368241073_313730647841098_1896103671090566569_n8-year-old Caleb Lee (in yellow, centre) was among the more than 1,000 children who got a chance to take part in the 2023 Pesta Sukan football tournament at the National Stadium. Photo Credit : Ng Chrong Meng


For the young Farrer Park United team, 5 August 2023 will be a day many of these eight year old kids will remember for many years to come.

While many aspiring footballers can only dream of playing in a grand stadium, these young kids, and many like them, got the chance of a lifetime when they were given the opportunity to compete in the 2023 Pesta Sukan football tournament at the National Stadium.
The Pesta Sukan event was part of a month-long football extravaganza at the National Stadium that began with the Singapore Festival of Football, a series of friendly matches involving top European sides Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Singapore Premier League side Lion City Sailors.
But after the stars took to the field, it was the turn of the future of Singapore football as the Pesta Sukan Under-8 and Under-10 tournaments, as well as the National School Games semi-finals and finals, were held at the iconic stadium.
A Singapore Masters tournament, featuring 10 teams in 11-a-side matches, rounded up the month of football on Aug 19. Singapore Cricket Club emerged champions of the tournament. The community and grassroots events are part of the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth's push to create more events at the Sports Hub that Singaporeans from all walks of life and ages can take part in.
Former international midfielder Malek Awab in action in the Singapore Masters. Photo Credit : Football Association of Singapore
The Singapore Masters was organised to provide veteran footballers a chance to compete at the National Stadium. Photo Credit : Football Association of Singapore
But it was the Pesta Sukan kids tournament that drew the most excitement as both parents and young footballers turned up in the thousands to soak in the atmosphere of playing on the grandest stage in Singapore. The excitement for both adults and kids was palpable as it was only a few weeks ago that the likes of Mohamed Salah and Son Heung Min were also on the same pitch.
Said Caleb Lee, 8: "It was quite cool to be playing at the National Stadium. It was nice to play under the shelter (closed roof) and it felt very grand." More than 1,000 kids from over 50 teams took part in the U8 and U10 tournaments. F17 Football Academy won the U8 event while El Furiosos CF won the U10 title. Altogether close to 3,000 children across various age groups competed in the Pesta Sukan football competition, which is held in conjunction with Get Active! Singapore.
Alex Lee, team manager of Farrer Park United, was buzzed about the positive effect playing at the Sports Hub had on his young charges. “They said they felt like they were professional players. It was a great experience for them and the parents," said Alex, father of Caleb.
Alex Lee (middle) and other parents enjoyed a day out at the National Stadium as much as the young Farrer Park United charges under his care. Photo Credit : Ng Chrong Meng

Farrer Park United is largely made up of kids who played together in the Active SG Football Academy (AFA). They had started playing at Farrer Park before moving to St Wilfred more recently.

Apart from Caleb, the other team members are Kayden Fadzli, Tang Keyaan, Agastya Patel and brothers Jovian and James Ong. Caleb, Kayden and Keyaan are also members of the Junior Development Centre (JDC), an initiative under the Unleash The Roar! national football project. The JDC aims to develop promising young footballers from the ages of 7 to 12 years old. The National Development Centre caters to teens from 13-16.


368280840_313734217840741_2522963579873782656_nThe young footballers of Farrer Park United enjoying their day out at the National Stadium with coach Husnie Mubarak. Photo Credit : Ng Chrong Meng


Also reveling in the chance to play at the National Stadium was the Pasir Ris Team 1, a side made up from players from the AFA.

The team's coach Yazrin Mohd Amin said that his side had been looking forward to playing at the stadium and noticed how the players were even harder in training. He said: “It was nice to see the players enjoy themselves and giving each other advice and encouragement. Our team also played with more focus and hunger."

The Pasir Ris Team 1 side with their coach Yazrin and AFA SG principal, Aleksandar Duric. Photo Credit : Ng Chrong Meng


Said AFA principal and former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric, whose team had helped organise the football tournament: "It was a joint effort from many stakeholders to make this event happen. But all the hard work was worth it, when we get to see the smile on the faces of the boys and girls and their parents" said Duric.

"What a treat it must be for them to play at the National Stadium! We hope events like this can inspire the next generation of Singapore footballers to one day return to the stadium, but this time wearing the Singapore flag on their chest," further added Duric. 

Story by Mas Hidayat

(This article was originally published on Unleash The Roar!’s website here on 20 August 2023)