In an ideal world, professional football clubs should run their own youth academies, which would expose kids to various styles of play before the cream of the crop are recruited for the national team.
In a media roundtable organised by Courts and Liverpool Football Academy to discuss youth football talent in Singapore held at Meridian Junior College, head coach Fraser Ablett said: "Club academies are important.
"People have different ideas, and if you put everyone together, you have different ideas coming together.
"If it's an FA-run academy, that will be one philosophy, one style and pretty rigid. When you are coached in one way, there's not much chance for the players to express themselves in different ways."
The Courts and Liverpool Football Academy collaboration is here for the third consecutive year, and involved Ablett and two other Liverpool-trained coaches working with Singapore's young and aspiring football talent.
The other participants of the media roundtable were Terry O'Connor, CEO of Courts, Ng Han Liat, Hong Kah Secondary School (HKSS) teacher for football niche, HKSS footballers Louis Joel Chng and Nur Helmi Razali, and moderator Andy Jackson, brand director of FourFourTwo.
The lack of a constant stream of promising young footballers coming through the ranks has been a constant debate here, and it made various headlines after Singapore suffered an embarrassing group stage exit from the Suzuki Cup as defending champions on Saturday.
Ablett, 23, son of former Liverpool and Everton defender Gary Ablett, appreciates the constraints Singapore face, but he believes playing in different teams and experiencing different styles will make kids better footballers.
In the local context, only three S.League clubs - Warriors FC, Home United and Balestier Khalsa - run centres of excellence (COEs) for youngsters aged 13 to 18, while the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) manage 10 junior COEs for kids aged six to 12.
While FAS general manager for youth development (JCOEs) S V Rajan agreed that it would be ideal for every professional club to have their own youth teams, the reality is local clubs are not as established or stable like their European counterparts.
Some S.League clubs here struggle to stay afloat even after receiving subsidies from the FAS, and face problems securing pitches, equipment and good coaches.
Rajan, who did admit that scouting and coaching at school levels can be improved, said: "If we want to have youth academies, we must do it properly. It should not be that clubs have academies just for the sake of having them.
"With a bigger pool of resources, it is better for the FAS to run some of these programmes now, and hopefully more clubs can eventually join Warriors, Home United and Balestier and have their own COEs."
Ablett believes academies are the way to go because they have the best chance of achieving consistent success.
And he added: "Perhaps a kid from the Liverpool academy has a best friend from school who could be from the Everton academy.
"There's that rivalry where you want to go to school on Monday having the bragging rights after beating your best friend's team.
"Such competitions make the young players aspire to be better than the next player.
"Look at the best teams in the world, Spain or Germany. Barcelona's, Real Madrid's and Atletico Madrid's footballsystems are similar but not the same, and it's down to the national team to pick the best players of each position. And they've done well."
While Rajan agrees there is much to improve here, he is optimistic that after a spate of disappointing results at youth level, Singapore will be able to replicate the 2007 Cubs side that qualified for the 2008 AFC Under-16 Championships.
He said: "It's not that long ago, so if the likes of Shahfiq Ghani and Stanely Ng were able to make it then, I believe we can develop more talent like them and do it again."
This article was first published on Dec 2, 2014.
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