FAS National Training Centre to come to fruition
FAS chief Lim says plans on Singapore football's 'crown jewel' could be announced by Aug 7
They earned the mandate to walk into the corridors of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) Jalan Besar headquarters only three days ago.
But local football's new leadership team led by lawyer Lim Kia Tong have made a bold declaration that could further the sport much more than any single move in recent history.
Speaking exclusively to The New Paper from his office just off Boat Quay yesterday, the newly elected FAS president revealed that significant news on the proposed National Training Centre (NTC) for football could be announced by Aug 7, when Lim's team mark their first 100 days in office.
"We were in communication with Sport Singapore (SportSG) on the NTC and, if everything goes well, we will get into full communication with them to work towards it," 64-year-old Lim told TNP yesterday.
"We hope that even within the first 100 days of office, we may be able to put out news of the NTC."
First reported in 2010 and touted as the crown jewel of the former FAS leadership team's strategic plan, the NTC was targeted as being a home for the national team and its counterparts in the national youth development pipeline.
It is estimated to cost about $25 million, and could feature up to three full-sized football pitches, while also housing sports science and medical facilities.
Farrer Park - Singapore football's spiritual home where the likes of Dollah Kassim, S Rajagopal, Quah Kim Song and his brothers honed their craft - was earmarked as a possible venue for NTC, but Lim said that plan is off.
"There were some documents floating around, but I wasn't involved in the NTC discussions as part of the previous leadership," said Lim, who was a vice-president of the FAS led by his predecessor Zainudin Nordin.
“We were in communication with Sport Singapore on the NTC and, if everything goes well, we will get into full communication with them to work towards it.”Newly elected FAS president Lim Kia Tong
"Farrer Park was a proposed venue, but that didn't get off the ground, and I think that's history now."
After Zainudin's term ended last year, Lim led the FAS provisional council from last November to March 31, when the provisional council was dissolved ahead of last Saturday's FAS election.
Two other venues - a plot of land in Taman Jurong and the Kallang Cricket Field, the former home of the national cricket team - have been designated as possible alternatives.
The Kallang Cricket Field was the venue for archery at the South-east Asia Games in 2015, while the Taman Jurong location is believed to be near the old Jurong Stadium, previously home to S.League clubs Warriors FC (then known as SAFFC) and Sinchi FC.
TNP understands that the Kallang Cricket Field has already got the nod to be the site of the proposed NTC, with SportSG in touch with venue operators to understand how such multi-pitch venues are managed.
FAS technical director Michel Sablon, the mastermind behind Belgium's blueprint that produced their "golden generation" of footballers such as Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, had earlier told TNP that Belgium's NTC had a big impact on football development in his country.
Naturally, having one in Singapore will be crucial for the sport here.
"We started our new plan in Belgium in 2004 and we built a national training centre by 2006," Sablon told TNP then.
"It was a huge change, it was home for the players. The NTC had every facility you needed, the medical office, (the Belgian FA's) management there, the coaches... Everyone was there.
"It gave our football a professional environment."
It is a point not lost on Lim and his team. TNP understands that work on the proposed NTC could start soon, with a view to completion as soon as next year.
"The NTC will be the key, and it has been the key even during our tenure as the (FAS) provisional council," said Lim.
"We will now engage our gears and move with SportSG on the NTC."