Singapore says soccer star could face jail after missing enlistment

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore’s first soccer 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 defense 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 defense 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 meters butterfly, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

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