Asian Football

Kyoga Nakamura and Tampines Rovers Have Set a New Precedent With This Five-Year Deal

When news of Kyoga Nakamura’s five-year contract extension first came to light, I was overjoyed. The Tampines Rovers midfielder has been a consistent performer in the Singapore Premier League and is a true joy to watch whenever he takes to the field. The thought of seeing such a talented player him feature in the SPL for the next five years does warm my heart.

Tampines Rovers have certainly challenged the status quo.

While other clubs have discarded most of their foreigners for new ones, the Stags have retained three of their four foreigners from last season. 2022 would mark the third season that Tampines Rovers have stuck with Boris Kopitivic and Kyoga Nakamura and the fourth with Zehruddin Mehmedovic. It is certainly a breath of fresh air in a league notorious for dishing out one-year and two-deals to both foreigners and locals alike. Crucially, it says that Tampines Rovers value players (whether foreign or local) who genuinely believe in their system and have established themselves as key figures within that framework.

Obviously, Kyoga’s five-year contract is the talk of the town, but I think people need to pay attention to what the Stags are doing; they are assembling pieces for a long term goal. Kyoga seems to be a key part of that future.

After all, it isn’t everyday that a foreign player in Asia, let alone Singapore, earns a five-year deal. In fact, it is the first time that a footballer in the Singapore Premier League has penned such a lengthy contract. Nonetheless, what is certain is that the Stags have the utmost trust in Kyoga Nakamura. “Trust” is something that isn’t as easily found in football today.

But Tampines are right to place their faith in Kyoga. His abilities have never been questioned, and ever since he signed for JEF Chiba United’s youth team, he has demonstrated his technical prowess. After all, he played for Japan in the 2013 U-17 World Cup. After signing professional terms with JEF, he would be loaned to various J3 teams to continue his development. Then, in 2019, Kyoga decided to try his luck in Singapore with Albirex Niigata (S). The then 23-year-old Kyoga captained the White Swans and set the SPL alight with his maverick displays as an attacking midfielder. Tampines Rovers swooped in for the midfield maestro in 2020 and the rest is history. Kyoga has grown from strength to strength since joining two years ago, and you can expect to see more of the same the next half-decade.

Yet, it isn’t just Kyoga’s five-year deal that is getting me excited but rather the fact that he is in the midst of applying for his Permanent Residency in Singapore. Should Kyoga push on and apply for citizenship, he would be a valuable asset to the national team pool. Of course, gaining Permanent Residency and Citizenship are by no means a walk in the park in Singapore.

The question, of course, is then how soon can players gain Permanent Residency and eventually citizenship (should they choose to naturalize)?

Well, hopefully not too long given the recent population trends. The Pandemic has caused the population for the decline for the second straight year. Amidst the population crunch, could we expect a relaxation of immigration laws?

Or perhaps it’s time to wipe the dust off a scheme that was last activated more than a decade ago?

While I do agree that the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme effectively robbed many local-born Singaporean footballers the chance of making it into the national team, I think it should be revived but tweaked. Foreign players who have resided in Singapore for five years (thus fulfilling the FIFA five-year residency rule) and intend to root themselves in Singapore in the years to come, should be eligible for the scheme. One could say that Song Ui-young’s naturalization took a tad bit too long, but we can’t repeat the same mistakes with Kyoga, should naturalization be his end goal.

I think the other talking point here is that Tampines Rovers are potential trend setters. Are five-year contracts going to be the new normal?

Well not exactly.

I think not every SPL team has the capacity to woo their players to remain at the club with a five-year contract. At the same time, only the most exceptional players warrant a five-year deal in world football.

Kyoga Nakamura is a formidable player – that is beyond doubt. At the same time, Tampines Rovers is clearly a club that has a long term vision under Gavin Lee’s stewardship. While critics would be fast to point out last season’s Champions League showing and poor league form after their return from Tashkent, Gavin has a plan that players believe in. It also helps that Gavin has instilled a positive culture within the squad and sets his team to play progressive and expansive football.

Money can’t buy you these intangibles.

But back to the main himself – Kyoga Nakamura.

Should Kyoga gain citizenship, he helps deepen the national team pool depth. If selected for the Lions, Kyoga is a true asset because of what he brings to the team. He can operate as an attacking midfielder or play in a double pivot. And regardless of where he gets deployed, you can expect Kyoga to give it his all. A true professional on the pitch, he is also an exemplary figure off of it as well. Kyoga Nakamura is truly a model footballer for any young Singaporean to emulate.

Thankfully, younger Singaporeans can learn more from Kyoga by watching him live in the upcoming SPL season while he turns out for the Stags.

Tampines Rovers have done well here. Bravo Stags, bravo.

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