Unleash the Roar project to launch School Football Academies, partner LaLiga and Borussia Dortmund

Atletico Madrid football player Radamel Falcao (red jersey) takes part in a football clinic with Singapore school children in 2013. Top Spanish league LaLiga will be partner of Singapore's Unleash the Roar football project.
Atletico Madrid football player Radamel Falcao (red jersey) takes part in a football clinic with Singapore school children in 2013. Top Spanish league LaLiga will be partner of Singapore's Unleash the Roar football project. (FILE PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The "Unleash the Roar" national football project to rebuild the sport's foundation in Singapore kicked off in earnest on Friday (19 November), as it announced strategic partnerships with Spain's top football league LaLiga and German club Borussia Dortmund.

These European institutions will provide expertise in the areas of youth development, coach development and sports science, as well as help secure overseas stints for the brightest and best Singapore talent.

More importantly, LaLiga will bring its coaches to helm key positions alongside local ones in 10 new School Football Academies (SFAs), as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) intends to propagate to young players its national football curriculum a brand of possession-based and high-tempo football similar to the "tiki-taka" style that Spain perfected in the past two decades.

“Youth development in Spanish football is something that both clubs and the league place utmost importance in, and through the learnings developed across the years, we trust that we will not only impart knowledge, but also empower local coaches to be the protagonists in this pursuit of a better football ecosystem across all levels," added Juan Florit, head of LaLiga football projects.

Meanwhile, Bundesliga giants Dortmund will lend their expertise and jointly develop a coach development programme to produce higher quality coaches for all playing levels in Singapore.

“For Singapore football to raise our game to play at the highest level, we must first build a strong foundation," said Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth & Social and Family Development Eric Chua, who was also announced as chairman for the newly-formed Unleash the Roar executive committee.

“The initiatives announced will not only allow our brightest young talent better access to a higher-level of training and competition on a daily basis, but also pave pathways for them to develop their game at some of the top football institutions overseas.”

To nearly triple current base of youth footballers from 500 to 1,400

The SFA project intends to nearly triple the current base of youth footballers exposed to high-level training, from 500 boys and girls presently receiving elite training at the Under-15 and U-17 levels, to about 1,400 of them eventually.

Under the pilot to be launched by the first quarter of 2022, 10 schools were selected to house the SFAs:

  • North: Montfort Secondary School, Seng Kang Secondary School, Singapore Sports School;

  • South: Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), Queensway Secondary School, Serangoon Garden Secondary School;

  • East: Meridian Secondary School, St Patrick’s School;

  • West: Assumption English School, Jurongville Secondary School.

The SFA programme will encompass on-field training, complemented with sports science support, utilising the expertise from LaLiga youth coaches and sports experts. The development pathway will follow FAS' national football curriculum, and will cover physical, technical, mental, and tactical skills training similar to the national elite system and overseas professional leagues.

Students will train four times a week, up from an average of two in most football programmes at secondary schools. They will also play competitively throughout the year, with a tournament planned among SFAs, ActiveSG Football Academy development centres, and possibly private football academies from 2023 onwards.

SFA student-athletes to be supported both academically and in football

The SFA pilot will begin with the Secondary 1 cohorts next year, and will progressively expand to include all four years in each SFA by 2025. All youth student-athletes in the SFAs will be supported to perform both academically and in football.

“We want the SFAs to focus on the sporting development and support the academic needs of students so that they have a conducive environment to excel. Parents need not worry about shuttling to various locations within a day and can have peace of mind that their child’s needs are better taken care of," said FAS deputy president Bernard Tan, who is also deputy chair of the Unleash the Roar executive committee.

“The SFAs will be a game-changer for football youth development as it almost triples the footballing cohort of youths training at a high level every year. This translates to more options for national youth selectors and, further downstream, increases the chance of unearthing a rare gem who can excel on a bigger stage."

The Unleash the Roar football project was first announced in March, as it aims to rebuild the sport's foundation into one that can translate into eventual national-team success.

While there is an "aspirational milestone" to try and qualify for the 2034 World Cup Finals, the project will be focusing on improving overall standards of the football ecosystem, in areas such as increasing children and youth football participation in schools; scouting and developing talented players; raising the coaching standards; and strengthening of the Singapore Premier League.

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