Farewells for a beloved pioneer

Family and relatives paying their last respects during the funeral service for former Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan, at the Mandai Crematorium.
Family and relatives paying their last respects during the funeral service for former Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan, at the Mandai Crematorium.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Singapore has bid a final farewell to the father of the Kallang Roar.

Former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chairman N. Ganesan, who died on Thursday at the age of 82, was cremated yesterday at Mandai Crematorium, in a funeral service attended by more than 50 relatives and friends.

Among those in attendance were former Asian Football Confederation general secretary Peter Velappan and former Singapore captain Seak Poh Leong.

They listened as Ganesan's grand-nephew Dharmendra Nair delivered a moving eulogy, rounding off with a personal note from Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

Ganesan's death rocked the local football scene but, perhaps fittingly, his wake at the Singapore Casket brought members of the fraternity back to Jalan Besar, the cradle of Singapore football.

KNOWLEDGEABLE AND GENEROUS

He was so well-read and engaging that you could talk to him about anything... He also put me through medical school in India, without asking for anything in return.

DR MURALI RAMASAMY Ganesan's niece, recalling her uncle's generosity

Over the past three days, football heroes past and present, from "Twinkletoes" Chia Boon Leong, 90, to "The Dazzler" V. Sundramoorthy, 49, made time to pay their respects to "Gani", as he was affectionately known.

Sundram recalled the first time he met Ganesan in 1981.

Said the Tampines Rovers head coach: "It was the eve of the Lion City Cup. He came down to our hotel, and spent about 30 minutes talking to us, telling us how important the tournament was."

"As the chairman and a practising lawyer, he could have sent a representative to talk to a group of 16-year-olds," he added.

"But he made the effort."

Ganesan was not only generous with his time. He would also fork out his own money to support or incentivise footballers.

And he often formed a one-man cheerleading squad on the Singapore team bench.

His most noteworthy contribution, however, would be shifting home matches from the Jalan Besar Stadium to the 55,000-seat National Stadium, a move which gave birth to the Kallang Roar, and laid the foundations for generations of football fervour to thrive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Farewells for a beloved pioneer'. Print Edition | Subscribe