SINGAPORE - An improved, all-round footballing education for Singapore's young footballers.
That is what the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is aiming to provide after the revamp of its Centre of Excellence (COE) programme.
Apart from doubling the number of age-group teams from three to six, the changes made to the COE system will give young footballers access to specialists such as goalkeeping coaches, fitness coaches and sports trainers.
Such experts will give players added education in fitness, health, nutrition, injury prevention and sports psychology.
Home United chairman Anselm Lopez said: "The Centre of Excellence system is an excellent initiative of the FAS which provides the COE with the necessary resources to focus primarily on player development.
"The youth players will not only train with experienced and certified coaches and compete with the best of their peers on the field, but they will also have access to sports science and medical support to excel.
"We aspire to continue to identify, groom and develop players for the future, turning them into world-class professionals to represent the national team."
The COE's three league competitions will pit the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-12 to U-16 sides against the age-group sides from Balestier Khalsa, Home United and Warriors FC.
The S.League clubs will each field 25-player squads from the U-13 to U-18 levels.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin said: "The new COE format... will add on to our other existing youth development platforms such as the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions.
"We have a clear vision for the progression of these players.
"The COE will be the platform for these young players to both showcase and refine their talents, a step which brings them closer towards their goal of a being a professional footballer."
David Borja, Fifa's senior manager of development programmes in Asia, believes the programme will benefit Singapore football in the long term.
He said: "Youth development is an important aspect of football development and, in prioritising youth development, the FAS management has shown great foresight, especially in view of the challenges faced in funding.
"It is heartening to note that despite the perennial challenges in terms of funding and limited facilities, FAS has continued to reap the fruits of its labour with various programmes and initiatives since I last visited FAS in December 2012, one of which is the emergence of young talents into the senior national team."
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