SINGAPORE – Cardiff City defender Perry Ng is enjoying his best season yet in the English Championship, but what the 27-year-old Briton really yearns for is a call up to the Singapore national football team.
Under Fifa’s rules, the right-back – who was featured in the second-tier league’s Team of the Month for September – is eligible to turn out for Singapore via his late paternal grandfather James, who was born here but later settled in Liverpool.
However, Singapore’s citizenship rules state that qualifying for a passport by descent is applicable only to individuals with at least one parent who is born in Singapore or is a citizen by registration.
Ng is hoping for a resolution to his international future and if he gets his wish, he will be the first heritage athlete to be given the nod, and passport, to represent Singapore.
“I want to play for Singapore. I hope it happens sooner rather than later. I have always said I want to make my grandad and my family there proud,” the England-born defender told The Straits Times in a phone interview.
Heritage athletes are those with ancestral connections to a country and increasingly, nations like the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand have used them to their sporting advantage in basketball, football and rugby, among others.
Singapore has previously recruited and naturalised athletes under the foreign sports talent scheme for sports such as badminton, football and table tennis – they are not born here or have any parental or ancestral links to the country.
Ng has been in discussions with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the latest round of talks was held in May, according to the Cardiff defender who was named the Welsh side’s player of the 2022-23 season.
He added: “I don’t know how changing my citizenship will affect me playing in England and living in England. So at the moment, I am working on things on my side. I know it will be a long process but the FAS and I want to get it done.”
In response to queries, FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari did not directly address the issue of Ng’s eligibility as a heritage player. He said that under the Government-backed Unleash the Roar! project, growing the pipeline of local talent is a key thrust in the long-term strategy to uplift Singapore football. However, the FAS will work to assess and naturalise foreign players who have “both the talent and the heart to represent Singapore”.
Yazeen added: “It is important that beyond sporting abilities, we must be convinced that these players are prepared to take up duties and responsibilities that come with citizenship. They must also demonstrate their ability to integrate into our society. While we remain open to tapping on naturalised talents to support our football objectives, we should do so at a pace that reflects the wider considerations of our sporting and citizenship policies.”
When contacted, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) referred ST to a written answer in July to a parliamentary question on whether Sport Singapore is planning to implement an accelerated process to citizenship for talented players to play for Singapore.
MCCY’s response then was similar to Yazeen’s reply to ST.
While there were previously obstacles in Ng’s bid to represent Singapore, a recent rule change in the United Kingdom has given him confidence.
Players with passports from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area need permission to work in the UK. The UK Home Office has a points-based system based on which clubs must apply to the English FA for a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) for such players.