Adding Value to Singapore Youth Football, the Sporting CP Academy Approach

Malek Roslee
Malek Roslee

For the Sporting CP Soccer Academy, winning isn’t the endgame – building well-rounded players is.

Otherwise known as Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Clube de Portugal is one of the world’s most storied sports clubs, having been founded more than a century ago in 1906.

Renowned for being the only academy to have developed two FIFA World Players of the Year (Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo), Sporting CP is also the first academy in the world to receive an ISO 9001 Certification, which is awarded to companies that have displayed the ability to offer products and services of standard, and have shown continuous improvement.

It is this remarkable history and continuous success that drives the mission at the Singapore academy which was established in 2017 as a direct affiliate and an official licensed Sporting CP Soccer Academy. Part of a world famous powerhouse consistently ranked as the best in the world for player development, the Singapore academy is the first in Asia and one of 46 Sporting CP Academies spread around the world.

The Sporting CP Soccer Academy is unique in its focus on player development and adherence to strict development methodology, know-how, protocols and principles that are similarly adopted throughout the 46 Sporting academies around the world. As a direct affiliate and not a franchise, players and coaches are part of the Sporting CP development framework where technical directors regularly observe training sessions and provide advice and feedback.

Bringing World-Class Training to Local Shores

Sporting CP Soccer Academy
Sporting CP Soccer Academy graduate alumni players, from left to right: Daniel Tay Kye-Wen, Danial Rashid, Woo Chun Wei, Dylan Chia Ka How, Dyrendall Low Shao Heng, Syafiie bin Redzuan, Mohammed Shahreez, Matthias Josaphat Koesno. (Malek Roslee)

The intensity and focus of the players is palpable when one visits the Sporting CP Academy at their Bukit Timah training pitch at The Cage Sports Park. Through a unified mission and vision, coaches have aligned their focus to be known as the “most professional and progressive youth football academy in Singapore in all aspects of football education”.

Paulo Oliveira, the CEO of the Academy stressed that the focus and approach is always on each and every individual player and not the team’s or the academies’ results in competitive fixtures or league standings.

“We don’t win at all costs. Our objective and our player’s objectives are of course to always do all we can to win, but the bigger objective is to develop well rounded, mature and intelligent players that are adaptable and would be able to fit into any team they play in. Ronaldo is a perfect example of this approach,” he said.

Paulo stressed the importance of character development through sport and how Sporting has been successful at developing mature and thinking players that know how to react and how to make effective decisions throughout a game.

“We don’t criticise players, use vocal or visual fear factors,” he said. “We don’t shout and reprimand players – this is not education. Shouting and giving instructions don’t happen in a math test, so why should it happen here?”

Coaches do motivate and push players to reach their maximum potential and to win matches, but reason and clear objectives for every training session and competitive play are way more important to the academy.

The Sporting CP Academy experience extends beyond the training pitch to a supportive ecosystem with on-site academy offices and specialised performance analytical support rooms, individually enclosed training areas and sports science support from partners in the area of psychology, fitness and recovery.

Excelling the Sporting Way - Sporting CP Socccer Academy
Woo Chun Wei in practice. (Malek Roslee)

Giving Back to the Local Football Community

The heart of the Sporting methodology lies, quite simply, in being humble and forgetting hype. The academy focuses on honing each individual player’s resilience and intelligence, which they believe to be essential to success, all for the goal of developing well-rounded, mature players who are able to adapt to any team they play in.

Player development isn’t the only goal – helping the local football scene is also a priority for the academy, which has been sponsoring talented youth players since its inception in 2017 as a way to give back to the community and support local talented players. We were introduced to some of the 15 talented, mostly academy graduate alumni players, that have been nurtured by the academy and who are now playing in the Centre of Excellence (COE) leagues and across various Singapore Premier League professional clubs.

Over S$500,000 have been invested in talented 14- to 16-year-old players. These players have gone on to compete in local and regional tournaments alike, with two selected players even having the opportunity to embark on an all expenses paid trip to train at Lisbon’s Sporting CP academy.

Paulo strongly believes the links with Sporting is making a difference in local talent development: “Over and above our success in Singapore with local players, we have had 11 players selected to trial for Sporting’s professional youth squads. Of the 11, four players were Singaporean.” Paulo added that two of these players are presently being monitored by the academy and the club and will return to Lisbon for trials again as soon as they are able to.

Support from the academy extends beyond Sporting CP. Should a player not be successful with their trial at Sporting, the academy will assist players and families, if they wish, to find alternative club academies or football schools in Europe. As players get older, the academy also provides support to players wanting to apply for USA university scholarships.

The academy travels to Lisbon twice a year to train and live with youth players at the professional academy. Besides regular contacts with Sporting to discuss training and players, the Sporting technical directors also travel to Singapore and are part of the academy, providing coach education, watching the various training sessions.

Working Closely with Hougang United FC

The academy through the good working relationship with Hougang United FC is presently running a very special program with U15, 17 and 21 COE players from Hougang United FC. The academy will continue to strengthen their ties with this historic Singapore Club in a meaningful and unique manner and provide support wherever they can with Singapore’s efforts for Goal34.

Singapore’s Goal 2034 is an ambitious a goal set by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and supported by the Ministry of Culture Community and Youth (MCCY) to raise the standard of Singapore football. Paulo believes that there are exceptional talent in Singapore and in Southeast Asia but what is important is how this pool of talent is educated, developed, and given the right exposure that will make a real impact to Singapore football.

“In my six years in Singapore, I do not know of a single academy that has had the same success with developing players for COE teams and/or the number of players trialling at a big name academies in such a short time,” he noted. This is a sentiment shared by academy Directors Terry Lee and Terence Ong, who also hold the positions of  Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) respectively. They explained that their team’s goals are to “develop players to the max”, and to “impart the importance of hard lessons and sacrifices that are needed to make it to the very top in football and in life”

Paulo shared that the academy does not boast about what they do as it is part of a fundamental philosophy that they engrain into their players –  to be humble, to forget hype, to forget that development is being surrounded by the best players. Paulo added that players don’t educate you – football education is no different to an academic school – it requires a team effort from selfless educators that are passionate in making a difference to a young persons life.

Plans for the Future

In the long run, the Sporting CP Football Academy hopes to help establish Sporting CP academies in other Southeast Asian countries through collaborations with the right partners, with targeted objectives of each academy as we are not “selling a brand name” but sharing an educational philosophy.

Find out more about The Sporting CP Soccer Academy here.

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