Fulham teen to play for Thailand amid Singapore conscription row

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore’s first English Premier League footballer looks set to play for Thailand in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, after the city-state warned he could face jail for skipping national service.

Ben Davis signed a two-year deal with Fulham last year at the age of 17, but Singapore’s government refused to allow him to defer mandatory national service.

He will join Thailand’s under-23 squad for the SEA Games, in the Philippines in November and December, according to a provisional squad list posted by the Football Association of Thailand on its website.

Davis had previously represented Singapore at the under-16 and under-18 levels.

While he is a Singapore citizen, local media reported he was born on the Thai holiday island of Phuket to a Thai mother and a British father and only moved to the city-state aged five.

All Singaporean men aged 18 must serve two years in the military, the police or the emergency services, an obligation authorities rarely let people skip.

In the past 15 years, only three athletes, including Olympic champion swimmer Joseph Schooling, have been given permission to miss national service, according to the Straits Times newspaper.