Set against the green backdrop of Dairy Farm Road, a new football academy at the soon-to-open GESS campus will bring the beautiful game to a beautiful setting. We talk to founder Ulli Niedermeyer about the Borussia Academy Singapore and what it has to offer.
“The academy is a partnership between my company, the school and the Bundesliga football club Borussia Mönchengladbach,” explains Ulli when we meet at the state-of-the-art football pitch at the new GESS campus.
With stands on one side and nothing but lush jungle greenery on the other, it’s a pretty impressive location – and some impressive credentials: Borussia Mönchengladbach is world famous for its youth department and developing its own players. It’s this grassroots approach and inclusive spirit that Ulli wants to bring to Singapore.
“Our company motto is to ‘inspire through sport’,” he says. “We need to get kids away from the phone, the iPad, the computer – get them out, having fun and dealing with everything that a sports programme brings; building character, working together, dealing with winning and losing.”
It’s not just lip service: The eldest of six children, Ulli well remembers the role his local football club played when he was growing up. “The club took care of me. It kept me on the straight and narrow, gave me training opportunities and the chance to go to overseas tournaments. I’ve never forgotten what that meant to me as a person.” With a solid career in coaching and sports development that has spanned Germany, Malaysia, Australia and, for the last 25 years, Singapore, he’s certainly turned out pretty well.
Every kind of player
The Borussia Academy is very much an all-inclusive affair, with boys and girls from the ages of five to 18 welcome. Furthermore, it caters for all abilities and is not selective. “If you walk through that door, you are in,” says Ulli. “You might be in the second or third team, but you’ll get a chance to play and we’ll take care of you. We’re not about training stars. We are about the 99.9 percent. Everyone has a different starting point as far as talent and potential is concerned, and we’re here to develop their potential and ignite their passion.”
One thing Ulli is particularly excited about is the new girls’ league they’ll be launching on Saturdays. “This is a totally new project that I’ve been working on for the last year. Girls are not supported in football the way they should be. You do have some who play with a boys’ team, but by the time they are 11, 12 and 13, they’re almost a different species. This is something we want to develop and address.” As part of its drive to inspire girls, the academy brought over top female under-16 coach and player Laura Waehlen from Germany to help lead a summer camp earlier this year.
The academy’s official kick-off is on 11 August. As well as receiving top-class coaching, all players will have the opportunity to compete in the Unity Football League as well as other international tournaments, with overseas trips to Phuket, Bangkok and Germany all in the works.
2018/19 Unity Football league (UFL) September 2018 – May 2019 (every second Sunday)
The Unity Football League was created in March 2017 to bring Singapore’s football family closer together. Its aim? To establish the most inclusive and best organised junior football competition platform in Singapore.
Bangkok CUKI Cup 9-11 November 2018
This international tournament has been growing in strength since 2004, with participants coming from Australia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Indonesia.
Trip to Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany) 5-14 April 2019
A visit to the academy’s partner club and one of the Bundesliga’s most famous teams, this is bound to be an inspirational trip.
JSSL 7s Singapore 19-21 April 2019
This is one of Asia’s biggest youth tournaments, with over 350 teams in 12 age groups taking part in the 2018 event.
Want more things to do for the yongsters? See our Kids section!