Monday, May 23, 2011

Balestier and ITE sign collaboration deal

Look beyond the Fandi Ahmads and the Indra Sahdans, and explore a multitude of possibilities in other football-related jobs.

That is the message Balestier Khalsa vice-chairman S. Thavaneson had for students from the Institute of Technical Education, as the club signed a Letter of Collaboration with ITE College Central at its Bishan campus on Thursday morning.

The Letter of Collaboration formalises the partnership between Balestier and ITE College Central for the next two years, which will see them embark on a new programme called Football 4 Fitness (F4F).

The programme will be aimed at providing a safe and enjoyable environment for participants to develop football skills and fitness, and students with leadership qualities will be trained as role models who can run their football Co-Curricular Activities club at the various campuses.

While many people may eventually look at pursuing a playing career, as Fandi and Indra – both of whom are ITE alumni – had done with much success, Thavaneson highlighted the availability of a wide range of jobs available with the expansion of professional football.

Speaking to an auditorium filled with about 400 ITE College Central students, he urged them to take these other possibilities into serious consideration.

“Football should be seen as more than just 22 players on the field kicking a ball,” he said in his address to the students.

“For us, this is an investment for the future, and we should look at football beyond the game. Many of you can develop to become professional players, but you can also take the road to coaching or refereeing, or become administrators, or become events or marketing people.

“Depending on your course of study, there is always some opportunity out there for you. I would urge all of you to engage the clubs, get involved with them, approach them to do vacation training you’ll be paid for, so that you can understand what the industry can offer you.

“I can assure you that the clubs will extend a helping hand for you to achieve your goals in life. The opportunities are there; all you’ve got to do is work hard, grab those opportunities, and make a life for yourselves.”

Thavaneson reiterated the point when speaking to the press afterwards as he furnished more details of the F4F programme, which will be spearheaded by Balestier Prime League coach Nasaruddin Jalil.

Noting the long line of Singapore internationals who have come through the ITE’s ranks, dating back from its previous incarnation as the Vocational and Industrial Training Board, he stressed the necessity of drawing upon this resource to build the future of Singapore football.

“We wanted to find out how we could, as a club, benefit from the huge talent pool that ITE has,” he said, explaining the origins of the partnership.

“If you look at players at club and national level, many have actually been ITE students. Plus, we now see that football needs more non-footballers, and we want to take the game down to the grassroots and extend its reach to people.

“Funding for this project will come from the club, and ITE will provide the infrastructure, the facilities. It may cost us about $100,000 a year, but we have made provisions for this – the coaches and everything else will be undertaken and paid for by the club.

“But I don’t look at it in terms of the club, I look at it in terms of Singapore football. If we can do something that will develop talents and help bring football into a higher profile, it can only be good for everybody involved in football.

“I do not want this to be exclusive to us, and I will be the first to say we cannot handle all the ITE students in Singapore,” he added.

“But between four to five clubs, we can harness the talent from all the ITEs. I can tell you, if that happens, it’s going to be one fantastic opportunity.”

Thavaneson also spoke on the benefits the collaboration will bring to ITE College Central and its student population, which currently stands at approximately 8,500.

This, he said, includes those who may have tried and failed to realise their dream of becoming professional football players.

“Maybe a guy cannot make it as a footballer, but football can help increase his level of fitness,” he remarked.

“A fit guy makes a better student and a better worker who won’t slouch and skive at work, so that develops good attitudes. In addition, when kids get together into any sport, there are so many intangible benefits like unity, cohesion, mixing between races.

“Sports are the greatest binding factor, I can tell you, when you want to bring youths together. This programme can open opportunities to youths, and I want to get them in early and show them the possibilities.

“Maybe the boy or girl will say at the end of the day that football is not for him, but that’s fine, because he or she would still have got some training that will help him or her in future. That way, we will have done our social duty too, to help them build their careers.”

ITE College Central principal Tan Seng Hua was pleased to formalise the institute’s relationship with Balestier, in a move that could pave a way for the other ITE Colleges to follow.

“This marks a new milestone in the development of football in ITE,” he told

“All this while, we have been supporting each other in terms of training venues, coaching and so on. The relationship is not sudden, it has been cultivated over time, and both parties feel we can bring more to a common platform through this Letter of Collaboration.

“Initial indications are that this will be a success, because in the past, though many were interested in football, they were not coming forward. Now, we’ve created a common platform for over 800 members, and I hope to improve the students’ fitness and instill professional conduct.

“Once this programme proves to be successful, we can open the door to having students from the other two ITE Colleges, namely ITE College East and ITE College West. In the long run, this is part of our efforts to ensure there is an ecosystem to develop our talents.”

FAS President Zainudin Nordin, who is also Mayor for Central Singapore District and Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was present at the event to witness the signing of the Letter of Collaboration.

He expressed his delight at the initiative shown by the Balestier management, led by chairman Balbeer Singh Mangat and vice-chairmen Jagjit Singh and Thavaneson, in turning this project into reality.

This was, according to him, a reflection of the desire S.League clubs have to build connections with educational institutions and other community bodies – which he encouraged them to pursue.

“I wouldn’t want to take credit for what Mr. Thavaneson, Balbeer and Jagjit have spoken to me about for quite some time,” he said in response to a question on whether FAS had pushed for the project.

“The signing of the LOC marks, in my view, a very important effort from the club. With the objectives in mind, I am very glad that clubs are beginning to open up their minds and understand that they need to engage the community in different and innovative ways.

“I think none of them have stopped doing this. All of them have been doing it in their own ways, with primary and secondary schools, maybe, but with this LOC, I am positive people will see this idea of collaboration as a good thing to explore.

“It’s not impossible to engage others like private institutions – there are many out there that are actively trying to develop their students. There are many communities and clusters to engage, and by this example, I would encourage others to do the same.

“Many of our football talents come through the ITE path, but it doesn’t stop us from seeing other possibilities,” he noted.

“So polytechnics, universities and other institutions, in my view, have talents too, and we should not ignore their ability to be involved. Building of connections will, I think, happen over time, and by this pioneering effort by ITE and Balestier, people will start to realise things can happen.”

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