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Youth United: Celebrating Singa Cup’s fast-growing success story

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SELVAKUMAR, Managing Director of Dynamique Konzepts, outlines the Singa Cup’s rapid expansion into Singapore’s biggest international youth football tournament, this year featuring 53 teams from seven countries, from India to Australia. 

 

Interview SportAsia  Photos SportAsia

 

How did the Singa Cup originate?

Dynamique Konzepts started off in the MICE industry, so doing meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. However, football has always been our personal passion, so later we wanted to fulfil our passion and started this project called Singa Cup. It was to give youths an opportunity to play football with different teams. We believe football is the only sport that can integrate race and cultures, as we all play football.

 

So we mass e‑mailed to teams in different countries and tried to integrate them, but the challenge we faced was finding the right date to gather all the teams. Our main support has always been from Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, India and local Singapore teams.

 

Onana Elite Football School celebrate their victory in this year’s U18 competition.

Onana Elite Football School of Jakarta celebrate their victory in this year’s U18 competition.

In the first year we only had about 12 teams, second year we had about 28, third year it was 44 and this year we had 53 teams from seven different countries, so we’re growing. Our ultimate aim is to have as many countries as possible, because we want to give the kids as much exposure as possible and form new friendships, and hopefully that will take them to the next level and they will go on.

 

How did it expand so quickly, especially internationally? Of the 53 teams this year, 39 came from abroad, with 11 each from Indonesia and the Philippines and nine from Australia.

Definitely it was by word‑of‑mouth. Even though we had our marketing and social media, I think the relationship we built with the different team managers … it was more of a personal touch because it was always me and [Ng] Tiong Hian handling it. They liked our approach and they spread the word around. It was an attractive event for them and I believe we are the only 11-a-side tournament in this region of this type. We play on three full‑size pitches, each match has a referee and two linesmen, with normal rules, so it’s professionally run. (Note: Matches are 50 minutes long; 25 each way.)

 

You publicise the fact that there are occasionally talent scouts present. When did that start and do you see that growing?

It is growing. We had one or two each year and three this year. And we’ve had success stories. Our MVP from the 2012 tournament went to [Bundesliga club] Schalke for trials. He was from the Youth Football Home in Phuket. We’ve had a few boys who have gone for trials or had attachments with pro clubs.

Finalists Miriam Girls of the Philippines and Football West of Australia were among five girls' U18 reams.

Finalists Miriam Girls of the Philippines and Football West of Australia were among five girls’ U18 teams this year.

Which other countries are you looking at next?

We’re looking at Korea and Vietnam, and we’re also looking at Cambodia, as well. We’ve spoken to teams in Hong Kong, but it’s more a problem with the timing.  They prefer the first quarter of the year, so it’s a bit of a challenge. But yeah, Hong Kong is definitely an option and we will approach teams in China as well.

 

What types of teams are you approaching? Most seem to be soccer schools or foundations, but not attached to pro clubs.

Any team. Basically any youth team. I don’t think we need to approach professional clubs.  I think we need to be at the grassroots level because everybody needs an opportunity to play and I believe it’s a strong motivation for them to play, to have the right spirit for the tournament. There’s no cash prize money. They come for the passion and they want to play as much as possible, so we want to give that opportunity. You saw it in the U18 boys final. The whole team was crying after they won. It means so much for them to travel and compete in a tournament like this.

 

When you talk to the coaches and the players, what type of feedback do you get?

In terms of feedback, they like the pitch, the quality of the pitch and the quality of the games. It’s quite level competition, except for small teams in certain age groups, and also they love Singapore. The only thing they complain about is the weather, which is beyond my control.  So other than that, they love it. They love the set-up, five days, well spread out, with enough time for them to do their sightseeing.

 

India’s Chennai City Football Club (black) against Thailand's Youth Football Home Phuket in the U18 semis.

India’s Chennai City Football Club (black) against Thailand’s Youth Football Home Phuket in the U18 semis.

Thursday’s semi-finals and Friday’s finals and playoffs finish by midday or early afternoon, so teams can go and have a look around. They also have a full day off at the start of the week for them to go and do sightseeing tours. They have a minimum of four games a tournament.

 

You had 53 teams this year. What’s your target or is there a maximum capacity?

Looking to the future, our target is to have regional qualifiers and mix up all the main teams for the finals. So we would have qualifiers in the likes of Indonesia, Philippines, India, Australia and so on. Once those are done, we will bring the teams to play the tournament here. That’s our long‑term vision, but it will take years to reach. For now, I think we won’t go more than 55 or 60 because we have limitations. We only have three pitches (at The Cage Sports Park), so it’s a bit of a challenge.

 

The tournament is played on three full-size pitches at The Cage Sports Ground in Turf City.

The tournament is played on three full-size pitches at The Cage Sports Ground in Turf City.

For more information, visit: www.singacup.com

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