SingaCup: Biggest football boost for Asia youths

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NINE years ago, they made modest headlines as SingaCup got off the ground as the marquee non-football association which organises international youth football tournament in Asia.

They’ve made gigantic improvements and today hold their heads high as one of Asia’s premier international youth football tournament, organised by Dynamique Konzepts Pte Ltd, a leading Singapore-based sports management company.

“Our vision remains to develop football at the grassroots and we’re always aware that football is a team sport which is played and watched by millions globally. It has the ability to transcend race, language and culture; to create bonds among people and communities; to bind and unify differences; and displays the passion of human in its utmost purest form. These outstanding qualities have evolved football into the world’s number one sport today,” said tournament director P. Selvakumar.

During the first week of November, the organisers brought a special guest from India, 31-year-old Anju Turambekar to be the guest-of-honour to inspire the younger generation. She’s no stranger to Asian women’s football and the AIFF (All-India Football Federation) Head of Grassroots also sits on the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Panel of Grassroots.

Her profile is rather exemplary, from an unknown farm-head in the rural heartlands of Kolhapur district of Maharashtra state in India to get to the capital of New Delhi ranks as one of the extraordinary chapters in boosting  Asian youths, both boys and girls, that there’s a big future in football.

RAW GEMS FROM ASIA

“The SingaCup seeks to showcase exciting raw gems from Asia and abroad. In this tournament, the youths have the chance to test themselves in a competitive environment, impress the spectators and earn the opportunity for a trial with a prestigious football club in Europe. This is just the beginning of their football journey,” said Selvakumar, who intends to make it one of the most-talked-about youth football programmes in the world.

For the record, more than 3,000 youth players from 140 youth clubs across 10 nations – Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, signed up for the ninth edition of SingaCup. 

Over the years, since it started in 2011, SingaCup has overseen the rise of some prominent names as they went on to become professional footballers and represent their countries at the senior level. The notable luminaries include – Javier Gayoso (SingaCup 2013 Boys U18 Golden Boot Award Winner), who is now a well-established Philippines international with a number of caps and Chitnuphong Phraengphrom (SingaCup 2013 Boys U14 Most Valuable Player), who is now part of the Thai League 1 side Port FC.

And not to forget Singapore’s icon striker Ikhsan Fandi, Having impressed in the inaugural 2011 edition where he was crowned the Most Valuable Player in the U14 category, the second son of Singapore legendary forward Fandi Ahmad is now plying his trade in Norway’s second-tier with Raufoss IL and making quite a name for himself.

Selvakumar also noted that the rise of SingaCup has brought about the presence of distinguished guests of honour over the years. The list includes Tom Byer – one of the most decorated and admired grassroots football coaches in Asia, who is born in New York but now based in Tokyo, Japan. Gareth Jennings – former Stoke City academy director who is now head of techincal leadership programs at world governing body FIFA. Benjamin Tan – Deputy CEO of the Thai League and Yazeen Buhari, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) general secretary.

REACH OUT PROGRAMMES

Anju Turambekar saluted the organisers: “SingaCup is targeting the Golden Age of Learning, that is six to 12 years, the most significant and critical age where we can mould a child in terms of their holistic development. This trend is evident worldwide – be it in India, Europe or the USA. I believe parents, coaches and teachers are ever so crucial in preparing the child for the transition into the youth development stage.”

She said that creating an annual programme for each age-group will “provide a pathway to plan the regular training sessions, practice matches as well as competitive games”.

She added: “The objective of each training session is to have better performance during the games and hence the exposure at SingaCup would further help young players to dream big, build their confidence, enhance creativity, explore and achieve their goals.”

Apart from the week-long annual tournament, the SingaCup also focused their efforts on reaching out to the wider community. Through its corporate initiative named the SingaCup Football Experience, they have collaborated with the region’s top clubs such as Indonesia’s Persib Bandung, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown and Thailand’s Army United to bring about smiles and laughter to more than 500 children from the underprivileged community.

Selvakumar says that the SingaCup Foundation, together with ITE College Central and other partners, made a sporting landmark when they broke the Singapore Book of Records for the largest gathering of parents and children at a football clinic in May 2019.

He said: “We started off with Iftar (‘break of a fast’). Everyone, regardless of race or religion, gathered together for a simple dinner and soon began warming up to one another. The 142 parent-and-child pairs were led by Fandi Ahmad and coaches form the professional clubs and private academies, for this record-breaking event.

“You could feel a sense of nostalgia as parents rolled back the years and tried to engage in various forms of flicks and tricks to showcase to their children. It was definitely 120 minutes of quality time spend together in the company of the greater football community in Singapore.”

For more nitty-gritty details of the SingaCup, arguably one of Asia’s premier football tournaments, please click: https://singacup.com/

Finally, in pushing for greater relevance of SingaCup, Selvakumar added: “Football is indeed a language that every community and child understands and speaks, remarkably one of the best ways to unify communities people.” – By SURESH NAIR

 

  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based writer who believes the SingaCup can be a prolific football boost in the coming years to give the world’s No 1 sport the biggest shot in the arm in Asia.
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