The first ever Singaporean to sign with English Premier League side Fulham will still have to serve national service – and social media users are unhappy

Teenage prodigy Ben Davis is at the heart of a huge debate regarding national service in Singapore.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that local footballer Benjamin Davis’ application to defer his national service (NS) enlistment has been rejected.

Davis recently signed the first professional deal of his career with newly promoted English Premier League club Fulham, making him the first Singaporean to play for a top-tier English club.

However, his request to delay NS has not been approved as Davis does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS, MINDEF said.

“As all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development” it added.

Deferments are typically given to individuals who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore, with only swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, and sailor Darren Choy being granted deferment.

Davis turns 18 in November, and will have to return to Singapore in December to enlist for full-time NS despite signing the contract with Fulham.

Singaporeans, upon hearing the news, have mostly responded negatively to the decision to disallow Davis the opportunity to one day represent the country in one of the most prestigious football leagues in the world.

Some pointed out that the decision could stunt his growth, while others compared him to French teenage wonderkid Kylian Mbappe who was able to win the World Cup when given the time to develop free of other commitments:

Others suggested that he give up his citizenship, or that the NS system be revised:

One social media user, however, took a different stance to the debate, stating that it would be unfair for him to be deferred while others served: