DPM Tharman praises French football system that produced World Cup winners

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaks with journalists at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 meeting in Durban, South Africa on 5 May 2017. (PHOTO: Reuters)

France’s World Cup victory has shown “what is possible” when there is an effective football system in place and “every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

In a Facebook post on Monday (16 July), he congratulated the French team while noting that many of its players came from “poor, mainly immigrant neighbourhoods in the suburbs (‘banlieues’) of Paris and Lyon”.

While football may have been one of the few outlets for youngsters from such neighbourhoods to showcase their talents, their success also “has to do with the French system of providing qualified coaches in the neighbourhoods, spotting young talents, and sending the best to France’s central football academy”, said Tharman.

“It will take a lot more than a World Cup victory… to overcome the lack of opportunities and long-standing prejudices against those from these poor neighbourhoods,” the 61-year-old Jurong GRC Member of Parliament added.

“But it shows what is possible when a leaf is taken from the French football system, and every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths.”

Tharman’s comments came amid a stir over the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) rejection of an application by 17-year-old Singaporean footballer Benjamin Davis to have his national service (NS) enlistment deferred in order to pursue a professional contract with Premier League side Fulham FC.

According to media reports on Sunday, MINDEF had rejected Davis’ deferment application as he “did not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS”.

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