SINGAPORE - Singapore and LionsXII vicecaptain Hariss Harun, 22, stunned many in the country recently when he turned down the opportunity to join Portuguese top-flight club Rio Ave.
But youngsters like 17-year-olds Adam Swandi and Mahathir Azeman, Bryan Neubronner, 18, and Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi Ahmad, 16 and 14 respectively, are all chasing their football dreams in countries like France, Brazil, Germany and Chile.
There could be even more promising young local footballers going abroad for development very soon.
A football task force co-organised by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) has been established to look into this particular effort, as it looks to raise the country's football standards.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, 40, revealed to The New Paper that steps are being taken to look at improving the No. 1 sport in the country.
"There is a task force at work. They have been studying for both the 2015 SEA Games and beyond," said Wong, who will be serving his second year as Acting Minister from Nov 1.
"They are looking at how we can raise the level of excellence for Singapore football, for the national teams, specifically with 2015 in mind but going beyond that as well."
He added: "We need to think about how we can develop some of our best players and send them overseas to play because that's the only way in which you can get good experience.
"The pace of play is very different overseas. The quality and standards are very different. So these are things that the task force is deep in thought over."
Singapore will host the 2015 Southeast Asia (SEA) Games and the event has taken on even greater significance as the country will be celebrating its 50th year of independence in two years' time.
The Republic have never won the football gold medal at the biennial Games, and while the team bound for this year's event in Myanmar have a chance of ending that streak in the under-23 competition, the official goal is for the side to win the gold in 2015.
TNP understands that the football task force is co-chaired by FAS president Zainudin Nordin and SSC CEO Lim Teck Yin and the rest of the members include stakeholders from the football fraternity.
The task force held their first meeting on Oct 16 with a get-together session and a discussion was held over ways to expand Singapore football as a business.
Reports, proposals and updates compiled by the task force will be presented to the ministry.