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Football can easily be said as one of the most popular sports in Singapore. Both males and females enjoy not only watching, but also playing the sport. In schools, it can also be seen that children love playing football, especially during recess time or even after school, when they gather in the field for a kickabout, to just have fun. Having said that, there are 3 different national teams for both the male and female in Singapore and they are; the Under-16 National Team, the Under-19 National Team and of course, the main National Team. In Singapore, women’s football is also growing in terms of its community. There are more clubs participating in the different local leagues organised by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), such as the Women’s National League (WNL) and the Women’s Premier League (WPL).
In comparison to the past, females are being more exposed to football these days, through Physical Education (PE) lessons and Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) in schools. Being in football CCAs also allow students to take part and showcase their talents through inter-school competitions organised by FAS, which exposes them to playing the sport more and being more competitive in the sport. This will give students the drive to train harder, as they would want to perform better, thus, improving their football skills. Besides through schools, girls can also be exposed to football by joining public means at grassroots level, conducted by ActiveSG, for children aged 3 to 17 years old. Since they However, the programme is for both genders, hence it does not specifically focus on just females. As opposed to males, the females in Singapore do not have developmental teams. There is a scheme for the males which consists of four different developmental teams called the FAS Football Academy. The age groups included are Under-15 to Under-18. Having these teams allow the boys to train and develop from a young age, which enable them to progress as a player and in terms of their skills, eventually helping them earn themselves a spot in the different national teams.
With reference to the 2016 FIFA Youth Survey, it was found that there is a large disparity among the male and female youth teams, throughout the world. More countries have male youth teams compared to having them for both males and females. Figure 1 shows the percentage of FIFA member associations with national youth teams for male and female players Figure 2 shows part of the FIFA Women’s World RankingNot having developmental teams could be a reason why the Women’s National Team has not been doing well, internationally. Currently, the Singapore Women’s National Football Team’s FIFA World Ranking is 101 out of 140 countries, as shown in Figure 1. Singapore is also the lowest among the neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia who are ranked at 87 and 79 respectively. This proves that a lot of work has to be done in order for Singapore’s Women Football to develop. In order to do so, starting with the younger players would be wise because they would eventually be the future of Singapore Women’s Football, keeping in mind that progression takes time. POLICYIn order for Singapore’s Women Football to develop as a whole, there should be a need for trainings that cater specifically for women, starting at a young age. With that being said, developmental teams for girls should be implemented. Using the same scheme as the FFA, FAS should implement four developmental teams from Under-15 to Under-18 for the female footballers in Singapore. With reference to the Canadian Soccer Association Long Term Player Development, the ‘Training to Compete’ stage is for females aged 15 to 19. This is also the stage known as ‘Developing the International Player’. Hence, through these developmental teams, the girls are able to train with a goal, knowing that their training will help them shape and develop into an even more skilful player, with the ability to help them be even more competent when they progress into the subsequent age-group team or even the national team. With such early and specific training, the girls are able to progress smoothly in their training and maintain or even improve their skills and abilities.
In order to recruit players for the developmental teams, trial sessions have to be conducted. As there are a lot of women playing football now, particularly through the FAS inter-school competitions, recruiting players for the developmental teams would be rather simple. Registration forms for the developmental team trials can be given to MOE Secondary schools where the teachers can hand them out to girls in football CCAs, or even other girls with interest in the sport. Moreover, FAS can also promote the trials through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, where the girls or even their parents might come across, thus, getting more girls to register for the trial sessions. Upon the completion of the registration period, the girls will then go through trials in order to be selected for the different teams and eventually, the trainings for the four developmental teams can officially start.
Once in their respective developmental teams, in order to ensure that the girls have been training well and maintaining their fitness levels, tests would be conducted. The girls can be tested on the skills and drills that they have been coached on, during their training. More importantly, they should be tested on their passing, receiving, shooting, dribbling and goalkeeping, for the goalkeepers.
These are the fundamental skills that every footballer should be able to execute with quality, no matter their level of play. Fitness tests should also be conducted every year before the girls are allowed to progress to the subsequent developmental team. Beep tests and shuttle runs can be conducted on the players as they are the common ones used to test for athletes’ physical fitness. In addition to the tests, regular friendly matches will be organised so that the girls can get used to different match-situations. Furthermore, they can also apply what they have learned during the training, into the game. They can try out different skills and perfect them as it is where they can make mistakes and learn from them, before they participate in tournaments. Having regular friendly matches for them can also boost their morale and confidence, which would lead them to performing better during tournaments. The friendly matches can also be internationally, so that the girls will have the exposure of playing against other national teams and see the different styles of play, thus being able to expand their football knowledge and skills.
There are many benefits to having developmental teams. One of the benefits of having developmental teams is that the girls will be even more exposed to football as they would be playing the sport more regularly, thus preventing them from losing touch. The training for each team should be as minimal as twice a week, in the evening, after the players’ school hours. With these training, the players will be able to train with one another, often. This will then allow the girls to build a bond and chemistry with one another, which can also help them in the game. Besides benefitting the girls, the coaches would benefit from this too. Since there will be more teams, more coaches would then be hired. Thus, these coaches will gain experience and learn more through handling developmental teams and preparing their athletes for international competitions.
It is crucial to have developmental teams as it would eventually be the backbone of an athlete as most of the athletes from the developmental teams will be the ones progressing into the national team and representing the country. With that, implementing developmental teams for girls would be a good start to develop Singapore’s Women’s Football. Once this policy becomes successful, Singapore’s Women’s Football will then shape and show results, and even get a better FIFA World Ranking. Furthermore, there might also be a chance for Singapore to be able to participate in the Women’s World Cup in the future.
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