Monday, 18 February 2019

Forum: Take leaf out of Iceland's book

Image for illustration only

Mr George Pasqual is mistaken if he believes that the local football ecosystem has remained unchanged from when Singapore won three Asean Football Federation Championships (Why is FAS lamenting constraints that haven't changed in ages?, Feb 2).

In the years that the Lions were Asean football champions, we had three players recruited under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme (FST) in 2004, five naturalised players in the 2007 squad and four new citizens representing Singapore in 2012.

The objective of the FST was to complement the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) Youth Development programme by filling key positions in the national team, which was short of local talents.

The foreign recruits were pivotal to our success in those three tournaments.

The constraints highlighted by FAS, such as a small population, limited land, national service commitments and priority to academia, have to be resolved in order for football to be developed further.

Iceland, with a far more challenging football ecosystem, managed to climb from 131st in the 2012 Fifa world ranking to 22nd last year.

During last year's World Cup, it became the smallest country to ever qualify for the competition.

With a population of only 340,000 compared with Singapore's more than five million, theoretically, it does not make sense that Iceland is at the forefront of world football.

The FAS cited land constraints as a key factor holding us back, but we should not forget that Icelandic footballers live in the Arctic region, where the sun does not rise for three months every year and the subsoil is permanently frozen.

It is one of the most inhospitable places to cultivate football talent.

Iceland's success in building a formidable national team lies in identifying, recruiting and developing young talent from the primary school level.

Football clubs in Iceland keep close tabs on the talent available to them because the country's population is too small for any player to slip through their fingers.

One cannot get more pragmatic than that.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock


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