Sun, Jul


Blessed with lightning pace and a resume that highlights spots in Trinidad and Tobago youth squads up to the under-23 level, Akil DeFreitas, a Canadian Soccer League rookie of the year winner, was snapped up by top-flight Finnish club FF Jaro earlier this month.

It turns out the 25-year-old striker could have represented Tanjong Pagar United in this year's Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League, if not for the fact he had failed the mandatory Beep Test that players need to pass before being allowed to play here.

"He was our first choice foreign signing, he had tremendous speed and I was honestly impressed, but unfortunately he failed the Beep Test twice and we couldn't sign him," Tanjong Pagar coach Terry Pathmanathan told Today.

Footballers are required to reach Stage 13.1 to pass the Beep Test, but DeFreitas could not clear Stage 12 of the fitness examination that helps trainers measure the maximum oxygen intake of athletes (VO2 max).

From five-time S-League top goalscorer Mirko Grabovac, to former Tampines Rovers defender Sead Muratovic and local players Razif Mahmood and Gusta Guzarishah, the Beep Test has hit several talented individuals hard.

This year, champions Tampines were forced to start the season without veteran Ahmad Latiff, who played a vital role in the Stags' run to the title last year but has failed the test seven times so far.

Latiff, 32, has two more attempts this month to clear the test and earn the right to play for Tampines.

At 42, team-mate Aleksandar Duric is often used as the poster boy for fitness and discipline.

The Singapore international, who is still a prolific striker, continues to pass the Beep Test easily, but he said: "I'm totally against it. I think it should have been scrapped a long time ago. To pass the test requires players to be at the peak of their fitness even before the season starts and it really kills us as the year goes on.

"We've lost so many quality players because of this and this year it could be Latiff. He gives 100 per cent every game and he was fantastic for us last year.

"I'll be heartbroken if he can't play because of the test."

Former Singapore skipper Aide Iskandar and ex-SAFFC captain Noor Ali believe that the way forward for a league looking to entertain and bring fans back to stadiums is to take a step back in time.

In 2003, S-League clubs were required to pass the test, but the entire team's average result was used instead of individual scores.

Both called for a return to the old system.

"Why should the league have to ensure that players are fit? Club coaches should take responsibility for their team's fitness, and (under the 2003 system) they'll be allowed to form a balanced squad with players who can entertain too," said Noor.

Recent media reports have highlighted local footballers' bad habits like smoking, drinking and keeping late nights, and critics feel a mandatory test will help ensure players remain fit.

But Duric believes it is a job for clubs.

"Most players are fit enough anyway and it should be left to clubs to educate their players on how to live the professional life," he said.

In response to Today's queries, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesperson said: "It is a matter of concern for us when we lose quality players who cannot pass the test, but we do not want an instance where clubs field unfit players during a match.

"FAS sees fitness testing of our footballers as something positive and relevant especially in this modern era of professional football, but as a forward looking organisation, we always welcome new ideas and are constantly on a lookout for innovative solutions to enhance the capabilities of our players."