When not a single young footballer from the National School Games (NSG) ‘C’ Division champion winning side is currently in the national U14 squad, it is a red flag, and a course for concern.
At the back of Victoria School winning the NSG ‘C’ division finals at the National Stadium on 11 August after edging out the Singapore Sports School by a single goal, an eagle-eyed parent sent TMSG a series of messages, asking one important question.
Why is it that not a single player from the championship winning side for the national schools ‘C’ division football competition is not in the national youth development U14 side?
His point is valid, and is critical that it is addressed early.
WHY ASK KIDS DOWN FOR A CENTRALISED SELECTION?
The comments received by TMSG after the ‘C’ division final were the latest set of messages following FAS and UTR’s decision to organise a centralised selection programme – where footballers were asked to submit their details and were then invited for the sessions.
The final squads, including the ones for the U13, U14 and U15, were announced in May.
One parent of a 13-year-old who represented a neighbourhood school had told TMSG previously that such a scouting system was elitist, as the organisers assumed that children, and parents of kids who were interested in football, were either following the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and UTR on their socials.
He relayed how he was told about the “talent identification” by another parent whose son also plays in the same school team as his son.
What if he had missed the trial and how many other parents would have also missed such a request to register?
He also questioned the need for such centralised trials by invitation, given that football is active in the community, and not at one centralised location.
“Why are we supposed to go to the Jalan Besar Stadium and shouldn’t the youth scouts be out in the grassroots or schools matches looking for talent?” he asked.
A senior football coach, who runs an academy in Singapore, told TMSG that the feelings among many parents whose kids attend his academy is that the selection process was “dubious”, and has left many parents losing faith and patience.
“Also, when the FAS and UTR selects a list of 26 players for national youth teams, what is the message you are sending other kids out there?” he questioned.
“That all other kids out there are not good enough? Is this the message the establishment is trying to send parents?”
“How convinced is the FAS and UTR that the current list of players selected are indeed the best?”
Football pundit Shasi Kumar has also previously tweeted about the trials.
His point was self-explanatory.
THE QUESTION OF BIAS, PERCEIVED, POTENTIAL OR REAL
The question of potential and perceived bias has now also crept into the equation, over the selection of players following the national youth trials.
Another parent who DM-ed TMSG after the announcement of the U14 list by UTR in May, pointed to the son of former skipper and current FAS staff Baihakki Khaizan being selected.
And unfortunately for Baihakki, there will be question marks about the possibility of bias even if it is unintended over his son’s selection in the absence of a clear process or understanding of the selection process.
Another parent also wondered by such a large number of players from the Lion City Sailors – 11 of 26 – made it into the final mix.
“Favouritism continues at such a young age and football will never flourish as real talents are not being recognised,” said father of a Victoria School footballer.
He singled out Raoul Akbar as a player who should well be in the UTR U14 squad, having earned the plaudits even from opposing Singapore Sports School players after the ‘C’ division final.
TMSG understands that Raoul had attended the FAS selections trials but was not selected and was eliminated before the final round.
TWEAKING THE SCOUTING AND TALENT ID SYSTEM
It is clear for all and sundry that the net needs to be cast wide to secure as many talents into the system.
As such, does a centralised selection system work?
Is the FAS and UTR being elitists with the current approach of centralised selection?
Are we excluding players from under-resourced backgrounds through the current system of selection?
How often will players be introduced into the list for specialised training if others are identified?
Who is scouring the island for such talents to bring into the national fray so that the net is cast a lot wider?
With such a centralised system in place with national youth players being identified and centralised, is the FAS putting too few eggs into one unsteady basket?
Can players who are left out of the initial selection feed back into the system and if yes, how so and what stages?
And if no, why not and what is the justification.
There are many questions which members of the public and parents will need answers to as there does not seem to be much faith in how the FAS and UTR are proceeding with talent identification.
Tweaks, and quick ones at that, may be necessary.
MAIN PHOTO: VICTORIA SCHOOL
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