Imagine a Singaporean playing for Man City.
It has been decades since a local footballer made an impact outside of the region, with Fandi Ahmad one of the few who enjoyed a successful European stint at Dutch top division side, FC Groningen, from 1983 to 1985.
That could change in the future, as healthcare organisation Mundipharma and Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) set their sights on grooming local talents in the hope of producing a Singaporean footballer good enough to play in the English Premier League (EPL).
To kickstart that goal, Mundipharma on Monday (May 22) announced the first Betadine Youth Football Development Programme, a week-long clinic conducted by City Football Schools’ coaches to provide top-level coaching for local youth players and coaches.
Mr Raman Singh, chief executive officer of Mundipharma, whose Betadine range is the Official Healthcare Product Partner of MCFC, insisted that their goal of seeing a Singaporean play in England is not just a pipedream – or a gimmick.
“(National swimmer) Joseph Schooling has been a big inspiration for Singaporeans, a big inspiration for me,” he said in a press conference at Mundipharma’s regional head office on Monday.
“He proved that if a Singaporean wants to pursue the highest feat in sport, one can achieve it.”
Mr Singh said they are happy to provide support if there are talents who have the potential to succeed in the EPL.
He added: “It’s not just the desire and want to get there, you need the right training practices. I have an ambition that we can have a Singaporean playing in the EPL, and it would be even better if it’s for Manchester City.
“As much as it might sound a dream, I want to make that happen. I want to provide all the opportunities I can to make sure the kids have that opportunity. “
Held here from June 19 to 24, the programme will allow up to 32 footballers – boys and girls – between the ages of 10 to 15 to train with City Football Schools’ coaches.
They will work with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), S.League, Singapore Sports School, football academies like ActiveSG Football Academy and other commercial outfits on selecting young footballers for the programme.
Youth coaches from the S.League, National Football League and the national cerebral palsy football team will also be able to participate in the ‘Coach the Coaches’ session.
Both parties are also looking to grow the programme beyond its current one-week session.
“We’re really excited about this event this year, but in the longer term, we will look at how we can make this a consistent event that supports the development of football in Singapore,” said Damian Willoughby, Senior Vice-President of Partnerships for City Football Group.
With Man City focused on building its business and brand in the region, fans of the four-time League champions could see the club opening its first football academy here.
While academies from top European teams like Chelsea, AC Milan, Barcelona, and Real Madrid have sprouted up here, Mr Willoughby said Man City’s would be a “an authentic and genuine representation of our club.”
He added: “Whenever you entrust your brand to someone, you need to be very careful and selective about having the right partners, I clearly can’t comment on the other clubs who’ve tried and failed doing that, but for us, we’re open to either model (franchise or running their own academy).
“It’s important for us that the experience and product is authentically Manchester City.”
The likes of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany could also feature in the International Champions Cup at the National Stadium in the future, as Mr Willoughby said: “We have a long term commitment and relationship with the (ICC) organiser and we would love to be a position where we could bring the team to Singapore, which is blessed with amazing facilities at the Sports Hub.
“We genuinely believe that sport has the power to do some amazing things for people, (in terms of) teamwork, confidence, and healthy living.
“We’re excited to come here and maybe inspire the next Singaporean Premier League player.”