Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Football fraternity pays tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

As Singapore basked in the glory of the 1977 Malaysia Cup win after beating Penang 3-2, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew met and congratulated the victorious national football team at the Istana.

The reception is etched vividly in the mind of striker Ho Kwang Hock. The 58-year-old recalled yesterday: "He came in, clad in golf attire, shorts and all, and went around shaking our hands.

"The Prime Minister was coming to each and every one of us to shake our hands, not us to him."

Mr Ho's anecdote is just one of many recollections as Singapore's football fraternity turned up in force at Toa Payoh Central Community Club to pay their respects to Mr Lee yesterday morning.

Led by Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin, more than 200 players and officials from the FAS and local Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League clubs, as well as players from the LionsXII, Courts Young Lions and various Centre of Excellence and National Football Academy age-group teams, bowed before Mr Lee's portrait and wrote their condolence messages.

Said Mr Zainudin: "The footballers are all part of Singapore's history and we came together to remember the great man and his contributions to Singapore's sports and all that he had done for our country."

He also remembers an inquisitive Mr Lee: "He continued to learn, wanting me to explain to him about Formula One, even at his age. Even as Singapore went through changes, he wanted to see how it developed."

Former national defender Lim Teng Sai, also from the triumphant 1977 team, paid his own tribute by standing in line for 31/2 hours on Wednesday at Parliament House. The 61-year-old said: "I am grateful to Mr Lee for having fought off the communists, and building a community that is fair to everybody.

"I don't mind standing in the sun for the man who contributed so much to my country."

armuhd@sph.com.sg