Commentary: It’s time to think about where kids can freely play football in Singapore


One could argue that if parents were serious about getting their kids involved in sports, they could enrol them in a football academy or encourage them to take it up as a co-curricular activity at school.

But these structured programmes do not fully replicate the benefits of free play. Parents also need to be involved, and once you draw adults into it, time becomes a premium.

Without parents, proximity is important – kids need spaces at home or school for spontaneous football matches.

Football doesn’t need to be played on fields, so solutions could be as simple as schools carving out a section of the multi-purpose hall for playing football. All you need are lines to demarcate an area for it and a sign that says “Football encouraged”.

Imagine that. Instead of “No football”, we should encourage children to play in their free time.

The days of void-deck football are gone. Truth be told, football was never allowed at void decks, but we didn’t care as kids. We have to accept that HDB estates are simply no longer viable for free football playing because more people are living there.

There is no point in asking people to be more tolerant. Such preaching only gets people more riled up, especially those inconvenienced by the noise.

Creating space in schools only takes the combined will of a small group of people – principals and perhaps the Football Association of Singapore to support the schools with some basic equipment for kids to play after school hours.

As a nation, we have been innovative in solving problems. When HDB blocks started having lifts and people urinated in them, we didn’t shut down the lifts – we installed cameras and urine detectors in them instead. That’s because civil servants realised that lifts are important.

If we dream of seeing a Singaporean star light up Anfield or Old Trafford, if we yearn for that elusive World Cup berth, if we simply want healthier, happier kids, then let’s recognise football’s importance as well. It’s more than just a game; it’s a nation-building tool waiting to be unleashed.

Edwin Yeo, a former football commentator, leads the Singapore office of SPRG, a regional integrated communications agency.

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