SINGAPORE: Singaporean footballer Benjamin Davis' application to defer his national service (NS) enlistment has been rejected by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).
In a statement on Sunday (Jul 15), MINDEF confirmed that Davis' application was not approved as he "does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS".
"As all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.
"Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. 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," MINDEF said.
MINDEF added that the decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and was communicated to Davis and his parents on Jun 11.
"Mr Davis was also notified that he is due for enlistment and must dutifully serve NS along with others in his cohort," the statement said.
It was earlier reported that Davis had signed the first professional deal of his career with newly promoted English Premier League (EPL) club Fulham FC.
The 17-year-old joined Fulham on a two-year scholarship deal in July last year. Davis turns 18 in November.
He is the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with a top-tier English club. The contract runs for two years, until June 2020.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia earlier, his father Harvey Davis said they were informed by the Football Association of Singapore that it will help to put in an appeal to MINDEF and that they were working on the appeal.
"As the father of Ben, I really hope that common sense can prevail so that Ben can be given the opportunity to not just pursue his dream of playing in the EPL, but also the dream of every young Singaporean footballer and to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL," said Davis.
When Davis learned about the contract, he had told Channel NewsAsia that the deal was "fantastic news for Singapore football".
"It shows that Singapore can produce footballers who can play at the highest level in the UK," he said.
"Ben has been trained here in Singapore and shows to all Singaporeans that you can be coached in Singapore and achieve the highest level for a 17-year-old on the international stage," his father said, echoing his son's sentiments.
"If Ben is not deferred then the message is clear and simple; that there is no chance or opportunity for team sportsmen to compete on the World stage. What message does this send to our children and young Singaporeans who dream of playing professional football in Europe and the EPL or any other team sport," he added.
Davis also said that the authorities had been informed of his son's professional contract with Fulham as well, noting that his son would eventually serve his NS.
"We have been completely transparent with the authorities who were immediately informed of his scholarship contract back in 2016 and his professional contract back in May this year.
"We fully understand the importance of serving your country and my older son has already served and so will Ben, as will my younger boy."
Drawing comparisons between his son and Olympic swimmer Joseph Schooling, Davis also commented on Schooling's deferment.
"If Joseph had not been given the deferment and opportunity he would never have won the Olympics."