Singapore’s first football player signed to the English Premier League has missed his compulsory military service and now faces charges that carry up to three years in jail, the city-state’s defence ministry said on Monday.
Singapore’s refusal to allow Ben Davis, 18, to defer his national service sparked a debate last year over whether the country’s rigid conscription law is stifling its youth from pursuing their dreams.
Davis signed a two-year contract with London club Fulham to become the first player from the Southeast Asian nation to join an English top-flight club.
“Mr Benjamin Davis is a National Service (NS) defaulter. He failed to report for NS as required. He is also staying overseas without a valid Exit Permit,” the ministry of defence said in a statement posted on its website.
The ministry said Davis has committed offences under the Enlistment Act, and if convicted could be fined up to S$10,000 and/or imprisoned for up to three years.
His father, Harvey Davis, who has previously spoken on his behalf, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Only a handful of people have met the criteria for long-term deferment from military service, including swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal, in the 100 metres butterfly, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.