AFC awards Lion City Sailors academy two-star rating , Latest Football News - The New Paper

AFC awards Lion City Sailors academy two-star rating

The Lion City Sailors Football Academy received a boost in its aim to become an elite development hub in the region, after it was awarded a two-star rating by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on June 4.

The grading is part of the Asian football governing body’s elite youth scheme to uplift football development in member nations.

The privatised club passed an evaluation in April of over 20 performance categories, including administration, facilities, programmes, and player-centric factors like welfare, psychology, and education.

The two-star rating recognises the academy’s robust development system for elite youth players aged three to 18. It obtained one-star status in September 2020 – a first for a Singaporean institution.

Sailors chairman Forrest Li said that this is “testament to the hard work that our academy has put in over the past few years to ensure professionalism in all areas, from having specialist staff for every age-group team, to establishing a clear pipeline from the academy to the first team”.

Under the AFC’s elite youth scheme, 22 club academies have been endorsed through the three tiers.

Three other academies in South-east Asia have been awarded two stars – Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim FC Academy and NFDP Mokhtar Dahari Academy, and Thailand’s Chonburi FC Academy.

Two clubs – South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC Academy and Vietnam’s PVF Academy – are currently in the highest three-star tier. Qatar’s Aspire Academy, part of the Gulf country’s national set-up, also has the coveted three-star status.

Since attaining a one-star grade four years ago, the Sailors academy made improvements in areas such as infrastructure, education and overseas partnerships.

In July 2022, it opened a first-of-its-kind football training facility in Singapore equipped with physiotherapy rooms, a gym, analysis room and study facilities for academy trainees.

Besides having specialist staff such as sports psychologists and a full-time nutritionist overseeing every age-group team, it also employs match analysis tools like Hudl, heart-rate and GPS monitors to support trainees.

AFC assessor Withaya Laohakul, who visited the academy in March, said: “The LCS Football Academy has a good foundation, including a well-defined coaching structure, development plan for the club, coaching and playing philosophy, player profiles by position, training methodology, and financial stability.”

It also has a scheme for selected trainees to enlist for national service after completing their secondary school education. When the players return to football, they are guaranteed a professional four-year contract with the club.

Nur Muhammad Asis, 20, who is from the inaugural cohort, is the first player to sign a professional contract.

Over 50 players aged 13 to 16 have also benefited from overseas training stints with top foreign clubs like Feyenoord, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.

Technical director Luka Lalic hopes to continue leveraging their connections with top European clubs to help trainees develop into professionals, noting that “we want them to see for themselves what the benchmark is, so they know what to work on and what they should aspire to become”.

General manager Tan Li Yu added: “We firmly believe that there are plenty of budding football talents in the country. We are fully committed to our vision of being an elite development hub and will leave no stone unturned to help our youth players.”

With academy players like Asis and Nathan Mao, 16, making first-team appearances, the Sailors have also set their sights on attaining a three-star grade.

Li added: “We will continue to work extremely hard to develop the infrastructure and capabilities needed to attain the three-star grading in the coming years.”