Crewe defender Ng open to Lions future
Englishman eligible to play for Singapore by ancestry, but unlikely to don jersey for now
The Lions could boast a player who played professionally in England, but not in the near future.
Perry Ng, who is a first-team regular for Crewe Alexandra in the English fourth tier, was approached by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) last June to gauge his interest in turning out for the Lions.
The talks were positive and the FAS then looked into avenues for naturalising the defender-cum-midfielder, 22.
Dubbed a future captain of the Railwaymen by his manager David Artell last November, the Englishman is eligible to turn out for Singapore via his late paternal grandfather, James, who was born in Singapore but later settled in Liverpool.
The FAS' head of national teams management Eric Ong told The New Paper in a statement: "Based on Article 7(c) of Fifa's Statutes, Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes, Perry is eligible to play for Singapore due to his ancestry link through his paternal grandfather and if he holds a Singapore passport.
"However, as Perry is not a Singapore citizen, he will still be required to fulfil the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) requirement for citizenship application...
"The FAS is open to foreign players who can contribute positively to Singapore football and we will work closely with the incoming national team head coach and technical director for any decisions we undertake in naturalising foreign talents."
Ng - who came through the famed Crewe academy that has produced England internationals Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Rob Jones and Seth Johnson - told TNP last month that he is willing to give up his British passport to play for the Lions. Singaporean citizens are not allowed to hold dual nationality.
"I've always wanted to (play for Singapore), my family still live there, so I'd love to play for Singapore and make them proud," said Ng, who visited his Singapore relatives during the off-season thrice in the last five years.
"My grandfather was from there and he passed away a few years ago. It'll be nice to play for them and, hopefully, he'd like that."
However, that remains a pipe dream for the moment.
While Fifa rules deem Ng eligible to play for the Lions via his grandfather's ancestry, qualifying for a Singaporean passport by descent is applicable only to individuals with at least one parent who is born in Singapore or is a citizen by registration.
GULF IN STANDARD
So, in order for Ng to turn out for the Lions, he will have to follow the same path as past Foreign (Sports) Talent Scheme (FTS) graduates and gain citizenship by meeting the ICA's residency requirements.
That would require the League Two Goal-of-the-Month winner for last March to leave England and move to Singapore.
Considering the gulf in standard between England's fourth tier and the Singapore Premier League, Ng said on Wednesday that he was not keen on making the move to Singapore.
However, he has not given up on the idea entirely, saying: "When I'm older, then that's a possibility."
One rung higher than Ng in the English football ladder is Sunderland right-back Luke O'Nien, 24.
Like Ng, he is eligible to play for the Lions via his late Singaporean grandfather Lim Cheng Siong, the younger brother of former Cabinet minister Lim Kim San.
O'Nien told TNP in 2016 that he was keen to play for the Lions but now admits it might be too "complicated".
He told TNP last September: "If I take up Singaporean citizenship, I'd need a work permit to play in England and that'll make things complicated.
"As much as I'd love to represent Singapore, my priority has to be my career here."
In recent times, Singapore's regional rivals have largely focused their naturalisation efforts on players from the diaspora, with the Philippines the most obvious example.
Only four players from their 23-man Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup squad were born in the country.
Meanwhile, most of the foreign-born players who have played for the Lions have no Singaporean ancestry but are FTS graduates who qualified after meeting residency requirements following stints in the S.League. The last player to be naturalised by the FAS was Qiu Li in 2010.
However, at their annual congress last September, the FAS announced that it would be resurrecting the FTS.