If push comes to shove, Ben Davis may just have to give up his Singapore citizenship to fulfill his dream of playing professional football in the top flight of the English Premiership. That was what the father of the 17-year old told the TODAY newspaper on Monday.
“At the end of the day, as a parent, I have to do what is best for my son,” TODAY reported Harvey Davis as having said. “It’s (giving up Singaporean citizenship) not something we want to consider.
“If we have no choice, and we find ourselves in that situation, I don’t think it’s a choice we will make lightly…either that or we have to ask our son to give up his dream.”
Mr Davis said that he is still hopeful that with the backing of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the public support in the last week, Mindef will grant Ben his appeal to defer his National Service and allow his son to go play in England.
Ben is due to be enlisted in December, and had signed a 2-year professional contract with Fulham Football Club last year.
If he is forced to give up his citizenship, Ben could then play for England or Thailand, under FIFA’s rules. Mr Davis is from England, while Ben’s mother is Thai. FIFA allows a player to play for the country of his heritage.
Ben was called up to the senior Singapore squad last year.
In June, Mindef rejected his application for a deferment, saying that it would not be fair to other NSmen who sacrificed their personal careers to serve the country. Long term deferments such as the one sought by Ben is rarely given. Only 3 persons have been granted that in recent years, including Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, whose deferment was extended to 2020 after he won an Olympic gold medal in 2016.
It is unclear if Ben can renounce his Singapore citizenship in such short notice. But if Ben goes AWOL from NS, he would never be able to return to Singapore, unless he is prepared to face the consequences which include prison time. That would be a high price to pay for wanting to play football to fulfill his dream.
Ben’s predicament has once again raised calls for the government to look harder at the issue and perhaps come up with a better policy which would not penalise, or even destroy, the dreams of talented individuals like Ben.
Former Nominated Member of Parliament, Nicholas Fang, wrote in TODAY on Monday of his own personal experience as a sportsman and one who had to serve his NS.
Fang is a former national fencer and triathlete who had represented Singapore in various competitions.
“As a former national athlete and sports administrator, I can see why many in the sports fraternity point to NS as a major stumbling block in achieving sporting greatness,” he wrote.
“It takes athletes away from a complete focus on their sport at what could be a crucial time for many.”
He added: “The calls by some to prioritise something like sport over national defence perhaps indicates a need for a harder look at Singaporeans’ perspectives and understanding of the concept of national defence and security.”
“Hopefully sports and NS will find a way to work together to ensure that Singapore and Singaporeans continue to achieve success in the years to come.”