SINGAPORE — Ben Davis, the one-time Singapore citizen who defaulted his national service (NS) to pursue a career with English football club Fulham, has been selected as part of Thailand’s provisional 28-man squad for the upcoming SEA Games in the Philippines.
The Thai Football Association announced the squad on its website on Saturday (28 September). The SEA Games football competition is an U-22 tournament, with two over-aged players allowed.
Davis, 18, is the youngest player in the announced Thai squad. He had made his senior-team debut with Fulham last month, coming on as an 89th-minute substitute in their 0-1 League Cup defeat by Southampton.
Born to Thai mother, English father
Davis was born in Phuket to a Thai mother and English father, and moved to Singapore at age five. He became a citizen four years later, and subsequently represented Singapore at the U-16 and U-19 levels.
He also received call-ups to the Singapore senior side in March 2018, but did not play in either of two friendlies against the Maldives and Chinese Taipei.
He subsequently signed a two-year contract with English professional side Fulham in July 2018. As Fulham were in the English Premier League last year, he thus became the first Singaporean footballer to sign for a top-tier English club.
However, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) rejected Davis’ request to defer his NS enlistment date, as he “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS”.
Why NS deferment was not approved
At a Parliamentary sitting in August 2018, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told the House that there are no “valid grounds” to approve Davis’ deferment request as there was “no commitment to serve Singapore or our national interests”.
In February this year, Davis failed to report for NS as required, and was declared an NS defaulter. Mindef said in a statement that he is “liable upon conviction to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years”.