Replies to Media ● Sep 03, 2014
FAS’ response to media query on youth development
Response from Technical Director Slobodan Pavkovic:
Through the hard work and commitment of my colleagues, as well as the re-prioritization of our resources, FAS has put in place a strong youth development structure and programmes which has been endorsed by FIFA, leading member associations and officials. One of the key areas FAS has accomplished is the establishment of age-group teams. This includes the setting up of 10 Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) in the Under-6, Under-8, Under-10, Under-12 levels, and six National Football Academy (NFA) teams from the Under-13s to Under-18s, from an initial three teams of Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18. The National Football Syllabus, which was introduced to schools in Singapore and used by our NFA, has been commended by leading FAs including Japan Football Association and Austria Football Association.
We have also restructured the clubs’ COE to be more efficient and effective by reducing the number of clubs from eight to three, namely Balestier Khalsa, Home United and Warriors, and expanding the number of age groups from three (Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18) to six (Under-13, Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17, Under-18). This has resulted quality training and support for all our COE players. This was supported by the club chairmen including Warriors FC Chairman, BG Lam Shiu Tong who said “These are exciting times as the revamped COE will see more resources being channelled towards youth development than before. The clubs get to focus on solely on developing players for the future, as FAS is ensuring that important administrative needs such as funding and coaches are all looked after. There will be a greater concentration of talent with the new COE structure, and the system can only produce even better players as a result.” Mr S. Thavanesan, chairman of Balestier Khalsa, is also supportive as he said “We are both delighted and honoured to be one of three S.League clubs selected to run a Centre of Excellence. Youth development is a vital aspect of football, and we are privileged to have a hand in developing future players for both the S.League and Singapore.” Chairman of Home United, Mr Anselm Lopez also endorsed the COE revamp, saying “The Centre of Excellence system is an excellent initiative of the FAS which provides the COE with the necessary resources to focus primarily on player development. The youth players will not only train with experienced and certified coaches and compete with the best of their peers on the field, but they will also have access to sports science and medical support to excel.”
Having been in Singapore since 2008, I am heartened by the development of our players who progressed through our youth development system. The likes of Adam Swandi and Irfan Fandi Ahmad are among those whose potential and performances at international competitions such as the Lion City Cup have been singled out by foreign football coaches and officials. It is also notable that our NFA teams have done well in recent editions of the Lion City Cup, beating age-group teams from top clubs like Newcastle United, Ajax Amsterdam, Vasco da Gama and Eintracht Frankfurt. Our players are intelligent and have the ability to succeed at the top Asian level.
Many others, such as Iqbal Hussain and Safuwan Baharudin recently, have also progressed from the NFA age-groups to the senior national team. Both Safuwan and Iqbal were identified by coaches from top European teams as having the potential to eventually play in Europe. Hariss Harun, who was recently offered a chance to play professionally in Europe, is another example. We have a good pool of talented players and I firmly believe that more would be presented with the opportunity to play overseas if we have more resources to send our players, at a young age, to play more top-level international matches and to train in better facilities.
We must secure the required level of resources in order to maximise the potential of our players. It is important for FAS to obtain full resources needed for the next phase of its Strategic Plan, and to secure more regular overseas stints where our boys will take on stronger and tougher opponents.
We work as a team and I am thankful to my colleagues for their support, and through their hard work, we have adopted the best practices from one of the world’s leading football associations, the Netherlands – the Dutch way for youth development. Our youth development structure has been singled out for praise by several leading football officials such as (FIFA’s Senior Manager, Development Programmes (Asia) ) Mr David Borja, (FC Metz’s Youth Academy Director) Mr Denis Schaeffer and (French Football Federation’s Vice-President) Mr Bernard Desumer who described FAS as “one of Asia’s best football administrators” and also noted that FAS “has a comprehensive youth development structure”. Mr Borja also added that “Singapore is certainly among the few countries in Asia which has a comprehensive range of age-group football squads today”.
Some of the initiatives and programmes we have launched during the past few years includes the setting up of 10 Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) in the Under-6, Under-8, Under-10, Under-12 levels, and six National Football Academy (NFA) teams from the Under-13s to Under-18s, from an initial three teams of Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18; implementing the Weekly Coaches’ Morning and Evening Sessions, the setting up of Women’s JCOE Under-11 team and the National Football Syllabus introduced to all schools in Singapore. We have also restructured the clubs’ COE to be more efficient and effective by reducing the number of clubs from eight to three, namely Balestier Khalsa, Home United and Warriors, and expanding the number of age groups from three (Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18) to six (Under-13, Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17, Under-18). This has resulted quality training and support for all our COE players. We have also set up the Football Development Fund aimed at helping our best young talents at securing overseas training attachments. Adam Swandi is one recipient and there are more NFA players being considered under this Fund.
In addition, we have adopted FIFA’s training materials for youth development, whenever appropriate and relevant to our local context. We have also invited leading coaches to conduct seminars and training sessions in Singapore – with the aim of transferring knowledge to our coaches.
We are always looking at opportunities to work out partnerships with strong member associations as we believe that the transfer of knowledge or exchange programmes will benefit our players, officials and staff. For instance, our MOU with French Football Federation allowed our coaches/officials to learn from the French Technical Director who was here to conduct several workshops/seminars last October.
Apart from member associations, we have also invited, and will continue to do so, experienced technical coaches to Singapore to assess our programmes, and recommend ways to improve our standards. The technical directors from FIFA and Austria, as well as one of England’s former U-19 coach, were among those who visited us in recent years and shared their frank views on how we can raise our standards.
The results in terms of players’ development, coupled with positive assessments by leading international officials, is a clear indication that we have in place a strong youth development structure and strategy although we need to secure more resources and maximize the potential of our players. Like the other key components of our Strategic Plan, we are taking a phased approach in implementing key programmes for youth development. More key programmes will be announced at an appropriate time. Going forward, we will continue to learn from the top footballing nations and adopt the best practices in all aspects of local football.
While FAS has established a strong foundation for youth development – as noted by leading officials and independent assessors – we recognise there is a lot of hard work ahead. However, it is important for FAS to secure more resources and support so as to implement fully our key programmes which have been identified and spelt out in the Strategic Plan, such as sending players and coaches overseas on long-term attachments. FAS needs additional resources to send players and teams overseas which is vital to their development – especially when other countries in the region are already doing so. Currently, the youth teams of our neighbouring countries get to play against top-level European teams overseas for up to 20 times a year. With more resources, we can strive to do the same for our players, from the youth levels to the senior national team.
We will also work closely with the relevant authorities to secure more resources for better facilities like a basic permanent training centre for the national teams, and to secure more training time for our young players while ensuring a judicious balance between their academic and sporting commitments.