Help Singaporean Ben Davis chase his dream to play in the Premier League

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On 13 July 2018, football fans in Singapore learned something they could barely believe — one of our own had earned a contract with an English Premier League (EPL) side.  News had broken in local papers that Benjamin Davis had signed a 2-year contract with Fulham Football Club (Fulham). In fact, Davis had signed a 2-year scholarship with Fulham’s Under-18 Academy back in July 2017, but he had so impressed his coaches that he was offered a professional contract with a full year left on his scholarship deal. By all accounts, Davis was thriving at Fulham, as the Club had noted that he had "accrued a pass accuracy of over 90 per cent" for the U-18s.

The euphoria that had swept Singaporean football fans was quickly dampened.  The very next day, on 14 July 2018, news outlets bore the sombre news that Davis’ appeal to defer his National Service (NS) had been unsuccessful. All Singaporean males are all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS, ranging from 22-24 months, at the earliest opportunity once they turn 18. Davis had applied for an NS deferment on this basis of his sporting potential but was rejected.  Explaining its decision, MINDEF said, ”In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria.”

Davis’ father Harvey plans to appeal this decision, and this petition hopes to show that Singaporeans support his appeal. There are 4 reasons why Davis’ deferment application should be granted:

First, it is crucial for Davis’ development that his training is not interrupted so he can maximise his potential. Football, and sports in general, depends heavily on physical attributes, and your adolescent years are a crucial developmental phase of your physical attributes. It is generally said that a footballer reaches his peak between the ages of 25-30. To deprive Davis of two years in which he could be refining his physical and technical skills is to deprive him of almost 40% of the time he has in which to realise his potential. 

Second, the current standard when applying for an NS deferment shows unacceptable bias against team sports. To successfully apply for NS deferment, one must show the potential to win a medal in international competitions.  It is unfair to deprive a particularly gifted individual on a team sport the opportunity to chase excellence because he is unable to elevate his team to a medal win. The only people to have received deferments have been swimmers and a sailor — individual sports. Most people would agree that a Singaporean with the ability to play football in the EPL is at least as talented as an Olympic athlete. Yet, Davis is not being afforded the same benefits because he is held to an unfair standard.  

Third, Davis has the potential to reach the heights set by people who have successfully received deferments. Fulham’s academy ranks among the top 24 football academies in England and the academy team plays alongside Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Many players who have appeared for Fulham’s academy have gone on to play for other clubs in the EPL. Davis has benefitted from fantastic coaching and competes at a level that is higher than his age group. He has a realistic chance to feature in the Premier League. Davis is already the first Singaporean to be offered a contract by a top-tier English football club and has impressed his coaches. He could make further history by becoming the first Singaporean to appear in the Premier League. 

Fourth, if Singapore is serious about pursuing a culture of excellence in sports, it cannot obstruct talented athletes from pursuing greatness in their field. If Davis is compelled to return to serve NS, he is effectively saying goodbye to a potential career as a EPL footballer. Such a rigid approach to the individual citizen is heartless and indifferent. It would be undesirable for Singapore to develop a reputation being as a nation that obstructs its citizens from attaining greatness. It would be truly horrible for this to be Singapore’s reputation among Singaporeans, who feel that their nation will do nothing to help its citizens pursue their dreams.  This is particularly disgraceful for

We don’t want this petition to be misinterpreted. We believe NS to be a vital part of Singapore’s defence and a right of passage for every Singaporean Son. Davis’ father, Harvey, has shown himself to be a man of integrity. Davis’ older brother has served NS, and Harvey has said that Davis will serve NS too. This petition is in support of one young man’s right to chase his dream.  And as Harvey Davis said: "With Ben, the question is when (he will serve), and we hope he is given the opportunity to pursue his dream, make Singapore and Singapore football proud.”  We hope that MINDEF reconsiders it’s decision and grants Davis’ appeal for deferment.  It would allow every Singaporean football fan to continue to hope that one day, a Singaporean may live the dream they all dreamt as a child.