Sunday 05 March 2023, 17:00

Singapore’s next generation on the charge with Football for Schools

  • Singapore has become the latest nation to embrace FIFA’s Football for Schools

  • Programme to be rolled out across nation with support from FAS and Singapore’s Ministry for Education

  • Jalan Besar Stadium hosted event which included coach tuition and participation of young players

Be it football or in broader society, Singapore’s output has long been greater than the sum of its parts. The city-state located at the bottom tip of Malay Peninsula has managed to achieve great things despite limited landmass and resources. Planning and execution are the two bookends of that success, and the Football Association of Singapore [FAS] are focussed on ensuring the footballers of tomorrow are being prepared with the local introduction of the FIFA Football for Schools (F4S) programme. The forward-thinking FAS have proactively engaged and, impressively, the Ministry for Education is also fully involved to cohesively assist in rolling out the programme. The synergy is typical of Singapore, as is the fact that the nation will be one of the first in Southeast Asia to introduce the programme.

FIFA Football for Schools (F4S) programme, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore (Images courtesy Football Association of Singapore)

Launched in 2019 by FIFA in collaboration with UNESCO, the F4S programme aims to make football accessible to both boys and girls across the globe by incorporating football activities into the education system, empowering the youngsters with valuable life skills and competencies through football. F4S in Singapore kicked-off late last week with a two-day workshop before a full day of practical work at the FAS’s Jalan Besar Stadium, home to the FIFA Forward-funded pitch which was inaugurated by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in 2021. FIFA Football for Schools Programme Director Fatimata Sidibe said: “Today, in Singapore, this Football for Schools festival gives the opportunity to celebrate the joy of children and the pride of parents and educators. We can see the bridge between the inspirational vision and strategic plan of FAS “Unleash the roar “with F4S program, namely the pillars - let them play, enhance technical capacity and capability – Sciences and technology and whole of society partnership.

“It’s a great day for FIFA and a privilege for me to attend the launch, which will be followed by a Football for Schools and ASEAN regional workshop this week, which will introduce the programme to neighbouring ASEAN member associations.

"After working for two decades at the United Nations for the development of education and the enrolment of girls in humanitarian assistance, it is a pleasure for me to use this experience at the service of children in sport, the school being the entry point that combines these two objectives."

FIFA Football for Schools (F4S) programme, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore (Images courtesy Football Association of Singapore)

A total of 40 physical education (PE) teachers and football coaches were in attendance for the two-day workshop. Then it was time to take to the pitch on Saturday where 140 teachers, coaches, and students between the ages of 10 to 14, were in good spirits despite the heavy rain. Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, who who was at the launch along with FAS Acting President Mr Bernard Tan, and FAS General Secretary Yazeen Buhari, reaffirmed the significance of F4S in boosting local football, alongside the national football uplift project, Unleash The Roar! Initiative: “I strongly believe our youth holds the key to a much better future in the sport, and our goal to facilitate the footballing dreams of young footballers under Unleash The Roar initiative, which started in 2021, aligns very well with F4S. “This is especially true under Pillar 1: Let Them Play, where the intent is to nurture strong interest and increase participation among our young ones through a unified curriculum with strong local coaches developed at all levels. I highly commend FIFA and UNESCO’s efforts in creating a programme that uses play in educating our young through football, which is one of the most popular sports in Singapore.”

FIFA Football for Schools (F4S) programme, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore (Images courtesy Football Association of Singapore)

Alexandra Huete Ramos, FIFA Football for Schools Manager, who delivered the capacity building course together with Antonio Buenaño Sánchez, said the programme is not only about the round ball, but is tailored to improve social and general lifeskills. “Football For Schools is relatively easy to implement in Singapore, not only due to the size of the country, but also due to the support of FAS, Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth, Ministry of Education and Sport Singapore as well as other key stakeholders who were fully on board from the beginning,” she said. “I’m 100 per cent convinced once the implementation brings across all schools in Singapore, the teachers and coaches who attended the course will be spreading the F4S methodology and giving great reports on the progress of the programme to the federation, and ultimately to us. “The fact that there’s a few female representations here; I hope through Football for Schools, it will be easier to get more girls and female coaches and teachers to engage with football, that is to say normal for girls to play football with boys. In ten years, we hope not only to see Singapore’s national team being successful, but see more girls playing football and more (women) coaches attend more trainings to improve their skills. “The implementation of Football for Schools is about helping them have the tools to not only become a better player, but also a better person.”