Mindef’s Note: S’porean Ben Davis’ Fulham’s Contract is Personal So Cannot Defer

Every Singaporean son would know this: while that two (or two and a half) years spent in NS might provide us with invaluable soft skills, they’re also a hinder to many personal pursuits.

Like our dear colleague Mr Handsome Leon: if he hadn’t had to spend two years in NS, he would have found a girlfriend and live happily after now. Because of NS, he allegedly claimed that it made him single forever, though we’re all pretty sure it has everything to do with his attitude instead of NS.

But jokes aside, you get the idea: NS is a sacrifice. There’s no doubt about it. It highlights and amplifies the phrase opportunity cost.

Nothing, however, comes close to what Singaporean Ben Davis faces.

A Fulham Contract That Changed Everything

The 17-year-old Singaporean who’s born to a Thai mother and British father gained citizenship here in Singapore in 2009. He signed a two-year scholarship with England football club Fulham FC last year and a professional contract with them in June this year,

Fulham won the EFL Championship Play-off Final about two months ago, and therefore would be promoted to the English Premier League.

Yup, we’re talking about the EPL with teams like Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and this year, with Fulham and Ben Davis.

That could potentially mean a Singaporean playing against players like Harry Kane or Paul Pogba: superstars who were in Russia just weeks ago.

But the boy, who turns 18 in November, is due to enlist to NS in December.

Tried to Defer but Failed

Ben Davis’ deferment was rejected on June as Mindef said it did not meet the criteria. How about Joseph Schooling, you ask. For deferments for sports, it is only granted for “athletes who compete in international competitions such as the Olympic Games, and are potential medal winners for Singapore.”

So you see the difference, and the Catch-22.

Hotly debated Issue

Go to Instagram and you’ll still see influencers with duck faces, but go to Facebook and you’ll see two school of thoughts debating on this matter.

On one side, people believed that Ben Davis would bring glory to Singapore, so he should be deferred – after all, he’s not asking for an exemption. He’ll still serve his NS, just later.

On the other side of the coin, people understand the need to follow a strict SOP – after all, it might just send the wrong message to other Singaporeans.

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And of course, somewhere in-between, there would be people complaining about NS. What’s new?

Mindef’s Note to NS Commanders: It’s personal, so cannot

While there’s no official statement by Mindef, Channel NewsAsia managed to see a note sent by Mindef to NS commanders:

“Davis’ signing of a senior contract with Fulham FC is a personal pursuit, no different from the personal pursuits by other pre-enlistees like university studies or working in other professional fields

“We know that football is popular among Singaporeans and the EPL has a keen following here. However, granting deferment to Davis would be unfair to other pre-enlistees who put their personal pursuits on hold to serve NS dutifully.

“A key principle of NS is that NS policies are applied fairly to everyone, including enlistment timing. All male Singapore citizens and PRs are required to serve NS at the earliest opportunity after they turn 18 years old, or after their pre-university educational pursuits

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“Through the years, support for NS has been maintained because this requirement is applied strictly and fairly to all individuals. Long-term deferment should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

“Davis does not meet the criteria to be granted deferment from full-time NS.”


Of course, this is something we all know, but I can’t help but notice that the word “personal” appears so many times, I though it’s a typo.

While it’s clear right from the start, it’s even clearer now: Ben Davis’ dream is personal. At least from Mindef’s POV.

Ben Davis Might Renounce His Citizenship to Go For his Dream

Ben Davis’ father, who is supportive and has met up with people from Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Sport Singapore, and FAS, might just let his son give up the Singapore citizenship if that is the last resort. He told Today, “I’m still hopeful that with the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) support for the appeal, and with the sentiment that the public are expressing, that will help…At the end of the day, as a parent, I have to do what is best for my son. It’s (giving up Singaporean citizenship) not something we want to consider…If we have no choice, and we find ourselves in that situation, I don’t think it’s a choice we will make lightly…either that or we have to ask our son to give up his dream.”

When Ben Davis went overseas to study (and play for Fulham, of course), his parents have to fork out a bond of SGD$75,000 or an amount half the total annual income of the parents, depending which is higher. If Ben Davis did not come back to serve NS, the bond would be forfeited and Ben Davis would be charged when he comes to Singapore.

As Ben Davis has a Thailand mother and a British father, he can also play for any of each side – but of course provided he make the cut.


Now you know what Singaporeans are talking about today; do check back tomorrow for another piece of news of the day!

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