Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the guest of honour for the launch of the Saturday Night Lights. Mr Tharman officiated the coin toss before the teams kicked off. (photo by Joseph Lee/Red Sports)
Jurong Stadium, Saturday, May 18, 2013 – Ninety youths with a common love for football now have an opportunity to express their passion every Saturday night under the floodlights with the launch of Saturday Night Lights (SNL).
An initiative by the SportCares Foundation, the programme takes underprivileged and at-risk youths off the streets on a Saturday night to give them formal football training and a healthy meal at the end of it -- without charge. The foundation was set up by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to drive social good through sport and is one of the recommendations of Vision 2030.
From 7-11 p.m. every Saturday, participants from similar grassroots initiatives such as the Henderson Free Kicks program, Beacon of Life Football Academy (BOLA) in Taman Jurong and West J United of the Delta League gather at the Jurong Stadium for a time of skill training as well as character development.
Muhammad Isa, one of the coaches from BOLA, explained: “Instead of loitering around and doing nothing, kids in this programme make new friends and build character through football, a sport which everyone loves.”
“The ultimate goal of the programme is for each player to become a better person. Football is just used to attract them. Maybe they will be able to make a future out of it, but the main thing is teaching them to be a better overall player – to be responsible, have integrity and discipline. If they are able to make a future out of it along the way that would be great!” added the head coach of Fajar Secondary School.
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the deputy prime minister of Singapore, was at the official launch to witness the boys play in two 10-minute matches where they displayed the result of eight weeks of training.
“For them to have professional coaches to help them, that’s really something,” said Mr Tharman.
“Most of the boys are not footballers before the program. They play street soccer occasionally, but now, they see themselves as serious footballers. They wear a jersey, have a strict coach and you can see the discipline in them.”
“Those who were not attending school as frequently as they should are now attending school. The boys are gaining confidence in themselves and that’s the whole idea. They seem themselves as valuable members of the team,” added Mr Tharman.
The participants have enjoyed making friends from the programme while getting better at the sport they love.
“I have made friends with players who were complete strangers,” said 15-year-old Sundramoorthy who is one of the participants.
“Now, I feel like we’re like brothers. I’ve learned how to build friendships and also how to control my temper. To be honest, SNL is quite challenging but it is also fun as well because of all the matches that we play,” shared the Outram Secondary student.
Laura Reid, the assistant director of SportCares, said: “We want to provide them with opportunity, something to look forward to. That is why we arrange matches like these for them. We let them try and they feel part of the team. They do what they never thought they could do.”
“Maybe if we beat the Young Lions, they choose a couple of our players to join their programme!” added Ms Reid.
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