Lion City Sailors Football Academy’s vision of growing into an elite development hub received a boost after the Academy was endorsed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as a One-Star academy.

The LCS Football Academy is the first academy in Singapore to be receive One-Star grading, recognising the structured development system for elite youth footballers that has been implemented.

AFC Elite Youth Scheme 

The grading is part of the regional football governing body’s Elite Youth Scheme aimed at lifting development programmes in AFC member nations. There are three tiers of academy grading in the Scheme – One-Star, Two-Star and Three-Star – with academies rated on 20 performance categories spanning across administration, facilities and programmes, as well as player-centric factors such as welfare, psychology and education

One-Star grade academies are recognised for having put in place basic essential ingredients required for an elite youth academy, while a Two-Star grading recognises academies with the same ingredients but at a better quality. Three-Star academies are recognised for having implemented a wide range of services, with top infrastructure and having achieved successful elite-level outcomes, and a reference points for all academies in Asia. To date only two academies in Asia have received a Three-Star rating: Aspire Academy in Qatar, and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC Academy.

LCS Football Academy on the right path

The LCS Football Academy features a $1 million scholarship for its four-year Elite Development Programme aimed at nurturing the professional careers of Singapore’s most talented footballers. The scholarship is at the apex of a holistic programme that includes consistent high-level competition, off-the-field tools to deal with the competitive nature of football, and a clear pathway into a professional career.

Formerly known as the LFA Protectors, the LCS Football Academy – that was launched earlier this year in June – has built upon the structures that were already firmly in place, when FAS Technical Director Joseph Palatsides initiated the AFC Elite Youth Scheme application process in late 2019.

“This endorsement by the AFC is…validation that the systems and processes we have put in place give our trainees the best chance of growing into elite players,” said LCS Football Academy General Manager, Tan Li Yu.

“We are proud to be recognised as a One-Star academy, but we are aiming higher. This is only the first step for the LCS Football Academy on our path towards becoming an elite development hub,” he added.

Academy Director Luka Lalic, who was Feyenoord Rotterdam’s Head of Methodology, International Development Coach before signing with the Sailors, asserts that the next steps are already being taken.

“We were informed that the Academy missed out on the Two-Star grade because we have yet to involve more specialist staff in our programmes and processes. But this is part of our phased improvement plans, and we will be ready with that soon. In the meantime, we haven’t been resting on our laurels, our team has been working hard behind the scenes,” he said.

“Our first batch of LCS Football Academy scholars are already on board, and the full training program will kick off upon completion of the PSLE exams. We are excited to have them grow in the Academy, as we move to put in place plans that are part of our phased approach to becoming an elite development hub,” added Lalic.

FAS recognised as full member of the scheme 

LCS Football Academy’s One-Star grading was a key factor in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) passing AFC’s 11-point evaluation criteria, and being recognised as a full member of the Elite Youth Scheme.

The FAS was evaluated on the first 10 categories ranging from facilities to sport science and competitions. But the 11th category – the existence of at least one One-Star academy – was the critical factor that determined whether it would be recognised as a full member or a provisional member of the Scheme.

“The membership signifies that AFC, the governing body of Asia, has given their seal of approval for FAS’ Youth Development plans. It is affirmation that we are headed in the right direction to improve Singapore football,” said FAS Technical Director Joseph Palatsides, who was appreciative of the role played by the LCS football Academy.

“The decision to endorse LCS Football Academy for the grading was made after careful review and assessment. They have the required infrastructure and detailed plans in place, which put them in a promising position to be accredited,” added Palatsides.

With LCS Football Academy having set the benchmark for academies here, Palatsides hopes that this will bring about a domino effect in the football ecosystem, with other academies following on the same path.

It is a goal shared by the Sailors.

“We were in constant communication with the FAS during the process of AFC audits, and the open approach to working hand-in-hand for the improvement of Singapore football will continue,” said Tan.

“LCS Football Academy will continue to do its part for our football ecosystem.”