The Swan Army: Albirex Niigata (S) Is Not a Foreign Team But Singapore’s First Localized Football Club

Close to 4 years ago, On the 8 of January 2018, it was announced that Albirex have signed two Singapore players in the form of Adam Swandi and Shahul Rayyan. It marked a new dawn at Jurong East stadium as the FAS finally approved the Swans to sign Singaporean players after 14 years of being a part of the Singapore topflight league. Despite both players having mixed success with the Swans, they were welcomed by the fans and forever be ingrained into the club history, being pioneers for Singaporean players to join the Japanese club.

Fast forward to the present day, in the year 2021. The Swans have 10 Singaporeans under 23 players, apart from Hyrulnizam Juma’at and Fairoz Hasan, who are both above 23 years old in their first team. Not only in the first team, but they now boast a u15 and u17 COE development team mainly consisting of Singaporeans. In addition to their Yuhua Albirex Football Academy, an affordable football academy in partnership with Yuhua CC, they have also launched Albirex SG Football Academy to provide football enrichment classes to young aspiring Singaporean footballers. The opportunity not only limits players as Fitness Coach Jaswinder Singh and Goalkeeping Coach Fadhil Salim, both Singaporeans, were also allowed to join up with the Swans coaching staff.

The 4 times SPL champion has committed to developing Singaporean players with the Japanese football culture to send a Singaporean to play for Albirex Niigata Japan. 2 out of the 4 championship titles were won one day with Singaporean involved in and around the first team. To this day, Albirex are the only ‘Foreign Team’ to participate in the development of Singaporean footballers and can stay competitive.

Their contribution to Singapore is not limited to football but also to the Yuhua community. The Swans have regularly participated in Yuhua Charity Walk and Rice For Seniors whenever possible. Before the pandemic, the first team would join the Yuhua Charity Walk, where they participated in various activities alongside residents, such as doing gymnastics. They would walk in Yuhua Community where the Japanese players usually live. During the Rice For Seniors, in partnership with Yuhua CC the players help distribute rice packets to needy families within the community during the festive Chinese New Year season. Through these initiatives, they were able to interact with the resident and give back to society.

Back to football, Albirex have given first-team debuts to the likes of Zamani Zamri, Ong Yu En, Iman Hakim and Nicky Melvin Singh, to name a few in recent times. They also provided opportunities to some of the SPL top Japanese footballers such as Tomoyuki Doi, Kyoga Nakamura, Reo Nishiguchi, Yuki Ichikawa and Kaishu Yamazaki to start their career here in Singapore.

Albirex is no longer your average foreign team, and now with the support of their fan club the Swan Army, surely, they should be considered as Singapore very first and only Local Foreign Team.

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