BY Nigel Chin Follow on Twitter
The Football Association of Singapore’s General Manager of Youth Development (JCOE) S. Varapha Rajan says that players’ mentalities, as well as the education system in Singapore are obstacles for the development of youths.
Rajan, was speaking at Meridian Junior College on Monday morning, where a discussion of youth development in Singapore football was held along with the Courts and Liverpool Academy representatives.
Present at the discussions were Courts CEO Terry O’Connor, known to be a football enthusiasts, Courts Liverpool Academy head coach Fraser Ablett, and Mr Ng Han Liat, Football Niche Teacher with Hong Kah Secondary School.
The discussion threw up a couple of points, one of which focused why the Singapore teams can compete with their European counter parts, but fail to match up as the players grow older, to which Rajan blamed the system currently existing in Singapore.
“Until you are 16, you can study and play football at the same time without any worries. But its from 16-19 there are so many things the boy has to decide and that’s where we cannot compete,” Rajan said.
“Are you going to take football as your career? Are you going to choose Academics? That is where we lose out because players want to take the safe path and parents think football is not a good paying job, especially when they get to 35 and life span in Singapore is higher than 80.
“Parents want to make sure their sons receive education because playing football in Singapore is not as lucrative. So they choose to push their kids to academics. So quite a number of players may be at training, but their mind is on something else.”
“My guess is that in established clubs like Liverpool and the kind of money they are earning as players, the impetus for them to push themselves is so much greater. And over here you have the Courts Young Lions, maybe the LionsXII and they know exactly just how much these players are earning.
“Parents will ask them to sit down think and make their decision and that is where the parental support will jump in. If you are half-hearted, then the player will be lost and that’s where the system in Singapore is a problem because there is so much going on and that’s the real challenge for us.”
Rajan also spoke about the mentality of players, most of whom are not mature enough to make decisions on their own which eventually leads to them falling out of football totally, using two talented players – Adam Swandi and Amirul Adli – as examples.
“People like Adam Swandi, Amirul Adli, they have a clear vision of what they want, and for that you have to have a lot of maturity and that’s what these two guys have,” Rajan said.
“So that’s why they have gone down the path they want, while the other players have faltered, because the others have been clouded by opinions.
“It could be parents, siblings, ex-players, or even current players. It makes it so difficult for the boys to know what they want. These guys has to make a lot of decision and these guys who makes the decision early and head for it, I think they are the one who will be successful and that’s why Adam and Amirul has done.
“They (Adam and Amirul) can balance their studies, they are humble, committed and they know what they want is not easy to get but they are not easily influenced by others.”
Rajan however, asserted that the FAS have plans in place to combat these challenges.
These plans include working closely with the Ministry of Education and its schools to try cater the best interest for these young aspiring footballers, while pushing them towards the Sports School and eventually the Polytechnics, where there is more flexibility to work with.
Rajan also highlighted the importance communication plays for players who have to juggle between their schools and the National Football Academy (NFA).
“In mainstream schools, you have mid-year exams in May and final exams in October. When that happens, you need to stop training in April because you need to focus on exams and come to the end you are going to stop for a month,” Rajan explained.
“The continuous training is prevented and that’s not because of their fault, but the system fault.
“But in the Sports school, there’s a modular system that works around their sports. So we try to get majority of NFA players into Sports School but there are still some boys with mainstream schools, such as Hong Kah.
“The NFA coaches work closely with the school coaches/teachers to ensure that the boy does not over train or over compete… The coach must have an in-depth relationship with the school. We have to cater for the boys because of the constraint we have here.
“It’s totally different from England; we got a different education system here. We have to work closely around the constraint.
“They are training hard three times a week to do their best in their school football so we got to work it around them.
“We got to let them know our so called ‘red-zone’ tournament where it’s very important for us so you (the boys) got to give us the boy for one training or two training session.
“Communication is very key (vital) and we want the NFA coaches to understand and respect the school system.”