FAS to expand Schools Football Academy
Schools Football Academy to expand and player development is the focus
Think of it as the Champions League of local schools football.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is set to expand its Schools Football Academy (SFA), a key pillar of the FAS' elite youth development and a brainchild of technical director Michel Sablon, from four school teams this year to eight next year, and eventually 15 in three years' time.
The SFA kicked off this July with four schools from each of the zones - St Patrick's School, St Gabriel's Secondary School, Hong Kah Secondary School and the Singapore Sports School - playing in a 13-team, Under-15 league with nine other club centres of excellence.
This league ends next month and fills a gap in the calendar as the schools' football competition ends in July.
With the blessings of the Ministry of Education Co-Curricular Activities Branch, the four schools already in the SFA will remain, while the FAS is already in talks with four other schools who have a good tradition of producing good footballers for next year's league.
Speaking at a match between the Singapore Sports School and St Patrick's School yesterday, FAS vice-president Bernard Tan said: "This is a big step in getting our youth to develop their physical, technical and mental abilities, and to play a modern, high-tempo style of football.
"Good-quality players can also be found in school teams and we want to broaden our base of young footballers. We are aiming for 15 schools to take football as an elite sport.
"We will increase the intensity of training to three times a week, 90 minutes a session and one game a week. The quality of the teams involved also increases the intensity of competition and lop-sided scorelines are more likely to be avoided.
"If done properly over the years, we will have better quality of players and coaches."
Tan added that over time, the FAS hopes this programme will establish a Singaporean brand of football based on "quick passing, lots of movement and high intensity of pressing".
"With Sablon's experience after achieving the same with Belgium, we have to believe this is possible," he said.
"At this level, the biggest retardation is the emphasis on winning. But success is not defined by whether the Under-15s win a trophy, but whether they learn a new style of play. This programme will be geared towards development rather than winning."
As such, while the FAS collates the results and standings, there is no championship trophy to play for. Another initiative to encourage more playing time is allowing teams to make more substitutions than usual.
These school teams will be led by coaches with at least an AFC 'A' licence and they will be mentored by the FAS through a tailored coaching syllabus that follows Sablon's overall development plan, which aims to boost the physical, technical, tactical and mental proficiencies of players.
An FAS goalkeeping coach will also work with these schools to help with the development of their goalkeepers, freeing up time for the school coach to concentrate on the outfielders.
Irfan Ismail, St Patrick's School's lead teacher (PE), said: "This initiative is beneficial to our boys as not only does it allow them to play more football year round, but it also lets them train within curriculum time. This frees up more time for them to concentrate on their studies as well.
"This league is of a higher quality than the schools' competition and there is a more consistent style of play across all teams."
Parents also praised the development as it allayed their concerns that their child's academic performance may be affected due to constant training demands.
Krishnan Aravinthan, father of Rahul Irfan from St Patrick's School, said: "I support this programme as it opens up more opportunities for the boys and it is a good platform for them to be exposed to higher-level competition.
"As it is a CCA in school, there is also a balance between football and studies because the school will stop training when it is closer to exam period."