New ActiveSG Football Academy principal Aleksandar Duric (centre) says football is a sport meant to be enjoyed by people of all walks of life, not just for boys or for the wealthy and able-bodied. Photo: SportSG
Football is not just for the boys; nor are its academies reserved only for the wealthy, able-bodied, and talented, as Aleksandar Duric and Terry Pathmanathan would have you know.
Duric and Pathmanathan, both former Lions and local sports icons, are set to helm the all-new ActiveSG Football Academy, which launches next month. And, going by their heartfelt views on sharing the sport with everyone, regardless of differences, the Academy will certainly prove to be a special one.
Indeed, what sets the ActiveSG Football Academy apart from other local clubs and training institutions would be its mission to bring football to the masses, in a bid to ensure inclusiveness. From developing teams for women and players with disabilities, to teaching newcomers the basics and honing the skills of potential elites, the Academy has got it all mapped out.
Expressing his thoughts on the increasing prevalence of women ’s football on the international stage, Duric, who takes on the role of principal at the Academy, noted: “Women’s football is getting bigger and bigger around the world and I don't see a reason why we shouldn't use this opportunity for our Academy to bring more girls in.”
Framing the conversation within a more local context, Pathmanathan noted: “Our women’s team, at the national level, took a few steps back during a certain period, mostly due to a lack of exposure and competition opportunities. At one stage, we were struggling to even form a national team.”
“But we are never short of girls playing at the school level. The school competitions are amazing. I’ve seen some schools playing at the Jalan Besar Stadium where the supporters were filling up the stadium. They are good players. But they don't have proper opportunities and proper coaching. I don’t think it’s much of an issue if we were to have a mixed team. We won’t look at the girls’ and boys’ programmes differently,” continued the ActiveSG senior manager, who will double as Duric’s deputy at the Academy.
Of course, players with disabilities will also form part of the equation, especially given the national Cerebral Palsy (CP) football team’s success at the 8th ASEAN Para Games last year, where they finished with a bronze medal.
“[The CP football team] has given us a lot of inspiration. They’ve showed that disabilities do not prevent one from playing beautiful football and scoring beautiful goals. These boys and girls deserve a proper venue and proper training,” enthused Duric.
“We plan to have [programmes for players with disabilities] at the Queenstown Stadium, in order to provide opportunities for them to train and play under the guidance of coaches.”
Besides developing the oft-neglected playing categories, the ActiveSG Football Academy also aims to cater to children across all skills levels, from the newcomers all the way to those seeking competition experience.
As Pathmanathan observed, “There are a lot of opportunities for elite players. But what about those who try hard but can’t make the cut? We want them to look at us as a way to train and develop.”
Naturally, the fact that the ActiveSG Football Academy forms a part of Sport Singapore’s national movement to bring fitness to the community places it in an ideal position to provide lessons and opportunities for all.
“One advantage that we have is the ActiveSG sports centres – the facilities. We can bring football to the kids, rather than the kids coming to us. Conducting training sessions at the various centres will make it convenient for them!” Pathmanathan surmised.
“I think that, at the end of the day, this supports our idea of a healthy lifestyle where everyone participates in sports. Nobody is deprived of an opportunity to play a sport that he or she wants.”
Find out more about the ActiveSG Football Academy here!
Want to learn how to play football from our local football legends? Sign up now to join us for a fun-filled day of football on the 2nd of April as we launch our ActiveSG Football Academy! Find out more about the ActiveSG Football Academy launch on 2 April 2015 here.
Click here to check out other ActiveSG programmes on offer.