Lee: Singapore on track to host 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) General Secretary Winston Lee says that Singapore is still in the running to stage the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, a year after announcing the Republic's readiness to host the prestigious youth competition.

Speaking at the FAS’ 32nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday night, Lee believes FIFA’s flexible requirements for hosting the Under-17 World Cup will work in their favour.

“The key requirements for a Youth World Cup are not as stringent (as the actual World Cup),” he said.

“In terms of stadiums, six football-specific ones will be enough.

“We have a big one with 55,000 sitting capacity at the National Stadium. For the rest, FIFA are happy to have smaller ones with 5,000 to 10,000 [seats].

“That puts us in a good position to speak with Sport Singapore.

“Actually we’ve been talking to them about building football-specific stadiums for the S.League, so it’s working out well in terms of timing.”

Having seen first-hand how the World Cup was run during his trip to Brazil in June, Lee believes Singapore will be able to submit a competitive bid in due time.

“I was in Brazil and FIFA was very nice to show me how a grand event like this is run,” he said.

“I also had the opportunity to meet up with people who have hosted the World Cup and they were happy to share with me their expertise.

“Our colleagues also went over to see how they did it (the 2013 U17 World Cup) in UAE.

“We should be able to manage with the number of hotels and the airports which we have.

“FIFA has not announced the bidding time, but usually there’ll be an indication of interest before the submission of bid. We’re quite ahead of time in terms of our preparations.”

Thus far, a committee, headed by FAS vice-presidents Edwin Tong and Bernard Tan, has been formed to oversee the overall bidding process as well as putting together a national U17 team which will be competitive enough to play at the international level.

Tong also expressed his hope that Singapore would eventually be strong enough to make it to the tournament on merit.

“We’ve to be ready in several aspects,” said the Member of Parliament for Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

“First is the infrastructure and facilities. We’re not looking not just at having enough facilities for the tournament itself, but more of leaving behind a first-class legacy of resources to develop youth football.

“Second is to promote the interest in ground up where we see a tailing off of interest and participation in the sport. We will want to take this opportunity to galvanise Singaporeans who are so passionate about this sport.

“Third, we have to ensure that our team will be ready. Beyond the time we host the tournament, we want to make sure the team will be strong enough to make it there on merit in the future.”

Meanwhile, Tan believes Singapore should take Japan as a benchmark of the legacy left behind by hosting the U17 World Cup.

“I'd like to use this example of Japan,” he said.

“They hosted the U17 World Cup in 1993 and the same generation (that played in that edition) with an average age of about 22 drove Japan to their first World Cup in five years’ time. The same team then helped them to reach their highest-ever rankings in 2002.

“It shows that if you train the youths properly, they will deliver success in the years to com. It will not surprise you that Japan has qualified for every World Cup since.

“It’s a story worth telling; we’re not promising we can do it but it’s something worth targeting.”

Image Credit: Amirul Asyraf/Football Association of Singapore