“When we heard about the SFA and the program it will offer, especially in a MOE school environment, I’m so happy,” said Amir. “I believe it is a good starting point. They will receive the right support to excel both academically and in football. The program will definitely be able to take our footballing talents to the next level too.”
For Irfan Hanafi, who hopes to play for Singapore one day, playing and training abroad is no longer a pipe dream. The prospect of being coached by elite football professionals or even train in the hallowed grounds of world-famous elite clubs he has only come to know from afar will be beyond his wildest dreams should the Primary Six student from Fuhua Primary School excel in the SFA program.
“I would love to train at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium one day,” said the 12-year-old, who spent two years developing his football skills at the ActiveSG Football Academy in Bukit Gombak stadium.
“So far, I’ve only been able to watch their matches on TV, and it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience if I do get to travel to Spain to train and play there.”
Irfan enjoys doing what he loves most- playing football. Photo: Irfan Hanafi
The likes of Anas and Irfan are among the many rough diamonds waiting to be polished into shining gems as Singapore football looks towards to the future.
Said Irfan: “My goal is to become the first member in the family to represent Singapore in football. I want to score many goals for Singapore and win tournaments for my country.”
By Calvin Koh
November 19, 2021