Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced today that Spain’s top football league LaLiga and German club Borussia Dortmund have come on board as strategic partners to the Unleash The Roar! (UTR!) project.
The football superpowers 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.
Specifically, LaLiga coaches will help helm key positions alongside local coaches in 10 newly-launched School Football Academies (SFAs) while Bundesliga giants Dortmund will lend their expertise and jointly develop a coach development programme with UTR!.
The partnerships will come into immediate effect and will first see LaLiga youth coaches and sports experts take on key roles at the enhanced SFAs by the first quarter of 2022. Ten SFAs will kick start a pilot project next year and change the face of youth development in Singapore, almost tripling the current base of youths exposed to a high-level of training.
Said Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth & Social and Family Development Eric Chua, “This is a significant step for the Unleash The Roar! project. For Singapore football to raise our game to play at the highest level, we must first build a strong foundation.
“The initiatives announced today 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.”
Mr Chua was also announced today as chairman of a newly-formed UTR! Executive Committee. The committee, made up of 13 members and four co-opted members, will be responsible for formulating strategies, planning, developing and supervising the implementation of the project. The committee is made up of a diverse group of individuals from both the private and public sectors, including prominent faces from the sports industry. The rich mix of the committee is in line with the ethos of the UTR! project, which is to rally Singapore behind sport in a whole-of-society effort. .
Said CEO of Sport Singapore and deputy chair of the UTR! Executive Committee Lim Teck Yin: “It is important that we begin our UTR! journey with the right partners who understand the value that they bring to the table for this national project to be on strong footing.”
“The UTR! project is a collective effort, drawing on the support of the public-private-people sectors to help us achieve our goals. We are fortunate that in the Ministry of Education (MOE), our international partners, and our EXCO, we have found good teammates”
A key component of the UTR! is the development of youth players. The SFAs will play a crucial role in that aspect.
Their central role is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for talented youths to hone their skills in a structured, high-quality system that allows them to maximise their potential. The SFA programme is co-designed between each SFA and UTR! with the student-athlete at the heart of it.
The SFA programme will encompass on-field training, complemented with sports science support. The development pathway will follow the National Football Curriculum (NFC) developed by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), and will cover physical, technical, mental, and tactical skills training similar to the national elite system and overseas professional leagues. All youth student-athletes in the SFAs will be supported to perform both academically and in football.
Each SFA will feature a team of full-time SFA coaches, comprising both LaLiga and local coaches. They will work closely under the leadership of the FAS Technical Director and the ActiveSG Football Academy (AFA) Principal to ensure the successful implementation of the programme. The team of coaches will be helmed by a Head Coach who will minimally possess an ‘A’ licence and relevant youth development experience. There will also be specialist coaches in the areas of goalkeeping, strength and conditioning, and performance analysts who will be engaged to provide each student-athlete the best possible training.
The SFA initiative will run as a pilot project in 2022 where the learnings will allow the programme to be refined and adjusted.
The first group of SFA schools are:
– Montfort Secondary School
– Seng Kang Secondary School
– Singapore Sports School
– Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)
– Queensway Secondary School
– Serangoon Garden Secondary School
– Meridian Secondary School
– St Patrick’s School
– Assumption English School
– Jurongville Secondary School
Each of the schools above will feature a boys’ SFA and will commence in January 2022. UTR! is currently working with MOE to establish SFAs for girls.
Beginning with the Secondary 1s in 2022, the programme will progressively expand to include all four years in each SFA by 2025. It is expected that about 1,400 boys and girls will be a part of the programme eventually. This is close to triple the 500 boys and girls who are presently receiving elite training at the Under-15 and U17 level.
A key component of the SFA will see the students train four times a week, up from the average of two in most football programmes at secondary schools. The youths will also play competitively throughout the year, with a tournament planned among SFAs, AFA Development Centres, and possibly private football academies from 2023 onwards.
Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) Principal Mr Loo Ming Yaw said: “Our school is excited to be an SFA and we look forward to being able to leverage on the programme to maximise our students’ individual potential in the sport. As educators and developers of our youth, we are excited by the possibilities, not least because the programme takes a holistic approach to individual development, combining both academic pursuits with football development.”
Said FAS deputy president and UTR! Executive Committee deputy chair Bernard Tan: “We designed the SFAs with both students and parents in mind. We wantthe 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.
“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.”
Damai Primary School student Anas Khan is hoping he will be in the inaugural SFA batch next year.
Damai does not have a football team but that has not stopped the 12-year-old from honing his skills at Kaki Bukit Sports Club under the watchful eyes of former international Malek Awab.
Said Anas’ father, Amir: “When we heard about the SFA and the programme it will offer, especially in an MOE school environment, I’m so happy. I believe it is a good starting point. They will receive the right support to excel both academically and in football. The programme will definitely be able to take our footballing talents to the next level.”