The Curious Case of Ben Davis
Ahead of Singapore’s 53rd Birthday, we’ve decided to evaluate the case of national sports athletes and their case for deferment.
(Disclaimer: We do not endorse or dispute any current policies but wish to bring on a new perspective to the issue)
This issue came into the spotlight last month, because of one Ben Davis, 17, who signed a professional deal with Fulham, a newly promoted Premier League (EPL) club.
He became the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with an English club from a top-tier league.
Although not born in Singapore, Ben’s family moved from Thailand when he was 5.
Having both a Thai mother and English father, Ben was qualified to play for both Thailand and England but played for Singapore since the U14 levels.
Given his age, he was called-up for NS despite his contract, which resulted in the application of deferment to fulfil his Fulham contract.
However, MINDEF rejected his application, despite the appeals of Football Association of Singapore (FAS), on the grounds that there was no committed date for possible return for NS for Davis.
Ben Davis’ father, Harvey Davis, has responded that he does intend for his son to do NS, it was only a question of when.
Sports unite our nation, and football is a popular sport in Singapore. Hence, it’s no surprise that this issue got the entire nation talking.
Many were in support of his deferment and for good reasons.
Fulham FC is in the EPL. While it is no Manchester United/City, Chelsea or Liverpool, it was a good opportunity for a young Singaporean like Davis, to develop into a potential national inspiring athlete for Singapore.
It could also singlehandedly bring Singaporeans back into supporting our national sports teams and kill the argument of “Singapore cannot succeed in team sports on international levels”.
Going into NS could halt his development as an athlete, which would be unfavourable for both Ben Davis and Singapore.
With the performance by Joseph Schooling in the Olympics, it showed the importance in allowing young talented athletes to develop in their own time, without having to worry about NS.
Developing sports in Singapore takes time, but if a nation as small as Iceland formed a formidable team in the FIFA World Cup this year, why can’t Singapore do the same?
It is understandable for Ben’s father to prioritise his career development and be unable to provide an official date.
But at this point, his development in the sport anchors the weight of an entire nation.
It is heartwarming to see that NS for Ben Davis has not been thrown completely out of the window by his father.
However, it will be a shame to see him opt out of a Singaporean citizenship and ultimately, the national team because of this rejection by Mindef.
At this point, a middle ground needs to be determined between Mindef and Harvey Davis on this issue, to provide a glimmer of hope that could save Singapore’s somewhat disappointing football in recent memory.
The most optimal solution right now would be to provide a deferment date that is subjected to renewal, which would fulfil both Mindef’s and Davis’ wishes at this stage.
However, the most important thing is to get both sides back on the negotiating table.
While the result may seem to be affecting the Davis family alone, it has possible impact on future development of national athletes and Singapore’s sports scene.
Hence, we hope that a happy resolution comes out of this, one where Ben Davis will be allowed to develop in Fulham FC and Mindef gets a commitment out of the Davis family on a return to finish out his NS requirements.
We wish Ben Davis all the best and may he continue to represent Singapore and our colours proudly.
Want to rep Singapore in the upcoming National Day? We’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of sportswear in Singapore’s colours: