Albirex want to develop a base in bid to become local club
They won an unprecedented quadruple in domestic football last season and have seen some of their alumni head to Niigata to join their parent club in the J-League, but Albirex Niigata still hope to become a local outfit.
The Japanese side are sinking roots deep into the community around their Jurong East Stadium headquarters and they hope that young footballers in their Yuhua Albirex Football Academy (Yafa) will one day become White Swans.
"We want our club to grow with the kids in the community and, maybe 10 years later, these kids can play for us, for Albirex - because we want to be a local club in the future," said Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga on the sidelines of a Memorandum of Understanding signing with Yuhua Community Sports Club (CSC) yesterday.
"I think we can contribute more to Singapore football if we become a local club... we are the best-run club in Singapore."
The Yafa is into its fifth year. This year, two trainees and a coach from the academy will travel to Niigata to have a first-hand look at how their parent club operate.
The local club will continue to contribute $1 to Yafa for every fan who attends their home games at the Jurong East Stadium in this season's S.League.
Over the last four years, Korenaga's side have contributed over $75,000 to Yafa.
"Thank you, Albirex, for putting your money where your mouth is. And Yuhua is right behind you: We brought two buses (of fans) to the National Stadium for the Community Shield, and that was a great event because of Albirex," said Yuhua CSC chairman Lim Chock Sing on this season's S.League opener.
Albirex beat Tampines Rovers 2-1 in that Feb 26 match.
At yesterday's event graced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Yafa paid tribute to the late Slemat Rakisan, the community leader who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the academy. He died in a freak road accident earlier this month.
"This would not have been possible without the efforts of people like Slemat and, to honour him, we will continue to work to grow Yafa with the help of stakeholders and volunteers," said Ms Fu, also MP for Yuhua constituency. - SHAMIR OSMAN