Chance for youngsters to shine and impress
In a bid to allow more playing time for school football teams, the inaugural H-TWO-O Ultimate Challenge Cup kicked off at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, with Hougang Secondary defeating Springfield Secondary 2-1 to claim the Under-17 title.
The tournament, targeted at teams who missed qualifying for the nationals, will see a total of 52 teams from various schools and more than 800 students compete over three days.
Branding the competition a "great success", S.League chief executive officer Lim Chin said: "I'm very happy with the response from the schools; they have been well-organised in bringing the students in.
"These schools don't have a lot of playing opportunities with the present format of the nationals championship."
Seventeen secondary schools competed in the U-17 category yesterday, with the U-14 teams slated to turn out today.
The primary school senior and junior categories will take place tomorrow.
Besides giving these schools more minutes on the pitch, Lim said the tournament is an opportunity for them to impress national and club coaches.
"At the same time, it allows our club COE (Centre of Excellence) and NFA (National Football Association) coaches to look at these players, and see whether we can talent scout more good players into our youth development," he said.
Football Association of Singapore technical director Michel Sablon and national youth teams head coach Richard Tardy watched the teams yesterday, with Lim revealing that club coaches will attend all three days of the tournament.
Hougang teacher-in-charge Anwarul Nizam Mohd Ismail said: "It's a good opportunity for them to be exposed to the Jalan Besar Stadium, and to meet all the different schools, coaches and the national set-up.
"Some of my kids come here with the intention of showcasing their talent, and it's good to hear that some of the coaches gave us a thumbs up.
"It's important that we continue to play, and especially for some of the guys, this is probably their last tournament before they break for the national exams."
May Ngiam, first vice-president of sponsor Yeo Hiap Seng (Singapore), said there were already plans for a second edition of the tournament during the June holidays as well.
"Some of the schools might not be aware of this tournament because of the short time span (since the announcement earlier this month)," she said.
"For the June holidays, we hope to reach out to more schools so that we can increase the opportunity for these players to play."