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Unleash The Roar! launches first overseas scholarship for Singapore’s top young football talents

Singapore's most promising young football talents will now have the opportunity to train at some of the best football academies in the world - thanks to a new government scholarship under the Unleash The Roar! national football project.

Six girls and two boys will study and train abroad full-time; five will be attending the IMG Academy in the United States and three will be enrolling at ESC LaLiga & NBA in Madrid, Spain.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

IMG has produced world stars such as AC Milan’s Christian Pulisic, the USA

women’s national football team’s Mallory Swanson, and goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin who last played with Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany’s top tier football league Bundesliga.

ESC LaLiga & NBA, the academy project of Spain’s top-tier league LaLiga, has hosted top prospects from around the world, including Manchester United

star Alejandro Garnacho.

Mr Eric Chua, Chairman of the UTR! Executive Committee and Senior

Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, & Social and Family

Development said: “The UTR! Overseas Scholarship marks a significant milestone for Singapore football. It provides our finest talents the opportunity to study, train, play and compete overseas – full-time on a multi-year basis – under robust football development programmes offered at reputable institutions such as the IMG Academy and ESC LaLiga & NBA. Through this, we hope that our young talents will hone their skills, inspire others to pursue their sporting aspirations, and fly our Singapore flag high.”

Close to 150 guests including parents, football administrators, ex-internationals

and family members of the scholarship recipients were present at the UTR! Overseas Scholarship award ceremony on July 31 at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, Mr Edwin Tong presented the scholarships to the eight recipients - Ardhra Arul Ganeswaran, Chloe Koh, Irsalina Irwan, Kyra Taylor, Loo Kai Sheng, Seri Ayu Natasha Naszri, Uchenna Eziakor, and Yasmine Zaharin.

The scholarship recipients were endorsed by a selection panel led by Mr Chua following a robust selection process. This process began with an initial shortlist of close to 40 male and female student-athletes, based on the preliminary assessments from the Football Association of Singapore and Singapore Sports School. These players were then observed during training sessions and competitions by a technical committee led by FAS Technical Director Mr Michael Browne, whose members assessed their footballing abilities and potential.

From this, a smaller group of players were invited to an in-person panel

interview with representatives of the UTR! Executive Committee.

In his speech, Mr Tong said that the scholarship is the latest initiative that will complement existing programmes.

Since the inception of UTR!, developing a strong foundation of youth footballers and developing quality youth coaches has been a primary objective of the project.

To grow the number of children and teens playing and training at a high level, UTR! has introduced 12 School Football Academies since last year. The Junior and National Development Centres (JDC and NDC) have also been set up to train the best young players in the nation.

Coaching standards will also be enhanced, with top coaches set for overseas stints to be attached at foreign clubs where they can immerse themselves elite coaching environment.

There will also be a new league set up, the Singapore Youth League, to raise the competition level for youth teams.

These initiatives will help produce top youth players which will be liable for future scholarships.

Photo by Ng Chrong Meng

Said Mr Tong: "The top players of each cohort will form the nucleus of our national junior teams. For our best players, the JDC and NDC will be their second home.

"We have already consolidated some of the best eight to 16-year-old footballers at our development centres, where they train up to four times a week and go through rigorous assessments in a highly competitive environment.

"In the coming year, we will also introduce the Singapore Youth League, so that they can train and compete regularly, at high levels.

"These young talents will train together, and be sent on overseas tournaments to gain more experience. The best of the cohort from the JDC and NDC will then be identified and be given opportunities for scholarships – either local and overseas."

Meet our inaugural batch of scholarship recipients

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐀𝐫𝐝𝐡𝐫𝐚 𝐀𝐫𝐮𝐥 𝐆𝐚𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐧, 16, will be going to the IMG Academy, USA. She is from Fairfield Methodist School/Lion City Sailors.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women's Under-19 National Team

Ardhra started playing football at Bukit Batok East Community Sports Club at the age of eight. Since turning competitive at 14 years old, she has progressed to represent Singapore in the Women's Under-16 and Under-19 National teams.

