Singapore’s first soccer player signed to the English Premier League who missed his compulsory military service, 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.
Among them is swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal, in the 100 meters butterfly, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.