The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) does not favour individual sports over team sports, and objectively assesses national sports associations' (NSAs) development plans and targets, as well as the performance and potential of their athletes, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said in Parliament yesterday.
She was responding to Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC), who had asked about MCCY's policy on assisting Singaporeans who seek national service (NS) deferment to pursue their sporting ambitions, and whether there is an approved list of sports or recognised international sporting bodies where young men can qualify for NS deferment if they are accepted for training.
Ms Fu's reply followed an explanation by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on why the Ministry of Defence rejected the application for NS deferment by 17-year-old footballer Ben Davis, who signed a two-year professional contract with English Premier League club Fulham in June.
"My ministry shares Singaporeans' aspirations for excellence in sports, and does not favour indi-vidual sports over team sports. Across all sports, we objectively assess the NSAs' development plans and targets, as well as the performance and potential of the athletes," said Ms Fu.
"For team sports, we have to adopt a whole-team development strategy which covers the entire squad of athletes, beyond just an individual athlete. We have several considerations when we assess our support for NS-liable athletes involved in team sports."
"For example, we look at the robustness of the national sports association's development plans for the team, whether there is a clear target of a major games competition in sight and the plans to achieve this, as well as the individual athlete's role and potential contribution to the national team," added Ms Fu, who revealed that enlisted members of the national football and water polo teams have in the past been given permission to train with their teammates in preparation for the SEA Games and other major international competitions.
Only three sportsmen - swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, and sailor Maximilian Soh - have been granted long-term deferment from NS, and all three trained and competed in the Olympics.
Among some of MCCY's considerations for supporting athletes' applications for deferment are the potential and motivation of the athlete, his training and development plan, how he is being developed to progressively achieve personal bests and breakthrough performances, and how the two-year stint in NS will affect the athlete.
"MCCY is prepared to support NS deferment applications by sporting talent who have consistently demonstrated the potential to succeed at the highest levels of competition, serve Singapore's interests and have provided a definitive commitment to return to serve NS," said Ms Fu.
Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) asked about MCCY's programmes to nurture talented young sportsmen, especially for team sports, given that their training could be interrupted by NS.
"Through Sport Singapore and its partners, including the Singapore National Olympic Council, the NSAs, the Singapore Sports School and the National Youth Sports Institute, the High Performance Sports (HPS) system has been established to support our athletes to reach their fullest sporting potential," Ms Fu said.
"The (HPS) involves identifying, developing and benchmarking the progress of sporting talents across key sports, covering the provision of training facilities, coaching support, sports science and sports medicine expertise, as well as overseas training and competi-tion opportunities."
Sazali Abdul Aziz