Singapore’s first English Premier League (EPL) club player, Ben Davis, will be giving up his Singapore citizenship according to his father Harvey Davis.
The 17-year-old teenager who signed up with EPL club Fulham had his National Service deferment application rejected by the Ministry of Defence. Born to a father from UK and a mother from Thailand, Ben Davis father’s said that his son will play for England or Thailand, instead of Singapore:
“We are prepared to allow him to to renounce his Singaporean citizenship in order to fulfil his footballing dreams. Should Ben give up his citizenship, he would be eligible to play for England or Thailand according to Fifa’s rules. I’m still hopeful that with the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) support for the appeal, and with the sentiment that the public are expressing, that will help. At the end of the day, as a parent, I have to do what is best for my son. It’s (giving up Singaporean citizenship) not something we want to consider. If we have no choice, and we find ourselves in that situation, I don’t think it’s a choice we will make lightly.. .either that or we have to ask our son to give up his dream.”
As the owner of JSSL Arsenal Soccer School in Singapore, Harvey Davis also rejected suggestions that National Service would be helpful to his son in any way:
“Asking a 17-year-old to make that decision, it’s not an easy decision. I read comments saying he can come back after two years, but speak to anyone in a football academy…you take two years out of their lives, the football’s not going to happen. These are two, three, four critical years in a sportsman’s life.”
The Singapore Ministry of Defence is however unmoved by the appeal, and demanded that Ben Davis enlist for the two-year conscription in a press release. The Singapore government said it is “not fair” to let the teenager play for a EPL club because “it is not the Olympics”:
“All male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS, at the earliest opportunity once they turn 18, have to put aside personal pursuits to enlist and serve, hence it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development. 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.”
Harvey Davis in 2017 has called the Singapore government a “disgrace” for evicting his school’s training compound.
Singapore’s national soccer team is currently ranked 165th in the world. In 2016, PAP Minister Edwin Tong set a 2020 target for Tokyo Olympics qualification, which was then boasted by local state media.