The excitement at seeing a Singaporean in the English Premier League (EPL) has been extinguished rather spectacularly. For the time being at least.
Just barely a few days after it was announced that EPL side Fulham FC had signed Singaporean Ben Davis on a professional contract, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has stated that the player’s request for a deferment from National Service (NS) has been rejected.
In a statement released on Sunday (15 July), MINDEF said that Ben “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS.”
“As all male Singaporeans liable for Full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.
“Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria,” MINDEF said.
MINDEF added that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. The three athletes who were previously granted deferment are swimmers Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and sailor Maximillan Soh.
Ben’s father – Harvey Davis, who is the Managing Director of JSSL Singapore – said that he hopes common sense prevails so that his son can be given the opportunity to pursue the dream of every young Singaporean footballer to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL.
“As the father of Ben, I really hope that common sense can prevail so that Ben can be given the opportunity to not just pursue his dream of playing in the EPL, but also the dream of every young Singaporean footballer and to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL.”
Harvey added that “if Ben is not deferred then the message is clear and simple; that there is no chance or opportunity for team sportsmen to compete on the world stage.”
“What message does this send to our children and young Singaporeans who dream of playing professional football in Europe and the EPL or any other team sport?” he added.
“We have been completely transparent with the authorities who were immediately informed of his scholarship contract back in 2016 and his professional contract back in May this year. We fully understand the importance of serving your country and my older son has already served and so will Ben as will my younger boy,” said Harvey Davis.
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MAIN PHOTO SOURCE: FAS