On 29 June, Singaporean footballer Ben Davis agreed a two-year professional contract with Fulham FC, becoming the first player from his country to sign for an English Premier League side.
However, the 17-year-old may have his dream shattered as his application for the deferment of full-time national service (NS) in Singapore has been rejected by the city-state's Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
On Wednesday, Mindef revealed that the footballer's father, Harvey Davis, "would not commit to a date" on when his son intended to return and serve his NS and that allowing his deferment would "severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties".
Mindef added that Davis went on to sign a contract with Fulham despite knowing his deferment application had been rejected 18 days earlier, on 11 June.
Congratulations to Singapore youth international Ben Davis for signing a two-year professional contract with @FulhamFC!— FAS (@FASingapore) 13 July 2018
Ben, 17, is the first Singaporean player to pen professional terms with a top flight English team 🇸🇬️
(Photo: Fulham FC) pic.twitter.com/ORfoEDckNo
Appeal on the way
Harvey Davis told the Straits Times that his family "will be working with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) over the appeal for deferment".
However, if no new facts are presented, Mindef will likely reject any appeal by the teenage footballer.
On Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How said: "All applications, all appeals have to be based on facts, and we will have to evaluate the facts. And if the facts are no different, then our position will be consistent.
"On the subject of deferment, the criteria that mindef uses to assess applications have been transparent and have been consistent over time, so there is no movement of the goal posts on the part of Mindef or the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces)."
If Davis' appeal is rejected, he will have to return in December, a month after his 18th birthday.
Deferments for sport in Singapore
According to Mindef, deferments for sport are only granted for athletes who compete in international competitions and are potential medal winners for Singapore.
Until now, only three athletes - swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, and sailor Maximilian Soh - have been granted NS deferments.
Mindef has also pointed out that many talented sportsmen have "competed their NS dutifully before pursuing their professional careers".
Giving up citizenship
Davis Sr has publicly encouraged his son to renounce his citizenship if he does not obtain a deferment.
"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," Mr Davis told TODAY.
Fulham have declined to comment about Davis' situation.
National service in Singapore is a statutory requirement for all male citizens. Depending on physical and medical fitness, a two-year period as full-time national servicemen must be fulfilled.
Those who refuse to serve NS may face up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of S$10,000 (US$7,327).
National Service has come back into the conversation following MINDEF’s rejection of Fullham FC signee Ben Davis’ deferment. With our own fight to take Singapore to the world stage at the Spartan Team World Championship 2018, we have a question for all Singapore-born Spartans. pic.twitter.com/Kjc3RiIcUy— SpartanRaceSingapore (@SpartanRaceSG) 18 July 2018