Charity soccer in memory of Sabah quake victims

Mr Jaidipsinh Jhala (in blue), Sonia's father, was the referee in the final between Team India (in yellow bibs) and Team Scotland. The latter beat Team India 1-0 to win the Sonia Jhala Trophy for the nine-13 age group.
Mr Jaidipsinh Jhala (in blue), Sonia's father, was the referee in the final between Team India (in yellow bibs) and Team Scotland. The latter beat Team India 1-0 to win the Sonia Jhala Trophy for the nine-13 age group.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Teammates of footballer Sonia Jhala - who lost her life in an earthquake in Sabah nearly six months ago - remember the 12-year-old as a hard worker on the pitch and a close confidante off it.

Yesterday, some 150 children took part in a charity soccer tournament organised by the English Football School (EFS) - where Sonia attended coaching sessions every Saturday for two years.

This time, its biannual tournament was held in memory of the Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupil and other victims of the disaster.

EFS general manager and head coach Francis Fox, 44, said: "Sonia's love for the game was always evident when she was on the field. She was courageous, humorous and would give her best."

Sonia was on a school expedition to Mount Kinabalu when a 5.9-magnitude quake struck on June 5. She was one of the seven TKPS pupils killed in the disaster. Two teachers and a Singaporean adventure guide also lost their lives.

EFS, started in 2013, offers soccer training to 400 children aged three to 15 at various locations, including East Coast Park.

Yesterday, Sonia's teammates remembered her tenacity, thoughtfulness and caring nature. Temasek Primary School pupil Rahul Modi, 12, said: "Once our team lost a game, and Sonia could tell that I was upset, so she came over to console me. She was sweet and thoughtful like that."

TKPS pupil Aaryan Sengupta, 12, added that Sonia, whom he had known for the past seven years, was a hard worker who would fight for every ball. "She would tackle the boys without any fear," he noted.

Participation fees for the tournament, held at the Singapore Cricket Club's Dempsey Field, will be donated to the Mount Kinabalu Guides Association and Jamiyah Children's Home.

Sonia's parents, Jaidipsinh and Karen Jhala, both 48, were at the tournament yesterday. Mr Jhala, who runs a firm providing safety training materials, has been a coach with EFS for the past two years. He and his wife would be at Sonia's training sessions every Saturday to watch her play. Mrs Jhala said : "Sonia loved football, and she was determined to learn. Even though her teammates were mostly boys, it didn't stop her from playing."

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Charity soccer in memory of Sabah quake victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe