Friends and even rivals yesterday paid tribute to former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng, who has stepped down after 15 years of helming one of the most successful clubs in the S-League.
For his contributions to the club, as well as the local football scene, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will honour him at the S-League Awards on Nov 30 at Marina Bay Sands.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin said in a statement: "The Stags' success and reputation are synonymous with Mr Teo. He has built the club up to where it is today.
"We are grateful for his commitment and passion to local football, and hope that he will continue to contribute to the S-League and Singapore football as an experienced elder statesman."
A colourful, outspoken character within the S-League fraternity, Teo has earned much respect for his efforts to grow the local football scene.
MAN OF ACTION
Even though I fell out with him, I don't have a bad word to say about him. While people only talk, Hock Seng walks the talk.
R. VENGADASALAM, former Woodlands general manager, on Teo Hock Seng
Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson said: "He's built a stable and strong club culture at Tampines and he provided a backbone for the club to challenge consistently for honours.
"He's given more than what he's required to do, and I think stepping down is good for him, to allow him to enjoy football in a different way."
Besides keeping Tampines competitive on the pitch, Teo was also well-known for taking a personal interest in his players' welfare outside the pitch.
He would invite them to his house to celebrate Chinese New Year, take them out for dinner after training and even help those in financial need.
These gestures have resulted in the establishment of a deep sense of trust and loyalty between Tampines' players and their boss, even though Teo demands good results on the pitch.
Said Thavaneson: "For those who want to run a football club, they must know that it's not about money-making. In fact, you must be prepared to dig deep into your own pockets sometimes.
"It's a grave responsibility."
Under Teo's tenure, Tampines lifted the S-League title five times (2004, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2013).
He also enjoyed a hat-trick of Singapore Cup victories (2002, 2004 and 2006).
The Stags were also the last winners of the now-defunct Asean Club Championship, a biennial tournament for the region's top clubs, beating Pahang 4-2 in the 2005 final. They also made seven AFC Cup appearances during Teo's 15 years as chairman.
Even R. Vengadasalam, the colourful former Woodlands Wellington general manager who admitted that he and Teo are not on good terms, praised his adversary upon learning of his retirement.
Calling Teo's departure the biggest loss in Singapore football, the one-time director of operations at Tampines said: "Even though I fell out with him, I don't have a bad word to say about him.
"While people only talk, Hock Seng walks the talk. He puts money where the mouth is.
"He has poured so much money into the team, and he has kept a lot of players loyal to play on for the side. He has kept (veteran) players like Noh Alam Shah and Indra Sahdan Daud in the team.
"I think it's probably good for him to step down and retire.
"Still, I thought he would die as the chairman of Tampines."