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Ben Davis is not asking for NS exemption, but deferment – so, what’s the problem?

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[The following is a post on the Facebook page of Hazrul Azhar Jamari. We thank Mr Hazrul for permission to republish it here.]

What can Ben Davis do?

Ben was born in Thailand to his Thai mother, but moved to Singapore at the age of five and gained citizenship here in 2009. He studied at the Singapore Sports School from 2013 to 2015 before moving to London’s Harrow High School last year. Ben’s father, Harvey Davis, was originally from the UK. He is the founder of Singapore’s private football academy, JSSL.

According to FIFA rules, Ben qualifies to play for the following countries: Singapore (by citizenship), Thailand (by birth and heritage through his mother), England (by heritage through his father).

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Ben has been playing for Singapore age groups since U14 levels. But Ben could have played for Thailand and England. This should speak for something. He could be playing for better and stronger countries but he is choosing Singapore.

So the least Singapore could do is defer his enlistment by at least 2 years so he could see out his football scholarship in Fulham. By the time he completes it, he would be about 19 or 20. This sounds like the enlistment age for many Singaporeans anyway. So what is MINDEF babbling about?

Ben is playing in Premier League South U18. That’s the highest standard of English Football at that age level. There are players at this level that get promoted to their first teams. With Fulham regaining Premier League Football, he has a chance of playing in the Premier League next season. This may not be the Olympics. Nor will Fulham do a Leicester and win the Premier League. But to say he is not representing Singapore is wrong. Ben is Singaporean and he is flying our flag high in England. And if he makes it to the first team, that should be worth as much as an Olympic medal. The problem is that MINDEF is not contextualising his case. Football is not Swimming. It is a team sport and the Olympics is not the highest achievement in Football. But to be able to play at the highest possible standard is. And for us arm chair Premier League fans, the Premier League is the highest standard there is.

But if MINDEF insists to deny his deferment, then the ministry did not stop one boy’s dream, but the dream of thousands of Singaporeans who want to see their country’s football status rise again. Not every Singaporean boy wants to be a footballer and has such a chance to play in the Premier League. That is a unique situation and deserves to be reviewed at a case-by-case level.

Ben is not asking to be exempted. He is asking to be deferred. He is still going to serve.

That shows he has decided a long time ago he wants to serve Singapore whether on the battle field or the football field. But if Mindef continues with its rigid and archaic policies, then it would not be some mismanagement of FAS that ruins Singapore Football. It would be this country’s thirst to take the dreams of boys and send them to war – fighting who, no one knows. South Korea has North Korea at their doorsteps and their footballing heroes are granted 10 year deferments. Ben is only asking for 2.

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