JSSL International Sevens aspiring to grow bigger and better
This was the promise former England and Manchester United defender Paul Parker made as he spoke to FourFourTwo on the sidelines of the event last Sunday.
The Singapore-based Englishman was delighted at the surge in quality and competitiveness among the future stars of tomorrow as 120 sides from 11 Asian countries strutted their stuff against one another over seven age-group categories.
“The actual quality of the tournament has improved,” he said.
“There are more teams participating and more foreign sides winning the competition.
“That might surprise a few people, but the overseas sides are good. The teams from Indonesia are doing well and a Sri Lankan side won a trophy.”
When asked to explain what had made the JSSL International Sevens such a hit, the 50-year-old alluded to it having the right balance; children and teenagers work and play hard on and off the pitch.
“We want a competitive edge, but we want teams with quality on and off the field as well” he emphasised.
“We want them to have the confidence they can turn up and get things done on time, get games kicked off on time, they can play three or four games inside a four-hour period, instead spending all day hanging around and waiting.
“Teams will have time to enjoy the tournament but they will also have time off to see Singapore, go around, look around and spend money in the city.”
This was an aspect that pleased a parent whose son was playing in the tournament, but felt minor tweaks could be made to ensure a more wholesome tournament experience.
“The matches were run on-time and professionally,” Noeline Tan said.
“There are a lot of opportunities to play, which can only be good for my son.
“The pitches are ideal for the young kids, but for teenagers who are taller, they might be a little too small.”
The tournament organisers, JSSL Singapore, will not be resting on their laurels and are looking to make the annual youth event bigger and more prestigious.
Already, plans are in place to expand the number of participating teams from 120 this year to 160 in 2015 and more age-group categories’ competitions are also in the pipelines.
“We will be taking on more teams to make the tournament as big as possible, in a smaller scale to compete with the Gothia Cup which is the biggest youth tournament in the world,” Parker said.
“I don’t think any competition can compete with what we have here, sitting right at the centre of Singapore. Maybe the next stage could see us extend the tournament to be held at the Floating Platform as well.”
While JSSL Arsenal Singapore are the overall big winners of the tournament with several teams winning their individual age-group competitions, he believed the overseas teams have provided a different edge for the local counterparts.
“The teams coming in from overseas and the local teams – it can only improve the local football,” he continued.
“It is like the Premier League sides playing in the Champions League where football minds are opened up playing against different opponents in different situations.
“The overseas teams bring with them different skills, techniques, mental strengths and physicality that will bring a different dimension to the local sides.
“It adds competitiveness, opens their game up and they will see things differently, rather than up against similar local teams week in, week out.”