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Fulham footballer Ben Davis will not get NS deferment: Mindef

SINGAPORE – He is the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with an English Premier League side after inking a deal with Fulham FC in June, but Ben Davis, 17, will have to head home in December to enlist for National Service (NS) after his application for NS deferment was rejected by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Fulham footballer Ben Davis will not get NS deferment: Mindef

Singaporean footballer Ben Davis signed a professional contract with English Premier League club, Fulham FC, in June.

SINGAPORE – He is the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with an English Premier League side after inking a deal with Fulham FC in June, but Ben Davis, 17, will have to head home in December to enlist for National Service (NS) after his application for NS deferment was rejected by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

In a statement on Saturday (July 14), Mindef said: “Benjamin James Davis’ application for deferment was not approved as he does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS.

“This decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth and was communicated to Mr Davis and his parents on 11 June 2018. Mr Davis was also notified that he is due for enlistment and must dutifully serve NS along with others in his cohort.”

The ministry noted that all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS “put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS”, and that “it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development”.

It said that very few applications have been approved over the years, and in sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions such as the Olympic Games, and are potential medal winners for the country.

“In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria”, added Mindef.

The three athletes are Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen – both swimmers were granted deferment to compete at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games – and sailor Maximillian Soh. Soh was granted a year-long deferment ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Ben’s father, Mr Harvey Davis, who runs the JSSL Arsenal Soccer School here, said that he is in discussions with the Football Association of Singapore, which will assist with an appeal to Mindef.

He added that they have been “completely transparent with the authorities” and had informed them of Ben’s two-year scholarship contract with Fulham in 2016, and his professional contract in May.

Mr Davis said in a statement: “We fully understand the importance of serving your country and my older son has already served, and so will Ben, as will my younger boy.

“With Ben the question is when, and we hope he is given the opportunity to pursue his dream, make Singapore and Singapore football proud. If Joseph had not been given the deferment and opportunity he would never have won the Olympics.”

Born in Phuket, Thailand, Ben received his Singapore citizenship in September 2009, and played for the FAS’s Junior Centre of Excellence team from 2010 to 2012. He competed last year in the Asean Football Federation U-18 Championships and the Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championships, and recently earned a call-up to the national team for a friendly against Maldives.  

He is currently based at Fulham’s academy, which is one of only 24 Category One – the highest grade possible in the country – schools in England. Fulham was recently promoted to the Premier League for the 2018-2019 season, and Ben will play in the U-18 Premier League which will include other clubs such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Mr Davis said he is hopeful that “common sense can prevail”, and he stressed that his son, who had just signed a professional contract with an English Premier League club, “has achieved the highest possible level that could be asked of a 17-year-old in football”.

He added: “If Ben is not deferred then the message is clear and simple; that there is no chance or opportunity for team sportsmen to compete on the world stage.

“What message does this send to our children and young Singaporeans who dream of playing professional football in Europe and the English Premier League or any other team sport.”

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