Singapore tournament JSSL International 7s draw in big clubs

The Junior Soccer School and League (JSSL) Singapore International 7s is set to be the youth football competition’s fifth and biggest edition yet, with several prominent clubs confirming their participation. 

Aside from confirmed participation from 260 teams — up from 160 last year — from 14 nations, this year’s edition, which takes place from April 29 to May 1, will feature a new tournament in the Professional Academies 7s.

Academy Under-16 players from English club Fulham, Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon and Australian outfit Perth Glory will be among those strutting their stuff at the Padang.

“We are always trying to push the envelope and go one step further,” said JSSL Singapore managing director Harvey Davis at the event launch at The Arena at Woodleigh Park on Wednesday afternoon.

“The addition of the Professional Academy 7s really does this for us in 2017 and for the 3000-over young competitors whose dream is to become a professional player.”

Heskey will be providing pointers on the ground

Ex-England international Emile Heskey will be on the ground to impart advice to young players as the event’s guest-of-honour.

Said the former Liverpool and Leicester City striker: “Youth development at the community clubs and academies are an important part of the football eco-system.

“The JSSL International 7s is a good way for the kids to play together, to have fun, and also to learn from each other. At the same time they get a chance to see young professional players on the cusp of their first professional contract through the Professional 7s.”

To accommodate the increase in numbers, the competition will be played in five venues, up from three last year. Participants will be able to play at least seven matches in their respective age group tournaments.

Thousands are expected at the tournament

Fulham’s academy player recruitment manager Dan Rice, who was present at last year’s edition, said: “Youth players need to have as much exposure as possible against very different teams.

“The JSSL International 7s allows players that opportunity, as the format is friendly and gives players lots of playing time. This is essential in development. Our Academy boys are really looking forward to the trip and to experiencing a tournament in Asia.”

To further incentivise those playing in the Boys’ 16s category, finalists will automatically proceed into the quarter-finals of the Professional 7s, with the chance to pit their skills against the Professional Academy teams.

Ten more slots will be opened in the Boys’ 16s, of which six will be allocated to the S.League COE teams for free, in an effort to engage the local football scene.

Said Davis: “It is our intent to have Singapore’s S-League teams participate and pit themselves against the teams from the Professional Academies. This will give them good competition against formidable teams in front of their home fans.