Since its official launch on June 10, our Lion City Sailors Football Academy – along with the announcement of an elite development programme scholarship worth S$1 million for promising young players – has been the talk of the footballing community in Singapore.

Modelled after some of the leading academies in Europe, our LCS Football Academy programme is geared towards grooming young talent in local football by creating a holistic environment to help them to grow and develop to the best of their potential.

This includes providing youth players access to a whole suite of professional services critical to the development of footballers, including nutritionists, sports psychologists, video analysts and sports doctors.

Our LCS Football Academy and its elite development programme has since been hailed by several local football observers as a boost for Singapore football, with Sailors midfielder Saifullah Akbar hailing this latest development as a step in the “right direction” for the local game.

Speaking to the official LCS website, the 21-year-old said: “The launch of the LCS Football Academy shows that our chairman is trying to build a youth set-up which is very similar to what they have in Europe, where they have not only football training sessions, but also cater time for students to focus on their studies.

“I personally think that’s the right strategy to develop youngsters, because it also ensures that they have a good educational background. So, I think the launch of the LCS Football Academy, as well as the elite development programme is a really positive thing, not only for our club, but for Singapore football as a whole.”

Having come through the F-17 academy, Saifullah understands first-hand how important it is for youth players to develop in a professional and well-rounded environment like the one offered by the LCS Football Academy.

“Being in a well-run academy like I was, helped a lot in my development,” he shared. “During my time at F-17, we would have things like motivational and nutritional talks…it had a positive impact on me because as a young kid, I needed all that knowledge. And when I grew up, this knowledge stayed with me, and I now apply it in my professional career, and it’s been going well so far.”

With our LCS Football Academy charting a viable career pathway into professional football – either through the senior squad of our Lion City Sailors, or through our vast contacts with overseas clubs – Saifullah believes it will provide an impetus for youth players in the academy to raise their game and work even harder to improve themselves.

“As a young player, if you have that kind of motivation to make it in professional football, you’ll work extra hard every day to try and achieve those goals,” said Saifullah.

“So, this career pathway is good because now everybody will be fighting for that goal, and will put on their A-game every single time. It drives players to push one another, which can bring the best out of them. This can help to produce very good footballers for Singapore.”

Nonetheless, while our LCS Football Academy will strive to provide the best for our players, Saifullah insists that one’s success in the game is really down to one’s own hard work, discipline and determination.

“There are no shortcuts for wanting to achieve your goals,” he declared. “So, my advice to the players coming through the LCS Football Academy would be to take note of the little things…to achieve your professional career goals.

“For myself…I would have very good sleep, eat good meals, and make sure my body is always in shape to bring out the best in me on the pitch.”