SINGAPORE — Singapore have been drawn in a tough opening group for the upcoming SEA Games football competition – and they could meet their former Under-19 national player Ben Davis, who is now representing defending champions Thailand.
The Cubs - the Republic’s U-22 team - were drawn into Group B together with Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos and Brunei in a ceremony at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on Tuesday (15 October). Only the top two teams will advance into the semi-finals.
Singapore has never won the football gold at the biennial Games.
Declared NS defaulter
Davis, 18, created a stir last year when the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) rejected his application for national service deferment in order to pursue his football career with English club Fulham FC.
The incident generated a lively debate in Singapore on issues such as National Service.
Born in Phuket to a Thai mother and English father, Davis moved to Singapore at age five and became a citizen four years later, subsequently representing Singapore at the U-16 and U-19 levels.
Senior-team debut with Fulham, selection by Thailand
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”.
In August, he made his senior-team debut with Fulham, coming on as an 89th-minute substitute in their 0-1 League Cup defeat by Southampton.
Last month, he was selected as part of Thailand’s provisional 28-man squad for the upcoming SEA Games in the Philippines. The SEA Games football competition is an U-22 tournament, with two over-aged players allowed.
Good motivation for Cubs, says Fandi
Commenting on the results of the draw, national U-22 head coach Fandi Ahmad said on the Football Association of Singapore website, “We have a tough group for the SEA Games. Thailand and Vietnam have both qualified for the AFC Under-23 Championship next year.
“This will be a good motivation for us, playing against the best teams in ASEAN and we will be mentally and physically prepared for this tough fight ahead.”
Group A features hosts Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Timor-Leste.