With a deft right foot, the spritely winger has an international goal under her belt. She looks up to Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and practices the trumpet in her spare time.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐞 𝐊𝐨𝐡 𝐊𝐞 𝐘𝐢𝐧𝐠, 16, will be going to IMG Academy, USA. She is from Methodist Girls' School/Lion City Sailors.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women's Senior National Team

Chinese Orchestra was Chloe's co-curricular activity in primary school but she fell in love with football at the age of 10. As a striker or central attacking midfield, the fast forward is adept with both feet. Chloe can play the electric guitar and looks up to Australia Women's National Team's Sam Kerr.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐈𝐫𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐚 𝐈𝐫𝐰𝐚𝐧, 16, will be going to IMG Academy, USA. She is from ITE College West/Albirex Niigata Singapore.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women’s Senior National Team

Irsalina is a talented left-back who is a product of the ActiveSG Football Academy. Having made her senior national team debut in 2022, the right-footer is working hard on her acceleration, stamina and tackling to be the best left-back.

With four club goals for Albirex Niigata and five international caps for Singapore to date, Irsalina looks to better herself at every training and draws inspiration from American professional footballer Kelly O' Hara.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐊𝐲𝐫𝐚 𝐄𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐞 𝐓𝐚𝐲𝐥𝐨𝐫, 17, will be going to IMG Academy, USA. She is from Police Sports Association.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women's Under-19 National Team

Kyra began her footballing journey at the age of seven at ESPZEN Soccer School. The centre midfielder debuted for the Singapore Women's Under-19 team in 2022 and has earned a reputation as a goal-scoring midfielder. Kyra is a natural right-footer and looks up to her football idol Phil Foden of Manchester City. Outside of football, she is skilled in horse riding (show jumping).

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐢 𝐀𝐲𝐮 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐡𝐚 𝐍𝐚𝐬𝐳𝐫𝐢, 16, will be going to ESC LaLiga, Spain. She is formerly of Bowen Secondary/Lion City Sailors.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women's Senior National Team

Natasha got involved in football at the age of seven, and is now a member of the National Women's Senior Team. The right-footed player is an eagle-eyed central midfielder who possesses accuracy, passing and vision on the field. Natasha's favourite footballer is former Italian international Andrea Pirlo and she frequently draws to destress.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐘𝐚𝐬𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐙𝐚𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧, 16, will be going to IMG Academy, USA. She is from Cedar Girls' Secondary School / Geylang International.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Women's Under-19 National Team

Yasmine started playing football at the age of seven with First Kick Academy and has represented Singapore in the women's Under-16 and Under-19 categories. She is a defender and can play in both the centre-back or right-back positions. She looks to Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk as her football idol. Aside from football, the right-footer previously competed in the triple and high jump.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐋𝐨𝐨 𝐊𝐚𝐢 𝐒𝐡𝐞𝐧𝐠, 16, will be going to ESC LaLiga, Spain. He is from Singapore Sports School/Young Lions.

[Key Achievements]

Singapore Men's Under-16 National Team, Young Lions

Kai Sheng started playing football with Boys United FC Tampines at the age of six. The agile left-footed central midfielder has represented Singapore in six age-group matches to date. His strength lies in his passing, stamina and on-field vision.

Photos by Ng Chrong Meng

𝐔𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚 𝐄𝐳𝐢𝐚𝐤𝐨𝐫, 15, will be going at to the ESC LaLiga, Spain. He is from St Gabriel's School/Lion City Sailors.

[Key Achievements]

Unleash The Roar! National Development Centre Team (Under-15)

Uchenna started playing football at the age of four under the watchful eye of his father, Robert Eziakor, a former footballer with Hougang United FC. Uchenna trains with the UTR! National Development Centre Under-15 team, and has scored 26 goals as a forward with the Lion City Sailors to date.

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